Gordon Monson: Utah would be a better place if Dwyane Wade and his family, and others like them, found true acceptance here

Wade, whose daughter Zaya is transgender, recently revealed that their family moved out of Florida in part because of the state’s anti-LGBTQ legislation.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Dwyane Wade, three-time NBA champion and part owner of the Utah Jazz joins a conversation at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021.

Question for all of Utah to consider: Where are you, really, when it comes to being a truly accepting society, one in which people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and orientations can feel at home?

Dwyane Wade likely has asked that question.

When it was first announced that Wade was becoming a minority owner of the Utah Jazz, a couple of things came along with that.

First, pride that an accomplished and popular player, an NBA champion with the Miami Heat who will soon be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a former player respected around the league and around the basketball world for his achievements on and his demeanor off the floor, would be connected to the Jazz and thereby connected to Utah. And second, pride that another step forward was being taken for a state that now featured a prominent black man with progressive social ideas about inclusivity, about dignity and acceptance, in particular toward the LGBTQ community.

Not only was Wade a basketball great, he and his wife, actor Gabrielle Union, also have a 15-year-old daughter, Zaya, who came out as transgender three years ago. They’ve been candid about and properly supportive of her and of the transgender community as a whole.

Wade recently revealed in an interview with Rachel Nichols that he moved with his family away from Florida, a place he loved living, the very place where he did so much winning, because of legislation that was being passed in the state by government “leaders” that negatively impacted LGBTQ individuals and families. That legislation included a law banning classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades and a law preventing people from using bathrooms other than ones assigned to them by their gender at birth.

“My family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there,” he said. “And so that’s one of the reasons I don’t live there.”

Wade and his family moved to the Los Angeles area.

It makes you wonder about the way they feel regarding the state where his team is located. How comfortable does he, do they feel here? How accepted, how comfortable do others feel, especially those directly affected not just by Utah’s laws, but by the attitudes of some of its residents?

Wade has been complimentary of the state in past interviews. “The perception of Utah is not our reality,” he said in 2021. But he was also drawn to the state because he felt he could help bring about change and progress.

“We need to understand that we live in a world where everyone is different, but we’re all trying to reach the same goal: that is to be our best selves in life,” Wade said in that same 2021 interview.

There certainly are examples of Utahns — parents and kids — who are either hostile toward or afraid of trans kids and the whole idea of transgenderism. That’s not unique only to Utah, but its presence here is felt.

The state’s legislators passed a bill in January and the governor signed it that banned youth from receiving gender-affirming health care, including the prohibition of transgender surgery for young people and making illegal hormone treatments for minors who haven’t yet been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

If you want to dive back into that issue, you could ask why politicians would interfere with decisions that should be left to families, the affected individuals inside of them, and their physician(s).

Is it because of religion, because of conservative attitudes, because of a thirst for control in extremely personal, private matters, control so important that those residents must be herded into one single mass of compliance? Is it all of the above?

Two more questions: Shouldn’t these lawmakers listen to what the American Medical Association’s counsel is on this particular matter, as opposed to a doctor/politico who originally sponsored the passed bill? Do legislators who approve such bans, regardless of what they say publicly, not care about getting proper care to a marginalized group of kids who already are so sadly prone to the worst outcome possible — suicide?

The AMA, made up of … you know, physicians, has made plain its stance on this issue.

They called this kind of legislative control “a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.” That body, further, “cited evidence that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity and expression, and that foregoing gender-affirming care can have tragic health consequences, both mental and physical.”

In a famous letter to the National Governors Association, sent over a year ago, the AMA urged that, “Decisions about medical care belong within the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship. As with all medical interventions, physicians are guided by their ethical duty to act in the best interest of their patients and must tailor recommendations about specific interventions and the timing of those interventions to each patient’s unique circumstances. Such decisions must be sensitive to the child’s clinical situation …”

It suggested that medically necessary treatments be available for those affected, including mental health counseling, non-medical social transition, gender-affirming hormone therapy and/or gender-affirming surgeries.

The Utah law requires doctors to disregard clinical guidelines, putting those in need at risk of worsening mental difficulties, based ironically enough on “minority stress, the chronic stress from coping with societal stigma, and discrimination because of one’s gender identity and expression. Because of this stress, transgender minors also face a heightened risk of suicide.”

What’s happened here, then, is fixing the stress with added stress.

Gov. Spencer Cox, after signing the bill, said that he thought it best to pause “these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.”

He added that he hoped “that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.”

In the meantime, trans kids are hurting.

And many families and children do not feel loved and accepted. They feel rejected and … banned. All on account of things, attitudes that reach far beyond kids’ personal well-being.

There’s no telling if Utah will follow Florida’s poor example, that of disallowing acknowledgment and instruction in schools about sexual orientation and — wow — the use of bathrooms, or any other such measures.

It’d be preferable if decisions and laws such as the ones stated here were put aside and/or left to families, physicians, to trained professionals and the specific individuals affected.

That’s the best way for people, people like Dwyane Wade and his family, to feel included and loved and respected and accepted. Not by passing laws that take away and derail their own personal attention to the details of their lives, their comfort in living their lives.

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