A new Arizona bill that could force teachers to misgender trans students kicks off a new year of anti-trans legislation

Senate Bill 1001 would also allow school workers to misgender trans students, teachers or other staff with no recourse

It might be a new year, but the raft of anti-trans legislation in the U.S. shows no sign of letting up. This time, it’s Arizona, where Republican legislators have introduced a bill in the state Senate that would make it harder for trans kids to use their pronouns in school.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 1001 would mean school employees or contractors cannot “knowingly address, identify or refer to a student who is under 18 years of age by a pronoun that differs from the pronoun that aligns with the student’s biological sex unless … [the school] receives written permission from the student’s parent.” 

Additionally, schools “may not require” an employee to use a trans person’s correct name or pronouns, “if doing so is contrary to [the worker’s] religious or moral convictions.”

State Senator John Kavanagh, the bill’s sponsor, said the bill was about parental permission. “I don’t believe that parents should be kept in the dark when their kids are exhibiting this struggle,” Kavanagh said in a video earlier this week.

The Human Rights Campaign’s Arizona director, Bridget Sharpe, said that the bill poses risks to trans youth safety. 

“A student has the right to express their gender identity,” she told local CBS affiliate KTVK/KPHO. “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.”

Requiring parental permission to use different pronouns for a trans student means that youth who are not ready to come out to their parents, or who have unsupportive families, would lose the ability to be affirmed at school. It also adds an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle that cisgender students don’t have to deal with.

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

The second part of the bill, which protects workers who do not want to use correct pronouns from legal ramifications, does not exclusively refer to students. That means other trans people, like teachers or custodians, could also be misgendered with impunity—making schools less safe for trans teachers and staff.

Currently, Republicans hold a narrow majority in the Arizona state legislature, with 16 of 30 state senators and 31 of 60 state representatives. But the GOP may struggle to pass controversial legislation: newly elected Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has a veto power that Republicans would need a three-fifths majority in both chambers to override. 


Elsewhere, Republicans may find it easier to push their anti-LGBTQ2S+ agendas in 2023. Kentucky legislators have already introduced HB30, a bathroom bill that would ban trans students from using the correct bathrooms, and would allow cis students to sue schools if they discovered they shared a bathroom or locker room with a trans person. 

In December, legislative researcher Erin Reed reported on her blog Erin In The Morning that states across the U.S. had pre-filed a huge number of trans-related bills for discussion in 2023. These include bills aimed forcibly stopping all trans-affirming youth healthcare in Montana, Missouri and South Carolina

Two bills were tabled in Oklahoma that would declare trans people in schools an “emergency” (making the legislation effective immediately upon passage) and curtail bathroom access or correct pronoun usage. A separate Oklahoma bill, filed late Wednesday, would ban all trans healthcare for people under 26—forcibly detransitioning many adults, if passed.

“It is clear that the transgender legislative cycle for 2022–2023 is now in full swing,” Reed wrote. “Multiple anti-trans laws are being proposed in states and they have gone further than laws proposed during the last cycle.” 

V.S. Wells

V. S. Wells is a British writer living in Vancouver, B.C., with bylines in Slate, VICE and Autostraddle. Please stop asking them about Brexit.

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