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Indiana Governor Signs Bill Requiring Teachers to Out Trans Students to Parents

The law will create potentially harmful living situations for transgender youth in the state, critics contend.

A protester holds a placard that says, "The blood of trans youth is on your hands" inside the Indiana Statehouse as the Indiana Senate's Health and Provider Services Committee in February considers legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors in Indiana.

Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed a bill into law that will require schools in the state to out transgender children to their parents.

House Bill 1608 requires Indiana schools to notify parents if a trans student requests that teachers call them by a name or pronoun that differs from the school’s records or what their parents know them by. Schools will be required to do so within five days of discovering that a child wants to change how they’re addressed.

LGBTQ advocates have said that the new law could endanger trans children with transphobic parents, potentially opening them up to abuse.

At least a dozen states across the country are considering or have considered similar bills, according to an Associated Press analysis. In addition to potentially putting children in harm’s way, such bills would reduce the already-limited number of spaces where trans children can be themselves.

“Students wouldn’t trust teachers anymore,” Emilly Osterling, a special education teacher in North Carolina, said last month.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana has issued a statement condemning Holcomb for signing the bill into law.

“Not every child can be their true selves at home without risking their physical or emotional well-being. For trans youth, especially those who cannot be safe at home, school may be one of the few places to be themselves,” said ACLU of Indiana advocacy and public policy director Katie Blair. “Trans youth thrive when they are affirmed in their gender identity, which includes being called by a name and pronouns that reflect who they are.”

The group is considering options to prevent the implementation of the law, the statement said, which could include suing the state.

The new law also forbids the teaching of “human sexuality” in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. The bill’s language is ambiguous, however, and doesn’t define what “human sexuality” includes.

Holcomb said in a statement on Thursday that he signed the bill out of concern for “parental rights.” But studies show that such instruction can be incredibly beneficial, especially in preventing childhood sexual abuse and improving health outcomes for children as they grow older.

Holcomb and the Republican-led Indiana state legislature have passed a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation this term. Holcomb, for example, signed a bill into law earlier this month that prohibits local governments from banning conversion therapy, an abusive form of treatment that purports, without evidence, to “cure” people of being gay, trans or queer. Survivors of conversion therapy have likened its techniques to torture.

In April, Holcomb signed a bill into law that bans gender-affirming care for transgender youth in the state. Medical experts widely agree that such treatment can often be life-saving, and numerous national health organizations have said that bans on gender-affirming care will harm trans youth.

Allison Chapman, an independent legislative researcher and transgender activist, spoke out against the law that Holcomb signed this week.

“When I came out to people I was an adult. I came out to those I felt safe around,” Chapman told Truthout. “Students are even more vulnerable and they will come out to those they feel safest with as well.”

But the law will prevent that from happening, Chapman added.

“If they come out to a teacher and not their parents it’s because they do not believe it is safe to do so. By outing these students it puts them in danger and could subject them to abuse or worse.”

Chapman went on:

Even though they are minors, they have a right to privacy and they are their own people. Children aren’t the property of their parents. They are their own person. Who is the state to force out them to people?

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