House Education

Jan. 26, 2023


Rep Evans: Back to order from recess. Members, it’s straight up noon and we’re going to go for an hour max. So this meeting will adjourn at 1pm. We want to be as open and as courteous to those that are coming to speak for or against. Those that are signed up on the list, again, remember that you are – we do have a 5 minute limit for your testimony. I will give you notice at 1 minute remaining. Again, as I stated this morning, if you have something very informative to add, we welcome that. What we don’t want is just continual repetitive of the same thing from each person. So we welcome all your comments. We will begin as we took up the against, we have a new sheet. We’ve had some additional sign up. We do have 2 that have signed up for, so we will begin alternating with that. I’m going to start with Sarah Everett who is speaking against. That will be followed by Courtney Roldan, who will be speaking for. So, Miss Everett you are welcome to go to the end of the table. If you will introduce yourself for the record and when your testimony starts we will begin your time.


Everett: There we go. My name is Sarah Everett. I am the Policy Director at the ACLU of Arkansas and we ask that you vote no on House Bill 1156. I wanted to clarify a couple of points on the law that I heard earlier. And just point out that the 4th and 7th Circuits have both come to opposite conclusions to the 11th Circuit as far as the prohibiting trans kids from using the correct bathrooms according to their gender identity. And I think it’s helpful to look to the Supreme Court, who has said that discrimination against trans people is sex discrimination, illegal under federal law. Of course they made that decision in an employment case, but I think the fact that they have already decided that this is sex discrimination is important to consider when you’re looking at passing laws that would potentially violate that. And I would point out that at least one bill attacking trans views from last session has been enjoined, and that injunction has so far been upheld by the 8th Circuit. This bill would require trans girls to use boys bathrooms, and trans boys to use girls bathrooms. 


I think people – I can’t assume what you all think and believe, but people tend to think that you can tell when a person is trans and that is not true. There are kids in our schools right now who are trans who maybe the administrators know, but their teachers don’t know, their peers don’t know and there’s a reason for that. One, they shouldn’t have to be out anyway. It’s not who they are, it’s just a part of them. And two, they will likely suffer from discrimination and bullying and harassment if they are out. This bill would out them. Even given the accommodation, which we’ve already heard will not work in many schools across the state, they are still going to be forced to ask permission to use a special bathroom that is not as accessible as other bathrooms. Many sporting buildings, athletic buildings, don’t have these accessible bathrooms. So when people come to watch football games or basketball games, they are either not going to be able to use the bathroom or may have to use a bathroom according to their sex assigned at birth. And then still face harassment from people who don’t think they’re supposed to be in there. 


The experience of school administrators across the country has shown that none of the fears about trans people accessing locker rooms have come to pass. We know in Arkansas school districts have faced numerous incidents involving physical and sexual assaults by cisgender boys against cisgender boys in boys locker rooms. Not to mention, the many teachers who have attacked children and this bill does nothing to address that real issue. I see no other bill that does anything to address that real issue. Not to mention the fact that, as has been said, we are number 2, I think, in childhood hunger in the country. We have a crisis when it comes to addiction, and people aren’t able to access those services. This is not what Arkansans need right now. This law would do nothing to prevent assault, which is why more than 300 leading organizations against sexual assault and domestic violence oppose laws like this. Protecting transgender people from discrimination does not allow boys into the girls restroom. Or vise-versa, because transgender girls are girls, and transgender boys are boys. Thank you.


Rep Evans: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions? Representative Flowers, you’re recognized.


Rep V Flowers: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just quickly, do you know whether or not – and this would really be a question probably for the State Board. But do you know whether or not all enrolled school children who have some form of identifying documentation, that may list the gender of that child, if that – if those records are available to be accessed by all personnel?


