Protesters Gather at State Capitol in Opposition of Legislation Impacting Transgender Youth


Carlene Coombs

Protesters gather at the Utah State Capitol on Feb. 25, 2022. (Photo by Carlene Coombs | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Carlene Coombs, News Editor


A large group of protestors, many holding transgender and pride flags, gathered on Friday, Feb. 25, to protest two bills in the Utah State legislature that would impact transgender youth, H.B. 11 and H.B. 127. Standing in front of the Utah Capitol steps in the icy wind, Mina Sadoon led the crowd in a chant, saying, “Protect trans kids.”

H.B.  11 would require transgender students to receive permission from a commission before participating in sports that align with their gender identity. The panel would evaluate students by physical characteristics such as height, body mass, hip-to-knee ratio and more to determine their eligibility.

This bill is being sponsored by Rep. Kera Birkeland, who introduced a bill during the 2021 legislative session banning transgender girls from female sports.

H.B. 127 would prohibit “a medically unnecessary puberty inhibition procedure or a sex characteristic-altering procedure on a minor.” It is being sponsored by Rep. Rex Shipp.

More than a dozen speakers, many of who are transgender, addressed the crowd. One speaker named Robin said these bills open the doors to “legislative violence like what we’re seeing in Texas.”

On Feb. 22, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a letter calling for gender-affirming medical procedures on minors to be investigated as child abuse.

Sadoon, who is gender fluid and helped organize the protest, echoed concerns of future legislative action negatively impacting the transgender community if H.B. 11 and H.B. 127 pass.

Additionally, Sadoon raised concerns about spikes in depression and suicide within the transgender community if these bills pass.

“As little things like this start to progress … and if this passes, it’s just gonna be a little bit easier to pass those ones as well,” Sadoon said.

According to the 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by the Trevor Project, 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported recent politics negatively affecting their mental health. The same survey stated in 2020, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth seriously considered suicide.

Riya Bunker, a behavioral health tech who is transgender and nonbinary, said access to gender-affirming care decreases ​​suicide, anxiety, self-harm and depression. H.B. 127 would create barriers to access to gender-affirming medical care for minors.

“Bills like this … have a direct effect on those trans children’s ability to get up in the morning, to feed themselves, to clothe themselves, to feel good about who they are [and] to not feel shame,” Bunker said.

Ocean Candler, a Utah educator, said they have worked with students and have seen the magic of when teens and children get to be themselves.

Candler said this legislation makes it impossible for students to find that magic within themselves and find a community in extracurricular activities like sports.

“Extracurriculars are a privilege, and they are life-saving, and they are communal,” they said.

Candler said these bills create barriers for children who risk not being accepted in their home life and personal spaces.

“School should be a safe space for these children,” Candler said.

Siena Popiel, a University of Utah student studying political science, said they believe these bills are being used by politicians to win elections and create a “boogeyman” to scare Republicans into voting.

“Don’t use transgender kids as a way to win your damn elections,” Popiel said during a speech at the protest.

Candler said these policies are “adultifying” and traumatizing children and questions supporters and legislators who say they are protecting and prioritizing children with this legislation.

“It’s like whose children?” Candler said. “Whose children are we protecting?”


[email protected]