Opinion: Utah’s transgender community is tired of being socially, medically and legally erased

We need lawmakers to realize that these actions may be tremendously adverse.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) Protesters gather during a protest in opposition to HB257 in front of the Utah Capitol during the legislative session in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024.

HB0257 has passed the Utah Senate. This bill is named as protecting women’s privacy but, outside of the Title IX and unisex bathroom construction sections, it negatively impacts my transgender community — both legally and socially.

I sit here incredibly sad as, once again, we are making laws that harm my community.

I have been volunteering in my community for many years and working on transgender related legislation since 2018. A large part of me is so tired. The bills we are seeing each year take away rights and interventions that we have enjoyed for years, and we have harmed no other people. Yet we are the ones that are adversely impacted each time.

Throughout the year, I see my friends who contribute greatly in many ways to our state and our businesses. I meet families where their transgender youth are thriving in their authenticity and the family’s acceptance. This is what makes my heart swell. All Utahns should be happy and prosperous.

And then we have another bill like this one and it is hard, so hard. In the last year since a ban on health care for transgender youth was passed, I have had many friends move to other states. And I have watched as we have lost youth and adults. Lives cut short way too soon.

I recognize that many don’t understand my community, and I strive to educate. Some think this is a choice. There are studies that show that being transgender is innate. We are born this wonderful person. We have these memories of our gender as far back as we can remember. This isn’t an ideology or contagion, it’s us being completely and unapologetically us.

The hard part of being willing to educate is that we also need those who make law and policy to be willing to pause, to listen and to learn to truly understand our community. We need lawmakers to realize that these actions may be tremendously adverse. As the medical community says, “First, do no harm.” Instead, we have a community that feels like it is being erased through these successive years. Being removed socially, medically, legally.

Once people get to know us, it changes hearts and minds. While we are a small community, most people have likely met one of us; you just may not know it. I know who we are does not align with stereotypes, and that is exactly the point. We are often opposed due to narratives around us that are not reality.

I want my community to not just survive but to prosper. Isn’t that what Utah is supposed to offer us?  There is so much beauty in my community, and yet we are largely misunderstood.

It took decades for Utah to accept the gay and lesbian communities, and now 72% of Utahns support marriage equality.

Can we just open our hearts and learn? Can we stop spending decades pushing away a community only to accept them later?

Sue Robbins

Sue Robbins is active in the LGBTQ+ community and is an advisor to Equality Utah on Transgender legislative and policy efforts.

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