Everett: Thank you, and I would suggest that you check with the State on that because I’m not sure. My gut would say no, especially when we’re thinking about like, cafeteria workers and other personnel who don’t regularly – who aren’t administrators or teachers. But my understanding too is that a birth certificate is not required to enroll. There are many forms of documents you can use for identification. So it’s possible that not every child would have a birth certificate on file. Which is not exactly my problem with this bill but it would be a problem.


Rep Evans: Seeing no other questions, thank you for your testimony. We will now go to the for and Courtney Roldan. Courtney, you are recognized to go to the end of the table. Up next to speak against will be Judson Scanlon. Miss Roldan, you’ll state your name for the record, you may begin your testimony.


Roldan: [Inaudible]


Rep Evans: You need to turn your mike on.


Roldan: Sorry. My name is Courtney Roldan. I’m not here to speak against the transgender community, I’m here to speak for my 10 and 14 year-old. Our kids deserve privacy, and to not have to worry about someone of the opposite sex being in the bathroom, changing room, or hotel room when staying overnight. I’m a mom to both a boy and a girl, and neither would be comfortable in the public bathroom at their school with someone of the opposite sex. I would not allow my son, or daughter, to sleep overnight with someone of the opposite sex, nor would I be okay with them going into their restroom. So why would I want to be — have that allowed at their school? I don’t believe that a transgender person is more likely to sexually assault anyone. But I do believe that opening up bathrooms to anyone who identifies as a gender other than the one assigned at birth will make kids more vulnerable. Whether or not a transgender person is more likely to sexually assault someone is irrelevant, because it makes it easier for anyone who would sexually assault someone have access. It is time that we are proactive and not reactive to these things that are coming at our kids. We need this bill to be put in place before Pulaski County or Lonoke County or any other County ends up like Loudon County. That’s all I have to say. 


Rep Evans: Any questions for Miss Roldan? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony. Judson Scanlon to speak against, followed by Toni Rose to speak for. 


Scanlon: Good Morning. Mr. Chair, good morning very much.


Rep Evans: Yes.


Scanlon: Hello, I thought it would be a great opportunity to come before you –


Rep Evans: Just identify yourself for the record please.


Scanlon: Thank you, I will. 


Rep Evans: Thank you.


Scanlon: My name is Judson Scanlon. I am a graduate of Middleton High School, I grew up in Jonesboro, Arkansas. I live in North Little Rock. I have a daughter who is 11 years old and attends North Little Rock Middle School. And I am here to introduce you to somebody who grew up in our public school system transgender. I am transgender. You wouldn’t know it, probably, unless I told you that. Because, you see, in the transgender community I’m a transgender reality. It’s that some people do not choose to transition. I do not choose to transition, but internally the dysphoria that exists tells me that I’m a boy living in a girl’s body. And this is what it’s like. You today are passing judgment on me. I have heard you call me and say that I am likely to assault people in bathrooms. Because I actually would go to the bathroom. Unless you have experienced walking into a bathroom, and having somebody tap you on the back, and tell you that you are in the wrong one, when you are actually in the bathroom of your assigned gender, you do not understand the humiliation that exists. I lived in shame my entire life. Not shame for who I am as much as the fear of shame of bringing any shame to my family. People like me growing up in this environment get overwhelming messages, both from the world that we live in and the world that is impacting us, that we are broken. That we are wrong. That we are somehow the problem. When in fact we are not broken, we are not wrong, we are as our God created us. And we have every right to happiness that you do. The only thing that separates us is that I love my wife, and I love my child, in a way much like you love your loved ones and you love your family. I am no more likely to be a predator than you are. 

So if you want to protect children in this state, figure out how we protect them from the cisgendered coaches that are abusing them. And the pastors in churches who are being arrested and imprisoned for abusing them. But you do not have to worry that transgender people, or people who are gay and lesbian, are targeting children for any reason other than to love and support them. Four children attempted suicide when you were addressing your issue around their identity. And in this situation in this state and age, when we are attacking people for our differences, I implore you to actually learn how to encourage people to get along. You are not my audience. You people who are actually making decisions on this are not the audience I’m appealing to. The audience I’m appealing to are all the children who are watching you act. To tell them that they actually do have a champion. They do have a reason to grow older. They do have a reason to be actual people in society, contributing to the betterment of it. And every action that we take should be to support them, not attack them. I grew up in the public school system in this state. I actually chose not to participate in athletics because I did not want to be targeted. And I am lucky to have lived to the age of 60 in order to participate in this world.


