This U.S. governor just refused to acknowledge the existence of trans people

Gov. Doug Ducey signed two anti-trans bills into law but wouldn’t say whether he believes trans people exist

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey refused to acknowledge the existence of trans people while defending two anti-trans bills he signed into law last week.

When asked twice by reporters in a March 31 press conference about whether he believes trans people are real, Ducey declined to respond. According to the Associated Press, the Republican governor instead asked journalists to “read the legislation and to see that the legislation that we passed was in the spirit of fairness to protect girls’ sports in competitive situations.” 

“That’s what the legislation is intended to do, and that’s what it does,” he said.

The bill to which Ducey was referring, Senate Bill 1165, is one of two pieces of anti-trans legislation enacted in Arizona over the past week. Similar to laws currently on the books in other 13 U.S. states, SB 1165 prevents trans student athletes from competing in school sports in alignment with their lived gender. Arizona’s version of the bill applies to trans girls participating in middle and high school athletics.

A second bill signed into law, SB 1138, prohibits doctors from performing gender-affirming surgeries for youth under 18 years old. 

Although the surgery ban was heavily criticized by LGBTQ2S+ advocacy groups, Ducey claimed in a letter posted to his website that SB 1138 is a matter of “common sense.” He alleged that “irreversible” surgeries intended to affirm a trans person’s sense of self “dramatically affect the rest of an individual’s life, including the ability of that individual to become a biological parent later in life.”

Ducey’s signatures were immediately met with backlash from LGBTQ2S+ groups. In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) referred to SB 1138 as “cruel and potentially life-threatening,” and the ACLU of Arizona and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) announced they are filing a lawsuit to overturn it.

“This is a harmful law that wrongly allows the government to dictate medical care for transgender youth in Arizona,” said Asaf Orr, a senior staff attorney for NCLR, in a press release.

Ducey’s claims have also come under heavy scrutiny from leading experts and medical authorities. U.S. groups like the American Medical Association (AMA) have condemned attempts to limit health care treatments for trans youth that can be life-saving, while a Sports Medicine research study published in 2017 concluded that “there is no direct or consistent research” indicating that trans athletes have a competitive advantage in sports.

The trans youth surgery ban makes Arizona the third state to prevent minors from receiving some forms of gender-affirming care, following Arkansas and Tennessee last year. However, at least four other states have already enacted anti-trans sports laws this year alone, including Iowa, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Last week Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed SB 2, which prevents trans girls and women from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity at high school and collegiate levels. The legislation is one of several anti-LGBTQ2S+ measures pushed by Oklahoma lawmakers this year: a bill passed by its Senate last month, SB 1100, seeks to prevent non-binary people from receiving corrected birth certificates annotated with “X” gender markers. 

The local LGBTQ2S+ rights organization Freedom Oklahoma condemned these attacks on queer and trans people in the state.

“It’s unacceptable,” said executive director Nicole McAfee in a press release provided to Xtra. “Trans girls are girls. Non-binary Oklahomans exist. Having representation of gender and sexual diversity available to young folks is not obscene, but efforts to not only censor it but criminalize it certainly are.”

Jordan Daniels

Jordan Daniels (he/him) is a Black/Jewish/Queer writer for fashion, liberation, philanthropy, and LGBTQ+ experiences. His work has been published in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Jewish Telegraph Agency, Narratively, Wear Your Voice, eJewish Philanthropy and more. He currently lives in San Diego and speaks English.

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