Transgender in Idaho: a conversation with two trans women on House Bills 500 and 509 – KPVI News 6

Posted: March 8, 2020 at 9:50 pm

Two bills that would affect transgender Idahoans are moving through the Idaho Legislature. KPVI spoke with two transgender women, and a doctor specializing in transgender patients, about the legislation.

Meet Katie Burdick.

She works at a local call center and moved to Pocatello at 18 years-old. Burdick says she first knew she was a girl at four-years-old.

I had this epiphany, says Burdick. I believeclose to my exact words were: Mom. Im a girl.

But while Burdicks mom is super accepting today, at the time, she wasnt.

She wasnt too keen on it then, I was young and it was a very conservative time, says Burdick.

I had two parents who love me, but they didnt understand.

20 year-old Rosetta Roberts had a similar experience.

I dont really talk to my family anymore because I dont have that much acceptance from them, says Roberts. They still mis-gender me. My mom tries to gender me correctly, which I greatly appreciate, but it still hurts and I avoid her.

Roberts is an Idaho State University student double-majoring in computer science and applied mathematics. She hopes to one day be a professor.

She says she didnt realize she was transgender until 17-years-old, when she moved out of her parents home.

Id heard about it [transgender people], but I had the misconception that they were just men wearing dresses at the time.

Even though she didnt know the word for it, she knew something was wrong.

I started having dysphoria around when I started to hit puberty and things just didnt feel right, says Roberts.

I felt like my body was fighting me and that it wasn't going the direction that I wanted.

House Bill 500

January 19, 2015 and April 23, 2018 are significant dates for Burdick and Roberts.

Roberts says April 23 is more important to her than her birthday.

"That's when my life turned around, that's when I started feeling happy," says Roberts.

Thats the date she started hormone treatments to become a woman.

Very quickly I felt a lot better in the head, says Roberts. Its also had visual effects on my appearance, which Ive grown to love. I love my body now. I still sometimes struggle with not loving my body but Im usually pretty confident now.

For Burdick, January 19 was the start of what would become a long medical journey.

Ive always wanted to be as womanly as I can, so at 24, 25, 26, the hormones werent really taking and so I was kind of still mildly depressed, says Burdick. But about a year ago they started to take effect. From an emotional standpoint I was so much happier.

Both women are now living their most authentic lives, but are worried about legislation like House Bill 500 which would ban transgender women and girls from female sports.

"I think it's archaic and almost draconian," says Burdick.

Representative Barbara Ehardt of Idaho Falls is the bill's sponsor.

She says the legislation is about protecting women and girls.

"It's been disheartening to watch through the years this slow but fast infiltration of biological boys and men participating in women's sports," says Ehardt.

Ehardt cant name an active Idaho case of a transgender woman or girl taking advantage of her strength in female sports, but says its only a matter of time before it happens.

She points to an active lawsuit in Connecticut in which three girls are suing two transgender sprinters who have frequently outperformed their cisgender competitors, according to NBCs Connecticut affiliate.

(You can read more about that case here: https://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/girls-sue-to-block-participation-of-transgender-athletes/2222777/)

The NCAA and the Idaho High School Activities Association lets transgender girls and women to play on girls or womens teams if theyve been on testosterone suppression drugs for at least a year.

Ehardt says thats not enough. House Bill 500 sites a 2019 study from the Karolinska Institute which found that "Muscle strength, size and composition following 12 months of gender-affirming treatment in transgender individuals: retained advantage for the transwomen.

Doctor Neil Ragan has specialized in transgender care for seven years, and he now sees around 143 transgender patients from across southeastern Idaho. He pushes back on the Karolinska study sited in House Bill 500, saying thisissue is more nuanced thanhow it's being approached.

In my opinion they're picking and choosing, says Dr. Ragan. And you can find a study that will support any position that you want to take."

What I have observed with my own transgender women on estrogen is that their body strength clearly declines, says Dr. Ragan.

He also points out that theres a broad range of natural strength in both the male and female sex.

Burdick can relate to this.

Even though I was born with a male chromosome the hormones can work wonders, says Burdick. There are cis-gender women who are stronger than me and Im stronger than some cis-gender women.

The bill also includes a section about establishing an athlete's sex if its called into question.