Rep Evans: You have 1 minute.


Scanlon: Thank you very much Mr. Chair, I have no need for more time.


Rep Evans: Thank you for your testimony, any questions? Seeing none. Thank you. Speaking for the bill, we will move to Toni Rose. Is Toni here? I do not see Toni  here, so we will go Crystal Lambert to speak for the bill.


Lambert: Hello, my name’s Crystal Lambert; and I’m sorry my voice is shaking. I’ve never done this before. I am simply a parent. And I’m speaking for the bill, and I just kind of wanted to share my heart. And for anyone who’s been a parent – I’m going to look at my notes if y’all don’t mind, for anyone who’s been a parent we all know the challenges that we face. All of our children have different challenges, and some have challenges that are harder than others. But as parents, every parent, we want our children to be happy, and we want our children to prosper. Also as a parent, I am proud to say that I feel like, and I think a lot of us can agree, that this generation of young people are some of the most tolerant. I think it’s the most tolerant generation of young people. But with that said, I also feel that these young people still deserve to have boundaries put in place for their safety. And for how they feel. You can be tolerant and understanding, but still want your boundaries and your privacy. We hear a lot about the rights of the LGBTQ students, but what we seem to not hear a lot about is the rights of all the other students. They have rights too. Just like the children who suffer with transgenderism or their sexual identity. They deserve privacy. They deserve comfort. They deserve to feel safe. I totally, totally agree with that. But I also feel like, the children – the other children, on the other side of that spectrum, they deserve the same respect. They deserve the same safety, the same protection as everyone else. I’ve heard today, and I’ve heard in other conversations, you hear it a lot that hasn’t happened here, we haven’t had what happened in West Virginia. That hasn’t happened here. But it does happen. So we can’t turn a blind eye on that. 


And I think what this bill is doing, and I’m from Conway, it is a way of prevention. You can’t turn – just because it hasn’t happened here doesn’t mean it won’t. And it has happened in other places and we know it. And another thing I want to say, and I’m speaking to Conway at this point, in case some of you don’t know that the practice that they’re using for the single occupancy bathrooms. That practice has been in place at Conway schools for at least 9 years that I’m aware of. But because of the climate that we’re in today, every year they’ve had to look at what are we going to do for bathrooms? And so, with the climate we’re in today, and trying to be respectful of biological genders and gender identity, instead of having to take time focusing on academics looking at these bathroom policies. The policy basically was just written so they wouldn’t have to revisit it every year. They basically just put in place the practice that has been happening at Conway schools. And as you heard earlier from two parents, that is a practice. You heard them both say themselves. And they both went to different schools, that their child was already using single occupancy bathrooms. Let’s see. 


Oh, and what I wanted to say, because I haven’t heard this said yet. Another reason, with the climate we’re in today, is you have to have some kind of policy, and it doesn’t just affect the students. You have to think about, whatever policy is at the school, it affects everything on that campus. That’s football games, basketball games. That’s where you have parents, adults. So if we don’t have a policy that clearly states who belongs in each bathroom, you are setting yourself up for safety issues.


Rep Evans: You are under 1 minute.


