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PPGA event brings awareness to Ohio anti-trans legislation

PPGA event brings awareness to Ohio anti-trans legislation

COURTESY OF PPGA AND UNITY HOUSE

On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood Generation Action (PPGA) and Unity House co-sponsored an event with the Kaleidoscope Youth Center (KYC) to update students on state-level anti-trans legislation. Approximately 12 students attended the event, which included a summary of relevant bills and KYC’s proposed actions to counteract anti-trans legislation.

Mallory Golski, KYC’s civic engagement and advocacy manager, began the presentation with a positive note, discussing two bills that would improve the quality of life for LGBTQ+ youth in Ohio. The first bill, House Bill (HB) 220, would ban medical professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with minor patients. This bill was introduced and sent to committee in September of last year, though it has not seen any action since. The second bill, Senate Bill (SB) 132, would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression for housing, employment and public accommodations. However, SB 132 has been introduced every year since 2008 and has never made it past committee.

Golski explained that while federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity currently exist, establishing similar laws at the state level offers increased protection. “Using the instance of Roe v Wade, for example, while we are protected under federal law for certain things, those can go away,” Golski said. “It’s good to have these protections in Ohio law as well to have that back-up.”

Golski then presented a synopsis of Ohio HB 68, also known as the Saving Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act. The SAFE Act will go into effect on April 24, banning gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers or hormone replacement therapy for minors. The bill will also ban transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports. The SAFE Act will go into effect first, but Golski also discussed six other bills still in the legislative process, which — if approved by the Ohio legislature and the governor — may go into effect with similar consequences. Following each bill, Golski offered tips on how to best reach state representatives and testify before legislators in person.

The presentation continued with a review of the most significant anti-trans bills in Ohio, beginning with HB 8. Titled the Parents Bill of Rights, critics have termed HB 8 the ‘Unsafe Students Act’ or simply the ‘forced outing bill’ as the primary effect of the bill requires teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators to notify families when there is a change in the mental or physical well-being of a student. The bill identifies any discussion from a student on their gender identity as a change to mental or physical well-being. This would mandate faculty to report a student’s gender or sexual orientation to their parents, carrying the risk of abuse or neglect. 

In addition, the Parents Bill of Rights requires teachers to notify parents of any “sexuality content” being shown to students in the classroom. This content in the bill would include “any oral or written instruction, presentation, image or description of sexual concepts or gender ideology.”

Golski argued the wording of HB 8 is vague enough to discourage teachers from approaching subjects even tangential to sexuality or gender. “It is a censorship bill, because it would censor what students are or are not allowed to learn in classrooms and what teachers can or can’t teach,” Golski said. 

Golski also discussed HB 183, a bill that would almost entirely ban gender-neutral bathrooms, a much stronger provision than other typical bathroom bills. Under the bill, all schools in Ohio would be required to define each bathroom, locker room or changing room as male or female, with the exception of single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms. Golski pointed out that there is not a strict enforcement policy within the bill, and proponents have emphasized that they do not want people to carry their birth certificates around. Instead, proponents of this bill encourage students to identify trans students by appearance alone, carrying the risk of targeted harassment and discrimination. 

To Golski, these two bills present the greatest threats to Ohio’s trans youth. HB 8 has passed the House and is currently in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities committee, while HB 183 is still in the House Higher Education committee. She added that because Kenyon students are Ohio residents, they have the ability to contact committee legislators and encourage them to vote against these bills or refuse to hold hearings for them. 

“When it comes to contacting legislators, I know we all hate talking on the phone but you can rest assured it’s probably a staff member answering,” Golski said. “You’re not gonna get [Ohio State Representative] Gary Click on the phone. You are gonna be talking to a staff member who is roughly the same age as you.” 

Golski closed the presentation by encouraging students to get involved with the KYC or groups such as the Trans Allies of Ohio or the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio for further and immediate support to those most affected.

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