Our lawmakers should be working for us. But this past session they were working for out-of-state organizations that don’t know the first thing about being an Arkansan. In fact, they spent most of session attacking Trans kids, and Arkansas is being sued because of it. Consequently, 60 Minutes Plus came to Arkansas to cover the story.
“There were people that didn’t know us trying to tell me as a parent what decisions I was allowed to make for my son… When we started to look into our options of what was going to be best for [Dylan], we sought the advice of medical professionals; we sought the advice of a therapist; we did not seek the advice of lawmakers because that’s not their area of expertise.”Joanna Brandt, Dylan Brandt’s mother, said in response to HB1570 on 60 Minutes
Recently Dylan Brandt and his family appeared on 60 Minutes. The episode, Trans Kids Fight For Healthcare Rights, aired on June 20, 2021. Dylan is fifteen and currently receiving gender affirming treatments; he’s also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state. He’s suing because his lawmakers voted to take away his healthcare. As stated in the episode, this was a private and personal journey for Dylan’s family until March, when lawmakers passed HB1570. What was previously their choice – which healthcare treatments are best for their family– is now determined by the state. The law goes into effect this month.
Landmark Case, Landmark Attorney
Along with Dylan and his family, 60 Minutes also spoke with Chase Strangio. Strangio is one of the ACLU lawyers preparing to go to court for Trans youth in Arkansas. Notably, he was also on the legal team for the landmark Supreme Court civil rights case Bostock v. Clayton County; the Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“These bills are not constituent driven. These bills were pre-drafted. It’s not like people in Arkansas are calling up their lawmakers and saying ‘what’s important to me in the middle of a pandemic is hurting trans kids’. These are not homegrown.”Chase Strangio points out that these hateful bills didn’t come from Arkansas on 60 Minutes
Lazy Lawmakers, Dangerous Consequences
During the interview, Strangio told 60 Minutes that the Heritage Foundation and other extremist groups were likely behind the proposed bills, not Arkansans. The harsh reality is that we know this to be true. We saw numerous bills filed that came from out-of-state special interest groups. All the while real Arkansans who testified were disregarded, and in an extreme case a father was even placed in handcuffs and taken to jail.
60 Minutes actually spoke with Emilie Kao, the Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation. They introduced The Promise to America’s Children, a list of extreme “principles” that attack Trans youth. What’s worse is that their website has a model legislation feature for policy makers. This is dangerous, and it’s just bad governing. You elected your lawmakers. They should be listening to you when drafting policy. Instead, they’re asking shady extremist groups to generate laws for them.
Ring Ring… Robin it’s For You, 60 Minutes is Calling!
If you watch the interview with Emilie Kao, you’ll probably feel a sense of déjà vu. The arguments used by Kao were the same echoed by Robin Lundstrum back in March (Lundstrum was the lead sponsor of HB1570). Both women pointed out age restrictions on cigarettes, alcohol, etc., to justify hurting Trans kids. Lundstrum even thanked the Heritage Foundation after the bill passed.
60 Minutes reached out to Robin Lundstrum seven times with no response. Leslie Rutledge, Asa Hutchinson, and another sponsor of the bill also declined to comment.
Dr. Rachel Levine Appears on 60 Minutes
Dr. Rachel Levine made history when she became the first openly Transgender person to be confirmed to a federal post. Dr. Levine formerly served as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health; she now serves as the Assistant Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services. She joined 60 Minutes for one of her first major on camera news appearances since her confirmation.
“I think that the medical and psychological experts really are working with robust literature and standards of care with this, and that it should not be politicized.”Dr. Rachel Levine responds to state legislatures who are passing anti-trans laws on 60 Minutes.
Expert Witness Ignored
Another plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against HB1570 is Dr. Michele Hutchinson, MD-PHD. She works with Transgender youth at Children’s Hospital in the Endocrine department. She testified against HB1570 back in March, and now she’s fighting to have the law overturned.
Dr. Hutchinson also appeared on the 60 Minutes special. She explained the dangers of this legislation, referencing data that proves Transgender youth are at risk, and that gender affirming care saves lives.
“Well, I’ll tell you why some of us think [banning gender affirming healthcare] is a bad idea. There’s a growing body of evidence, and many published reports, that affirming these children earlier in life, providing that affirming care – which does include hormone therapy – actually reduces rates of suicide… and improves longterm quality of life.”Dr. Michele Hutchinson answers the question of why counseling and therapy isn’t enough for Trans youth on 60 Minutes.
Picnic at MacArthur Park
In late May, For AR People joined members of the LGBTQ+ community in Arkansas for a picnic at MacArthur Park. While there, 60 Minutes interviewed one of Dr. Hutchinson’s patients, Andrew Bostad, his mother, Brandi Evans and stepdad Jimmy Evans. Just like Joanna Brandt, Brandi expressed her fears for her child’s overall health and safety.
“I am scared that it could become a dire situation, where he would either have to be put in a mental hospital for his own safety, or he would become suicidal. It’s cruel to these kids. I have never had the state involved in my life so wrongly, ever. I have been able to have my child treated medically his entire life, and they’ve never once said ‘oh no, can’t do that’. But now all of a sudden, because my child is Trans, I don’t have that right any longer.”Brandi Evans explains her fears to 60 Minutes regarding HB1570 and what it means for her son, Andrew.
Takeaway: Trans Youth Need Support
During their 60 Minutes interviews, both families shared the same level of concern for their children, and both had the same question for our elected officials: Why does the government feel entitled to make my child’s healthcare decisions for me?
Bottom line: our lawmakers are putting children’s lives at risk because some out-of-state organization wants them to. Our legislature has the power to help struggling Arkansans. Instead, they are using their power to bully our most vulnerable youth. Arkansans were lined out the door to testify against this legislation, but our leaders plugged their ears to anyone who disagreed with them.
Across Arkansas, Transgender youth and their families are worrying about what comes next. Some are even considering leaving the state, but that kind of decision comes with its own risks and hardships, especially for low income families. So if you or a loved one are struggling, please use this list of Arkansas Transgender resources compiled by Transgender Map. And if you’re enraged by this overreach of government, speak out, get loud, and don’t stop standing up for those in need.