Lambert: Okay. So it needs to be clear. You don’t want an adult male going into the girl’s bathroom at the football game. So it just kind of clarifies that. I wanted to state to you here that there’s not a lot of single stall bathrooms, but there are. There’s nurse’s stations, counselor’s, all of the schools have it. I love what you’ve said about putting the responsibility on the supervisor – the superintendents and the administration. Because, as a parent I will say, there’s a lot of money that goes around for athletics. So I’m pretty sure if you put some consequences on the administration, they’re going to find a way to find these accommodations. And I just want to close by saying what I hope to see out of this, because there’s nothing perfect, there’s not going to be a perfect plan, but what I wish to see is understanding and compromise. And it’s needed. It’s needed, we need accommodations for everyone and I appreciate your time. Thank you.


Rep Evans: Thank you for testimony. Members, any questions? Seeing none. We will go to the against. Please forgive me if I pronounce this wrong. Haipeasha? If you’ll state your name for the record you can begin your testimony.


Mededia: Sure, I’m Haipeasha Mededia. I was born and raised in Arkansas. I live in Conway now. And I’ve been following the events that have been happening with the school board there. Two of my fellow trans folks who are listening, I feel you with me, I love you. Regardless of the votes over the next few weeks, we will protect each other, we will care for each other. We will be okay. HB 1156 falls apart on several levels, but I’ll highlight just a few here. These are points that have been made by other speakers but I want to put some numbers and some studies to the claims that have been made. 


First, transgender students are not sources of danger in restrooms and changing rooms; they are in danger. Representative Bentley, you expressed concern about sexual assault in school bathrooms. But, to Representative Garner’s point, the data shows that trans children are much more often victims of sexual assault. In 2019, the Harvard School of Public Health found that the risk of sexual assault of trans and non-binary children increased when bathroom restrictions were put in place. Harvard reported that 36% of trans and non-binary teens were subjected – who were subjected to bathroom restrictions were victims of sexual assault. HB 1156 will not protect children. It will abuse them. 


Second, many public schools and other buildings do not have adequate single stall bathrooms, as has been pointed out, to accommodate all trans and non-binary folks, folks with disabilities, and folks with small children. There is more than just trans folks who use those bathrooms. This building, for example, has exactly 0 gender neutral bathrooms available for citizen use according to your info online. Representative Bentley, to your question earlier, the Conway school district provided us with a list of all single stall bathrooms on their campuses in compliance with the FOIA. And several buildings, more than the highschool auditorium, as was pointed out, do not have single stall bathrooms available to students. Despite your ADA provision, forcing an additional 5% of the student population of a public district to use limited single stall bathrooms will overload an already inadequate system and infringe on the rights of trans and disabled children.


Third, HB 1156 will shatter Arkansas economically. In 2016 , North Carolina passed a similar bathroom ban and suffered serious economic damage. Businesses canceling contracts, canceling expansions, the NBA teams refused to play there. That will happen here. If businesses will cancel expansion because their trans and non-binary employees would lose rights by living here, how can you reasonably say that this won’t harm the rights of trans and non-binary children? Trans people hold the skills, and work in the disciplines, that you want to keep in Arkansas, but bills like HB 1156 will drive that expertise away. Thank you, I will accept questions.


Rep Evans: Any questions? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony. I did see Toni Rose enter the room. Miss Rose if you’d like to go to the end of the table. You’re speaking for the bill. And Miss Rose, we do have testimony limited to each to 5 minutes or under, and I’ll give you a notice at 1 minute.


Rose: Alright.


Rep Evans: Thank you.


Rose: Good afternoon, my name is Toni Rose, co-founder of An American Speaks, and State Director for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation in Washington DC. What I want to say is that I was also Director at the Chamber of Eureka Springs, back in 2014 I think it was. And we went through this, a sogie ordinance with 2022-2023, and I’ve been gathering information on this issue for a very long time. So just to give you a little perspective. And I rushed to make sure that the transgender child is comfortable and safe. I don’t know if we forgot, or we ignored, the 50% of the population in our schools that are afraid. We are afraid of boys, we’re afraid of men in our places that we disrobe and expect some privacy. I don’t know if that’s built into our DNA, or if it’s because of all the drama shows. But the fact remains is that there’s a serious fear factor there. And those people need to be respected and protected as well. And I agree that it’s not the transgender that is attacking women. And this is happening, I pulled back all of my information on attacks on women in showers and bathrooms and dressing rooms. They are happening, they’re happening in every country that has this policy. And it’s not because the transgender child is attacking women, it’s because we don’t vet who is going into those bathrooms. And we don’t have a method to do that. We haven’t forced the issue. 


