This is a contributed blog post from community member Brian Williams.
Hello Rhode Islanders, please be aware that a few current events happening here in Rhode Island affect our kiddos tremendously. There are some action steps you can take to help. Read below! Suppose either of these bills is scheduled for a hearing on the statehouse floor. In that case, we will only have 48 hours to submit written testimony or sign up to deliver a verbal testimony in opposition—more info here https://lu.ma/transri.
The first bill trying to be passed is R.I. bill S2501 sponsored by Sen. Elaine Morgan [R] and Sen. Frank Lombardo [D], introduced March 1, 2022.
S2501, if passed, will ban all Trans Girls from Participating in "women's" sports. As stated in the proposed bill, Section 1.1, "The legislature finds that there are 'inherent differences between men and women,' and that these differences 'remain cause for celebration, but not for the denigration of the members of either sex or artificial constraints on an individual's opportunity,' United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 533 (1996)." This statement is followed up with Section 1.2 stating. "These 'inherent differences' range from chromosomal and hormonal to physiological differences." Their reasoning for trying to pass this bill is, "Men also have higher natural levels of testosterone, ... all of which result in men being able to generate higher speed and power during physical activity" (Section 1.4. If this bill is passed, it will require sports teams to be categorized as men, males or boys; women, females or girls; coed or mixed, as stated in the bill, and if any dispute were to arise, a student would have to verify sex at birth only through a signed statement from a physician. This bill is being written to help create a "cause for action for any student deprived of an athletic opportunity."
If S2501 is passed, the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2023
The second bill trying to be passed is RI H7539, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Morgan [R], introduced February 18, 2022.
H7539, if passed, will restrict teaching about racism and oppression in school, prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in sexual education, and prevents trans & non-binary students from being addressed in school by their correct name and pronouns. H7539 Section 1.1 states, "Ideological materials, worksheets, homework, texts or assigned reading, and/or mentored discussions that depict identity groups as oppressors and/or victims shall not be incorporated within the pedagogy or curricula of schools. Provided, historical, factual events shall be taught and presented as historical, factual events, as part of high-quality curricula." This means that when educating about historical events, you are unable to blame oppression onto a specific group of individuals as well as educators are unable to state that the oppressed group was, in fact oppressed. The bill goes on to state, "Schools shall not use the 1619 Project curriculum or any other curricula that pursues a predominantly ideological and/or activist outcome" (Section 1.7), "Educational staff is prohibited from electioneering, pursuing activism, or advocating for specific political beliefs or candidates. No visual materials, such as banners, posters, or handouts promoting racial advocacy shall be allowed in a school setting. Values, psychological and medical counseling, and political activism shall not be taught in classrooms or any school setting" (Section 1.7.l). This would restrict educators from being able to teach about activism in the classroom and would not allow them to have any banner, poster, or handout the building about an oppressed group. The bill then goes on to state, "The sexualization of children shall not be permitted in educational or extracurricular activities. Sex education shall not explore sexual preference, gender dysphoria, or sexual lifestyles" (Section 1.7.m). This would make it virtually impossible for youth to learn about anything other than cis-gender heterosexual relations. Discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity that is not cis-gendered and heterosexual will be banned, leaving youth uneducated and feeling invalid. The last part of this bill goes on to state, "Children shall be addressed using their common names and the pronouns associated with their biological gender unless parental or guardian permission to do otherwise is obtained" (Section 1.7.o). This would not allow a student to identify as trans or non-binary at school without the permission of a parent. In many instances, youth may choose to come out only at school because their home life may not be the most accepting. In the instance that home life isn't acceptable for students, educators and faculty at schools will be required by law to misgender and deadname students, with their government name and biological gender. This will also open the door for youth to be outed by the school to the parent/guardian(s) which can result in danger for the youth in many different capacities.
If H7539 is passed, this bill will take effect immediately.
We as a community need to come together and stand with our LGBTQ+ siblings, especially the trans and non-binary folks as these bills are targeted at them the most.
The Trans & Non-Binary Community Circle is holding a meeting on Friday, March 11, 2022 6:00p-8:00p via ZOOM in partnership with Youth Pride Inc. to connect and plan with others in the community. If you are interested in joining the meeting, you can sign up at lu.ma/transri or they can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Together we can take a stand against these bills and fight for a brighter tomorrow.
Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for supporting the LGBTQ+ community over the years and giving young queer kids, like myself, the space to be uniquely them without any hate. You have no idea the impact that it has on the youth in our state.
Come back! This blog will be updated. We will follow these bills as they progress in our state, and we will keep you all informed about the progression, and what we can do to take these down.