New Arizona Legislations Restrict Transgender Youth

Two new laws in Arizona have been criticized to restrict the rights of transgender youth. Earlier, the Arizona House passed Bill 1138, intended to stop youth under 18 from undergoing permanent gender reassignment procedures, and Senate Bill 1165, which will prevent transgender student-athletes from participating outside the gender category assigned at their birth.

The Arizona governor has signed these bills into law, stating that it is intended to promote fairness in sports and safeguard minors from making permanent decisions about their gender that they may regret. However, advocates of transgender rights have voiced that these laws are restrictive and discriminatory to transgender youth and make an issue out of a non-existent problem.

Senate Bill 1138

This bill, now passed into law, will prevent any physician or health care professional in Arizona from providing any form of irreversible gender transition procedure if the individual is not yet 18 years of age. They can also not refer such individuals for permanent gender reassignment surgery. However, this does not apply to individuals born with a defective sex development that needs such medical procedure. 

Critics of the bill believe that the legislation is unnecessary and violates transgender youth. They believe that healthcare decisions should be made by the individual, their parents, and their physician. 

Initially, the bill was intended to prevent all such procedures for minor children but was charged to only restrict permanent procedures related to gender reassignment. This means that minor children can still undergo hormone therapy and take prescribed puberty blockers (a medicine used to suppress puberty).

Senate Bill 1165

This bill, also signed into law by the governor, will prevent transgender female student-athletes from competing in sports designated for females. Typically, students can only compete in the category of their biological sex (males or females) and coed/mixed.

The new legislation also prohibits any Arizona government office or athletic organization from entertaining complaints, conducting investigations, or punishing schools that decide to maintain a separate sports category for female students. Furthermore, aggrieved athletes that believe they lost an opportunity to a transgender athlete competing in the same category can legally sue the school who organized the competition for injunctive relief or damages. Students or an athletic organization that reports any school that violates this new legislation cannot be punished by the school as a form of retaliation.

The governor said that the bill will ensure fairness for female athletes. However, critics have pointed out that there are very few transgender athletes in the state. They believe that the law will further enhance the discrimination against transgender youth and may even result in bullying.