I believe this bill is saying look, grown-ups, figure this out. You’ve had years to figure this out. And you haven’t done it yet. So, in the meantime, we’ve got to respect the privacy of our most vulnerable people. We have to figure out accommodations for those that are truly gender dysphoric. And we need to be respectful of the fact that these assaults are occurring. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dozen, or 200. We’ve been gathering information on these assaults on people in the United States, in the UK, and Canada that have these policies. And they’re there. And there’s no giant wall that stops at the Mississippi, that says these people are not going to continue to come into our state. And not escalate these if we don’t figure this out. And that’s what we’re trying to do here with HB 1156. Is say enough. We haven’t had the courage, or the will, to finally say look, we have ignored– out of the 3900 students in Conway that was mentioned earlier, probably, statistically half of those are girls. And we are not seeing any reports of women going into men’s bathrooms, and assaulting them. But we have to also admit the fact that boys from 10 to 100 have been trying to find a way to look at naked girls for eons, since time immemorial, it’s not gonna go away.


Rep Evans: You have 1 minute.


Rose: Thank you. So let’s pass HB 1156. Let us require schools to have a safe space for the majority of the people going into the girl’s restroom. And then figure out what to do to take care of those people that are truly, truly trans people. That’s what we need to do, and that’s why we need to pass this bill. Figure it out, grown-ups, figure it out. Thank you very much for your time, any questions?


Rep Evans: Thank you for your testimony. Members, any questions? If not we will move to Rochelle Briton to speak against the bill. If you’ll state your name for the record and then your time will begin.


Briton: My name is Rochelle Briton, I happen to be a licensed attorney and I am also transgender. A transwoman. A lot of my experience mirrors that of the other trans people who have been here, who’ve already spoken before you, so I’m not going to try to go too much over that again. But the problem is that this is just a rehash of what’s been happening every 2 years for, now this is at least the third legislative session. Kind of a culture war issue to divert attention from what’s really going on in the schools, that’s stirring up fears. That Virginia situation? I googled it, why it was mentioned it– mentioning it. It had nothing to do with a trans – the biological male who was caught in the room wasn’t a transwoman. It was a dating situation. There is no such problem. Believe folks from the ACLU spoke about a situation that occurred in Northwest Arkansas, with cisgender boys assaulting– sexually assaulting cisgender boys in a dressing room. That’s for hazing. This bill does nothing to that – about that. How are you going to enforce this bill without bathroom police? Even the bill as amended it talks about genetics and physiology. Well what if your genetics go one way and your physiology goes the other. 


And some people, though it’s pretty hard to do so in Arkansas with a birth certificate, so it’s pretty hard to do in Arkansas if you’re a child. Because some people do get their birth certificates changed. Others may not present their birth certificate when they’re filed, so, how are you going to know? And I know that in Arkansas that if you get your birth certificate changed, I have, you have? Your original birth certificate is locked up in a, is sealed at the Health Department and cannot be accessed without a court order. That’s probably an adult situation, I didn’t transition until I was 50. I’m 58 now. But how are you going to deal with those kind of situations with people don’t present their birth certificates? Or they present amended birth certificate? You can’t do it without a bathroom – you can’t enforce a law like this without bathroom police. The only other way you can enforce – the only situation that is enforceable, frankly, is by gender identity. Not sex assigned at birth. I strongly urge a no vote, do not pass on this bill thank you.


Rep Evans: Thank you for your testimony. Any questions? Seeing none. We will go to Kirsten Sal? Kirsten? If you’ll state your name for the record and we’ll begin your time at your opening testimony.


