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Black trans youth targeted in Indiana school sports bill

by Erika DuBose
Black trans youth targeted in Indiana school sports bill
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Once again, Black trans youth are at risk thanks to state policies. In Indiana, state legislators just overrode the Governor’s veto of an anti-trans law affecting students.

And Black trans kids are at the greatest risk of harm. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2022 has already seen the murder of 14 trans and gender-nonconforming people. 

Most of the victims were Black.  While some of the killers have been arrested and charged with crimes, most have not.

In 2021, the number of trans people killed was 51. According to Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, “In 2022 we are already discussing the importance of safety for all trans people in this country, and the dire need for protective policy that ensures our well-being and prosperity.”

Meanwhile, Indiana’s anti-trans policies do just the opposite, putting young trans children at risk. 

This time, the bill targets trans women and girls, who are now prohibited from participating in school sports that align with their gender identity. While Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb initially vetoed the bill, the Indiana legislature overrode his veto, putting the policy into law. 

“Hateful” bill puts Black trans youth at a disproportionate risk

Banning trans kids from engaging in activities that align with their gender identity also puts them at risk for mental health issues, including depression and suicide. 

According to Anne Lieberman, the director of policy programs for Athlete Ally, an advocacy group that works for inclusive policies in sports, “When trans kids have access to gender-affirming spaces at school, like a locker room, a restroom, a sports team, they are 25% less likely to commit suicide. And when we look at rates of suicidality and depression, we know that they are significantly higher when trans kids don’t have access to those gender-affirming spaces.”

Notably, Black men and women have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than their White peers. In California, twelve of every 100,000 Black 18-24-year-olds died by suicide in 2020.

According to April Clay, head of counseling and psychological services at California State University Los Angeles, “The data is absolutely not surprising. … Black students are in a crisis nationally. It’s hard to talk about, and it’s hard for them to find help.”

Now, young Black trans students are facing a crisis, one that is compounded by such laws. Meanwhile, Indiana is only one of 19 states that has enacted anti-trans legislation aimed at youth. 

According to Katie Blair, advocacy and public policy director for the ACLU of Indiana, “By passing this bill, Indiana legislators have exposed trans kids to additional exclusion and mistreatment. This legislation is hateful and harmful.”

The ACLU of Indiana also believes that the law violates the Constitution, and plans to fight it in court. To learn more about anti-trans bills across the country, and how to advocate for Black trans youth, go to the Human Rights Campaign website. 

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