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Republicans launch cruel bid to force schools to misgender trans students in Arizona

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Arizona State representative John Kavanagh speaks down to a member of the crowd while holding a glass of water, an American flag behind him.

A proposed Senate bill could place restrictions on trans students using pronouns in Arizona schools.

Arizona Republican John Kavanagh introduced Senate Bill 1001 in December 2022 to prevent school faculty from addressing trans students with a “pronoun that differs from the pronoun that aligns with the student’s biological sex”.

If passed, the only way transgender students would be able to use the pronouns of their choice would be through express written permission from parents or guardians.

The Arizona State representative said the bill’s creation was in response to schools “keeping the parents in the dark”, which he claims would harm children psychologically.

Kavanagh told AZ Family that, if enacted, he believes it would help parents support their children in “getting outside psychological help”.

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“This bill is about child safety,” he said.

“We don’t want to hide, from the parents, psychological problems that could result in suicide. It’s about parental rights.

“A parent has a right to know something this significant about the child.”

But, as many activists have pointed out, forcing under-18s to disclose their gender identity could result in breaches of child safety due to transphobia.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Arizona director Bridget Sharpe lambasted the bill for creating “more threats to a child’s safety”.

“A student has the right to express their gender identity,” she said. “They have a right to express that to whoever they wish, and it’s up to them who they trust and who they feel safe around to be able to share that information.”

The director also criticised the concept of “parental rights” as an excuse to impose restrictions on trans students, saying that parents would otherwise be disinterested in a cisgender student’s pronouns.

“It just sort of says, pronouns are only important if it’s a non-binary person or a trans person. It’s making an issue that doesn’t exist.”

During his discussion of the bill, Kavanagh admitted he had heard of no issues in Arizona schools of students using what he described as the “wrong” pronouns, but argued that the bill was still applicable.

“You’re talking to somebody who was a parent who wouldn’t let their minor child get a tattoo, much less change their gender.

“Those decisions need to be deferred to when an individual’s an adult and can make a mature decision.”

Parental rights often used to mitigate trans autonomy

Parental rights are often used as an excuse to impose restrictions on the rights of LGBTQ+ students in the US.

In October 2022, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin insisted that parental rights were at the core of a bill disallowing trans students to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

He claimed parents should have the final say on decisions relating to a child’s gender identity and that schools should defer decision-making on subjects such as “pronouns, if any” to parents or guardians.

“I just think the idea that we’re going to have policies that exclude parents from their children’s lives is something that I have been going to work on since day one,” Youngkin told CNN.

Senate Democrats collectively lambasted the policy as an “absolutely shameful” attempt to mitigate the right of trans people.

Additionally, thousands of Virginia students from almost 100 schools walked out in September 2022 as a sign of solidarity against Youngkin’s bill.

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