Seoul: Thank you. Thank you for having us talk today and giving us 5 minutes, which was much more than a couple years ago. My name is Kirsten Laura Seoul. I’m a mental health professional. I’ve been a licensed clinical social worker for a long time, coming up on 15 years. And my main population that I work with are transgender kids. And I helped start 2 clinics in the state and have worked with hundreds of kids. You may think I’m biased, but for me, I am informed. I probably know better than most of you at this table with me. I also have a non-binary child. I’m a mother of three. I identify as cisgender, and also an aspiring drag king. I also am a lifelong Arkansan; very proud to be part of the LGBTQ community in our state. I identify as pansexual. 


I have one story to share; and it is a different perspective because it is helping someone after a trauma. I worked with, and it’s emotional, a young lady around the age of 12, who came to see Crisis Support in a local hospital after being raped. She was assigned male at birth and had been socially transitioned for most of her life. She had been in a facility that made her use the male restroom and she was raped in the male restroom. When you say that we need to protect our kids, we needed to protect all of our kids. And the transgender community is more vulnerable than any other population, especially in our state. There are other examples that I could share with you. From somebody that I see having a cut on their hand, having to go to the quickest restroom. It was their assigned gender restroom, they were in trouble by the school for having gone to the restroom in that emergency situation. Many of the kids that I see do not tell their staff, administrators or otherwise that they are transgender. They may not even tell their friends, because they do not feel safe in their schools. I have a couple things to add. The young lady that I told you about, the thing that’s most memorable, other than her story, was her kindness. She said thank you after she had interviews and medical assistance. And all the staff was blown away with how sweet she was after such a terrible thing that happened to her. She also told us it was nice to meet us, and it was very genuine on her part. Another thing I wanted to add is just talking about our fears. I will tell you that you could probably see that I’m afraid of most of you in this room. And I would say anybody voting for this bill is concerning to me if they vote yes. But I will still share a restroom with you. Thank you.


Rep Evans: Any questions from Members? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony. We will move to Laura Kellins. Do not see Laura here. Allison Guthrie? Allison speaking against the bill. Allison, if you’ll state your name for the record and then we’ll begin your time.


Guthrie: Sure thing. My name is Allison Guthrie. I’m a psychology student, researcher, and local activist. And I want to thank you for allowing me to speak with you today. What are the most common hair colors? Blonde and brunette, right? But what about redheads? They make up 2% of the population. This is the same percentage as individuals with green eyes and those who are intersex. Which means that either their genitalia present as a mix of male and female, or whose chromosomes are not the traditional XX or XY. Yet society didn’t create only two categories of hair color on our driver’s licenses or birth certificates. There are seven different karyotypes, meaning chromosomal makeups for sex. There’s XX, XY, which is male and female. XO, XXX, XXY, XYY, and 46XY which is Swyer Syndrome with non-functioning gonads with typical female presentation. 


In addition to these are conditions that influence a person’s biological and sexual differentiation. Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, and 5-Alpha Reductase Deficiency Syndrome. In all of these, individuals don’t necessarily present as male or female. Sex is not binary. Gender is not binary. Doctors years and years ago, made it up. We, literally, made it up. It is socially constructed. If I asked you to come to work tomorrow dressed as the opposite sex, would you do it? I assume you wouldn’t. Because people might look at you like an outcast. What child wants to be an outcast? There’s not an increase in children identifying as a different gender because of some perverse influence, but because society’s views are changing. And they’re becoming to believe that maybe they finally have a place in this world, and so are their parents who are no longer telling them that they’re wrong. Please do not take that from them. 


