This story discusses the impacts of mental health issues and contains stories that may be triggering for some readers. If you, or someone you know, are in crisis please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or calling the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860.
On March 24, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 150 (SB150), a bill that stands to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors, limit human sexuality curriculum in schools, and enforce school policies harmful to LGBTQ+, most notably trans, students. In a released statement, Beshear reasoned that the bill “allows too much government interference in personal healthcare issues'' and that his religious convictions lead him to believe “all children are children of God and Senate Bill 150 will endanger the children of Kentucky.” This veto, however, did not mark the end of SB 150; on March 29 the republican supermajority voted to override the governor's veto—making SB150 law.
Background on the Passing of Senate Bill 150:
On the morning of March 16, the end of SB150 seemed to be spelled within Kentucky’s House. However, following a multi-hour session, Republican lawmakers planted a strikingly similar proposal on Governor Beshear’s desk which included provisions from the original version of HB470.
The lead up began during the House’s lunch break on March 16th, when the House Education Committee gathered for an abrupt meeting. In this meeting, Senator Max Wise of Campbellsville and Representative David Meade of Stanford—both Republicans—crafted an expanded version of SB150 to be voted on during that evening’s committee meeting. The drafting of this bill was so swift that during the meeting the House Clerk did not have a digital version to share with everyone, and the bill was not available to the general public, according to the Courier Journal.
The convoluted process leading up to the bill’s passage, as well as the lengthy and difficult-to-parse nature of the bill’s content, have bewildered many Kentuckians.
What remains clear is that the bill threatens the safety and autonomy of young LGBTQ+ Kentuckians by creating policies that include allowing teachers to reject use of students' preferred pronouns if they “do not conform to that student’s biological sex,” a sweeping ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth, and requiring school districts to create bathroom policies that would not allow trans students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
Impact on Students:
For LGBTQ+ Kentuckians, the policies outlined in SB150 prompt painful emotions. For Alex, a trans male Louisville high school student, the bill is jarring: “Honestly, when I first read about this bill, I cried. I’m terrified for my life,” he said.
For many like Alex, SB 150 threatens the legitimacy of their humanity and endangers their lives. According to a survey conducted by the Trevor Project, 59% of transgender boys/men and 48% of transgender girls/women considered suicide in 2022. As the suicide rate for LGBTQ+ Americans increases every year, the introduction of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, like SB150, will only add to the perilous reality many queer people face daily.
Queer youth already struggle in a society where social and emotional turmoil are often a part of their everyday reality, and bills like SB150 stand to ostracize them further. For trans male Kentucky high school student Elliott, he finds it hard enough to exist at his school, and “this bill will make me more cautious,” he says.
Future of Gender Affirming Practices:
From a clinical perspective, this bill threatens the livelihood of both the clinicians themselves and their patients. To better understand this, the New Edu’s Anna Sugg spoke to Dr. Paige Hertweck, an OB/GYN for Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, KY, who specializes in Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. Throughout our conversation, Dr. Hertweck’s concern for the safety of LGBTQ+ youth was prevalent. “Patients who have gender dysphoria have a lot more social and mental health issues,” she said, adding, "they are at a higher risk of suicide and depression and anxiety.”
Due to patient privacy, Dr. Hertweck was unable to comment on patient experience. But she provided a statement by the North American Society For Pediatric Adolescent Gynecology on gender affirming healthcare for minors: “Patients, their families and caretakers in partnership with their physicians, not policymakers, should be the ones to make decisions about what care is best for them.”
On March 29, Kentuckians of all ages gathered at the steps of the Capitol Annex to protest the potential override of SB150’s veto. The landscape was shrouded by heavy fog as protestors shouted chants such as, “We’re queer, we’re here” and “Trans rights are human rights.” The fog perhaps foreshadowed the events coming later that day.
On the afternoon of March 29, the Kentucky Senate voted to override the governor's veto while the voices of hundreds of protestors echoed through the halls of the chamber. A little while later, the House also voted to override the veto, as reported by the Courier Journal’s Olivia Krauth.
Before SB150 became law, protestors expressed their worries; Claire Klein, a freshman at Centre College, explained to the New Edu how the state legislature’s actions are disappointing: “Obviously I am always proud to be a Kentuckian,” she said “…but especially on a day like today, when I can see so many people standing up in the face of people who are trying to take away some of the best parts of our commonwealth.”
Avi, a math teacher at Francis Parker School of Louisville, commented on their experience at yesterday’s protest: “It’s amazing” they said, “It’s really cool to be here with so many students who are taking a really brave stand in defense of their own rights.”
Despite SB150 being passed into law, the passion displayed yesterday proves that legislation cannot, and will not, silence the voices of LGBTQ+ Kentuckians and allies.