The bill text says:

A student may establish sex by presenting assigned physician's statement that shall indicate the student's sex based solely on:

Dr. Ragan and other transgender advocates worry these examinations could be invasive.

Ehardt calls this a false narrative and misguided. She claims the test would be no more invasive than a routine physical, a cheek swab or a urine test.

But Dr. Ragan says it isnt always that simple.

These exams may not prove anything. There is such a thing as an intersex condition, disorders of sexual development, babies are born and you cant tell initially what sex or what gender they are. Sometimes that is an adrenal issuethere are people who have chromosomal abnormalities, says Dr. Ragan.

"The diversity in human biology is astonishing and I think that when we start trying to legislate who fits into what category, we're going to have difficulty because there will be people who dont fit neatly into either categories."

Ehardt argues that sex cannot be fluid. We are not taking away your ability to identify. You can still identify however you want. But you will have to compete under the category of your biological sex.

Roberts says it's about letting people pursue their dreams.

"I dont want these people to be blocked from their dreams. I myself have dreams if I was blocked from my dreams I would be really really hurt. I don't think transgender people in sports should be blocked."

House Bill 509

Burdick destroyed her childhood photos.

"At first it was like almost anger but then it very quickly went into like a peace and serenity of 'this is gone now'," she says.

Burdicks parents wouldnt allow her to transition, so she was forced to go through male puberty.

"It was just a part of me that I'm like 'I don't even want to look."

Roberts was also forced to grow up in a boy's body.

It made me depressed and I felt more like my body was a vehicle for my head than like a part of me. It felt like puberty was destroying my body.

Roberts can't change her past, but after a 2018 court ruling, she could change the sex on her birth certificate, which saysprotects her frombeing outed.

"One of the big problems with being trans, is that if people find out, a lot of people often become discriminatory," says Roberts.

Blackfoot Rep. Julianne Young sponsored House Bill 509, which would ban changes to sex on birth certificate after a year.

She says this would protect the state's population records.

In a statement Young says:

"Safeguarding the accuracy of our vital records is a vital part of protecting the public health and safety. In addition, many public and private policies and contracts rely on a biologically informed definition of sex.

Dr. Ragan doesnt agree with that argument.

"The sheer number of transgender patients...the number is so small it's not going to significantly skew the demographics."

Many transgender people change theirsex on other documents like drivers licenses or social security documents.

I haveall my insurance cards changed. I have legal name changed. An affidavit from Dr. Ragan saying Im legally female, says Burdick.

Dr. Ragan believes its vital that transgender people have consistent documentation.

"In order for an individual to comfortably navigate this complicated world we live in it's really important that all of their documents align."

Living comfortably sounds good to Roberts.

"I just don't want them to bother us. I want to not have to worry about things like this."

In an email to Rep. Young, Roberts asked her to stop sponsoring the bill. She never heard back.

KPVI also reached out to Rep. Young for further comment, and never got a response.

Looking Forward

Both Roberts and Rosetta say they want to move out of Idaho.

Maybe even the U.S. eventually, says Roberts.

I dont like the atmosphere that the government has towards transgender people.

Roberts has a message for Rep. Young andEhardt:

The bills that theyre sponsoring are very very hurtful to the trans community and I would ask them to stop sponsoring these bills, and to try to help the trans community as much as possible.

Burdick says she wants to live in a bigger city because she feels people are ignorant, especially at the highest levels of government.

Because they have that power, they dont really get stuff. I think they put aside the hoi polloi, the common people.

Like Roberts, Burdick hopes Idaho politicians will start focusing on legislation to help transgender people, like creating more safe spaces for transgender youth.

Try to have more empathy try to listen and understand, she says.

When asked what shes done with support the trans community, Ehardt says shes been working on curbing LGBTQ youth suicide.

Burdick hopes to educate people as much as possible.

I think educating people about transgender issues and rights is a good thing. Yelling back doesnt work, says Burdick.

She wants people to know that Were not cross dressers. Were not drag queens. Were not putting on a show.

Both House Bill 500 and 509 have passed the Idaho House of Representatives.

500 will be discussed in the State Affairs committee Friday. House Bill 509 is also set to be heard in the same committee.

Link:
Transgender in Idaho: a conversation with two trans women on House Bills 500 and 509 - KPVI News 6

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