You say this bill was intended to protect children, but which children need the most protection? The girls and boys who fit in with their peers, and present as the sex they were assigned? Or the intersex, trans and non-binary kids who are consistently subjected to bullying, harassment, discrimination, hate crimes, threats, and violence? Using the accommodated restroom would out these students to their peers, making them further targets of such. Many in here have talked about isolated incidents of assault involving trans students, but let’s exercise caution before using anecdotes as scientific evidence. Let’s look instead at statistically significant studies, like those of assault on women by cis-men. Women don’t need to go to a restroom to be harassed or assaulted. If you’re comfortable, how many in this room have been harassed or assaulted outside of a restroom? We experience that everywhere in plain sight. It doesn’t have to just take place in a bathroom. When are we going to stop the culture of toxic masculinity and hold the cisgender individuals accountable for sexual assault and harrasment and stop blaming those who identify differently than the way we do. In no way do I speak for the trans, intersex, or non-binary community, but I stand with them and for them. And I encourage all of you to vote against this bill and to look into the genetic and physiological differences I have shared with you today, and to consider the dire psychological consequences that this bill will have if passed. Especially if we plan to make administrators the gender, genital, or birth certificate police. History has never applauded the oppression of others. Let’s not oppress those who need the most support.


Rep Evans: You have 1 minute.


Guthrie:  Please do not erase these children. That’s all I have. Thank you.


Rep Brooks: Thank you for comments. Have any questions from the Committee? Next person on the list speaking against is Olivia Gardner? Please state your name for the record and you’ve got 5 minutes thank you.


Gardner: Thank you. Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Olivia Gardner, and I’m the Director of Education Policy at Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. We’re an organization that has been advocating for Arkansas children since 1977. Today, I’m here, because transgender children would be harmed by this proposed legislation. We cannot allow a bill that puts any of Arkansas’ children at risk. I believe everyone here wants kids to be safe in school bathrooms. But there’s no research to support the notion that transgender children pose a threat when they use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Instead, the research shows that three-quarters of transgender children surveyed felt unsafe at school. And that transgender people are at a very high risk of experiencing violence starting even before adolescence. This bill was written under the premise that it will ensure student safety. Instead it will put some of our most vulnerable students in harm’s way. I understand that providing legal clarity, where currently none exists, is valuable, but we cannot – but I believe that we cannot do that at the expense of our most vulnerable students. There’s a reason that many people oppose these proposals, and that this opposition is often bipartisan. As the Republican Governor of Utah said last year in vetoing an anti-transgender bill, rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. Of transgender students he said, I don’t understand what they are going through, or why they feel the way they do, but I want them to live. That was Utah Governor Spencer Cox last Spring; I think he said it best. Thank you Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee for your time.


Rep Evans: Members, Any question for Miss Disney? Seeing none, thank you for your testimony. Oh, I’m sorry, Gardner, I’m sorry. Jessica Disney. If you’ll state your name for the record and then you’ll begin your testimony.


Disney: Yes, my name is Jessica Disney, and I am here to speak out against HB 1156. I am from Conway, and I am a transwoman. I graduated from Conway High back in 2010 and I’ve spent the better part of a decade working with marginalized youth in social settings that I have the privilege of hearing from them their story and the things that they face in public settings, especially in school. As you’ve heard today, many people have come up here with emotional and anecdotal cases. And we’ve heard their situations in front of here. I wanted to add some of the studies that we have in regards to this, to clarify, is from the UCLA School of Law. There was a 2018 study that reviewed all of the evidence regarding safety and privacy in restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms. As part of this study, they found that inclusion of gender identity in non-discrimination laws does not affect the number of frequency of criminal incidents in restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms. The reports of privacy and safety violations in public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms are still exceedingly rare in these cases. Jodie L. Herman, an author of that study, was quoted saying that “the research has shown that, in fact, transgender people that are frequently denied access are verbally harassed or physically assaulted while trying to use public restrooms under these cases”. 


