Republicans in Montana misgendered a transgender state lawmaker in their calls for her censure after she condemned their passage of a bill that would endanger transgender and nonbinary youth in the state.
State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) blasted Republicans in the Montana House of Representatives earlier this week for passing a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth in the state. Republicans — including Gov. Greg Gianforte, who negotiated aspects of the bill with state GOP legislators — wrongly claimed that the bill will protect children, contradicting testimony from medical organizations and experts, who widely agree that gender-affirming care is safe and often lifesaving.
Experts have warned that state bans on gender-affirming care will result in mental anguish for trans kids and potentially increase suicide rates among the transgender population.
“Transgender youth deserve access to medically-necessary, evidence-based health care,” the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement opposing the bill.
Zephyr rebuked Republicans for moving the bill forward in comments on the House floor this week.
“If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association…the only therapy left is either meaningless, or conversion therapy, which is torture,” Zephyr said.
“If you vote yes on this bill, I hope the next time you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” she continued.
In response to Zephyr’s statement, the Montana Freedom Caucus, made up of several Republicans in the state legislature, issued a press release calling for her censure, claiming that she had violated decorum rules in the House and misgendering her in the process.
“Our Caucus is calling for the immediate censure of transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr after his [sic] threatening and deeply concerning comments on the House floor earlier today,” the Freedom Caucus wrote, using the incorrect pronouns to refer to Zephyr.
LGBTQ advocates were quick to point out the Republicans’ cruelty and hypocrisy.
“Misgendering her as you call for decorum? Do. Better,” LGBTQ organization PFLAG wrote in a tweet.
“Montana’s fascist legislators demand civility from the state’s sole trans representative as they abrogate her and her community’s civil rights. Revolting,” said freelance Montana journalist Hunter Pauli.
Zephyr responded to the Freedom Caucus with a press release of her own, in which she refused to apologize.
In that press release, Zephyr recounted a story shared with her by a physician in the state who had treated a transgender teen after a suicide attempt. “My state doesn’t want me,” that child reportedly told the physician.
“This is a stark reminder of the real-world consequences of these hateful and harmful bills,” Zephyr wrote.
She went on:
It is disheartening that the Montana Freedom Caucus would stoop so low as to misgender me in their letter, further demonstrating their disregard for the dignity and humanity of transgender individuals. Their call for ‘civility and respect’ is hypocritical given their actions.
“Ultimately, I am unconcerned with the Montana Freedom Caucus’ call to censure me,” Zephyr concluded. “I stood on the floor to speak on behalf of my community, and as long as I am a member of the Montana Legislature, I will never stop fighting for trans people in our state.”