Trans Montana lawmaker condemned by Republicans for powerful speech in support of trans healthcare

Zooey Zephyr in the Montana House during a speech.

Montana Republicans have demanded transgender house representative Zooey Zephyr be reprimanded by the state house for “inappropriate and uncalled-for language”.

A letter was issued from the Montana Freedom Caucus on Tuesday (18 April), the same day Zephyr gave a passionate speech in support of gender affirming care for trans people. It called for her to be censured for her comments during a political debate.

Her speech following proposed amendments to an anti-trans bill, in which Zephyr told state lawmakers that denying gender-affirming care is “tantamount to torture”.

She said: “If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association… the only therapy left is either meaningless, or conversion therapy, which is torture.”

Montana Senate Bill 99, also known as the Provide for a Youth Health Protection Act, aims to mitigate gender-affirming care for trans under-18s in the state.

The prohibitions include physically reversible puberty blockers, as well as “surgical procedures” which no private or public healthcare system currently practices on under-18s.

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During the debate, Zephyr criticised everyone who had brought the law this far.

“This bill tries to define male and female as binary – you could not legislate binary sex any more than you could legislate that the Earth is flat,” she said. “Intersex people exist, trans people exist and this bill doesn’t change that.”

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In its letter, the Montana Freedom Caucus Republican coalition wrote that it believed the legislature must condemn the speech to uphold “a commitment to civil discourse”.

It went on to claim: “This bill already passed the Montana house and senate, and the debate was over amendments requested by the governor. This kind of hateful rhetoric from an elected official is exactly why tragedies such as the Covenant School shooting, in Nashville, occurred.”

Users across Twitter condemned the 22 politicians who jointly signed the open letter, saying that the “audacity” to lecture Zephyr over lack of civility while attempting to ban gender-affirming care was “contemptible”.

In response to the speech, majority leader Sue Vinton said that the house would “not be shamed”.

Prior to the final vote on the bill, Zephyr said: “I will say that those who vote in this amendment, next time this legislative body bows their head to pray, I hope you see the blood on your hands.”

The bill was passed by 66 votes to 34.

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