Also, a 2020 peer-reviewed study by the Trevor project researchers, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that transgender and non-binary youth were 2 to 2.5 times as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender peers in LGBTQ situations – community. Many of the youth that lack access to affirming spaces – many of these youth lack access to affirming spaces, with only 55% of these youth reporting that their school is affirming of them. And only 37% saying that their home itself is affirming. Fewer than 1-in-3 transgender and non-binary youth found their home to be gender affirming, and a little more than half found their school to also be affirming. This research has shown that youth enrolled in middle school, middle- or high school, 52% of which are reported being bullied either in person or electronically in just the past year. And those who did had 3 times greater odds of attempting suicide in the past year. From all the information that we have, and the research that goes onto it, we have no evidence that supports that this kind of bill would actually cause any sort of change in regards to the issues of cisgender individuals. Or allowing people to use the bathrooms aligning with their gender identity. What we do have information that shows is that our marginalized youth, the transgender youth, do experience an increase across the board in verbal, sexual and physical harassment when policies like this are put in place. And to me that is extremely concerning. As somebody who is a transwoman, I have worked with even an individual sitting on this committee who did not know I was transgender for the year that we worked together. In regards to the suicidality rate, I have–


Rep Evans: You have 1 minute remaining.


Disney: That’s fine. Thank you. I have lost multiple people in my life, and I wish that the representatives hearing mine, I urge you strongly to vote a do not pass on this. And my question for you to consider is that is the proven likelihood that this policy will cost the lives of our marginalized youth worth it to protect some through some made-up information and stories that we have no evidence to support? And thank you for your time. I will take questions.


Rep Evans: Any questions? Seeing none. Thank you for your testimony today.


Disney: Thank you.


Rep Evans: Last person signed up to speak today is speaking against the bill, and that is Allie Thomlinson. Miss Thomlinson if you’ll state your name for the record, you can begin your testimony.


Thomlinson: Thank you so much. Allie Thomlinson. You’ve heard a lot of great testimony here today. And for or against I think that a lot of people do agree that trans and non-binary individuals are not the issues when it comes to the bathroom situation. I do want to point out that inclusive practices are not a pathway to danger and risk. I think that that’s something that a lot of people here agreed on. So I thought that was really great, that’s something that really bridged us. To bridge a gap between us. If that were the case, we would have more than an opinion piece, and I feel like that’s what this bill is. We don’t have an quantitative data here in Arkansas that has – that we can have any dates, any times, any cases, any names, anything that can really show us besides a rumor in Conway and something coming from Virginia. So I think that we really need to take into account that any time we come and we ask anything from Arkansas, we have to show the numbers. We have to show the numbers when we want to help children eat, when we want community services for disabled children in Arkansas. But right now, we don’t have any of that. But we do know that this is going to hurt students, and children, and our youth Arkansans. The fact is we all share bathrooms with people that we don’t identify with, every single day. And we are not in a dangerous situation unless that person is dangerous. We know that we already have laws that cover sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and if this bill does not pass, it is not going to make those laws any less valid. That’s not going to happen. We don’t have a need for this in Arkansas. We do have youth looking to us, and even adults, that are asking us why we need this when we already have laws in place to protect us of the things that we are scared of. I will tell you, as a constituent of yours, I do not feel that you are doing the Lord’s work. I feel like this is a witch hunt that is going to get people hurt. And I am deeply ashamed of bills that keep getting put on the table that are like this. I do ask you all to vote no. Thank you. And I will take questions.


Rep Evans: Any questions? Seeing none. Miss Thomlinson, thank you for your testimony today. Members, that’s all that we have that’s signed up to speak for or against the bill. So I’d stated at the beginning, there was an amendment that was put on the bill late yesterday afternoon. There was not time to get the fiscal impact statement completed on that. And so therefore, just out of the courteousness towards Representative Bentley, and to those of you who had scheduled this day to come and speak. I wanted to go ahead and let everyone present their bill today– present the bill today and give their testimonies. However, we will not take any action on that bill today. Our Committee will reconvene Tuesday at 10 am, and pending the return of the fiscal impact statement on this bill, we will vote on it first. With that, we are adjourned.