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Arkansas featured in New York Times on punitive transgender law

An extensive article in today’s  New York Times features the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Arkansas law banning medical services to transgender minors. The law has been enjoined during a federal court challenge.

Zara Banks, Sabrina Jennen, Dylan Brandt and their parents speak at length and eloquently in the article about their decisions and their trials. A snippet:

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Sabrina came out to her family in July 2020 at age 15. She saw a therapist, received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and had many conversations with her parents, Lacey and Aaron Jennen. By last January, she felt ready to start hormone therapy. Then the SAFE Act was passed.

“It felt like my life was being signed away,” Sabrina said. She stayed awake at night imagining her future. “If it went into place, it would truly be the death of Sabrina,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to live and be myself.”

When the bill passed, her parents asked if she wanted to be a plaintiff in the A.C.L.U. lawsuit. She did. “If it’s not me, it’s going to be someone else,” she said. “And if it’s not someone else, it’s going to be nobody.”

Refusing to comment were sponsors of this cruel legislation, Rep. Robin Lundstrum and Sen. Alan Clark.

The lawsuit goes to trial in July. If the law is upheld, doctors who provided such services (such as Arkansas Children’s Hospital does at a gender clinic) could lose their licenses. They’d face loss of licenses and lawsuits for even referring people to other states for care.

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I was pleased to see the article mention the work of a Lutheran pastor in Fayetteville, an outspoken friend of those in need of support.

Last spring, the Rev. Clint Schnekloth, the pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, began hearing from young members of the congregation who were fearful of what the SAFE Act might bring. Several parents of gender nonconforming children reached out.

“One of the families said, ‘My child is having suicidal ideation that’s coming out of the anxiety around these laws,’” Pastor Schnekloth said. “So I thought, what can we do?”

He started Queer Camp, hosting 86 children for a week in July. It offered camp activities involving birds, bugs and sports, as well as a name-changing clinic and“transition closet,” where children could donate clothes that no longer fit their gender presentation and pick new outfits, said Conner Newsome Doyle, the camp’s director.

The story includes some hopeful passages.

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Brandt left for homeschooling after enduring bullying in Greenwood. But the article relates:

Last fall, he returned with great anxiety.

“I walked into the building for the open house and I just felt like I couldn’t breathe,” he said.

But things were different this time. One day in art class, he recalled, a classmate said something transphobic to him, and a girl in the back of the class intervened. “I don’t know who she is, but she went off on him,” he said.

But the article also notes families have left Arkansas or, as in the case of Zara Banks, plan to do so.

Zara would like to leave; as a Black transgender girl, she is disproportionately vulnerable to violence and discrimination. When she sees media coverage of transgender teenagers, she sees white children whose experience is fundamentally different from her own. Given how hard those teens fight to be accepted, she wondered, “What hope do we have for Black trans kids?”

I’m surprised the Times didn’t find a way to work in how Rep. Jack Ladyman had a Little Rock lawyer, Chris Attig, arrested for testifying beyond a two-minute limit in support of his transgender son. A charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed in late November, court records indicate, in a negotiated deal for three months of pre-trial diversion.

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