Chris Attig was arrested while testifying against HB 1570 in the Arkansas House on March 9. When their speech went 30 seconds over the allotted two minutes, Attig's mic was cut, and police escorted them from the building. Attig says they stayed in jail for several hours before being released, and that they face a charge of disorderly conduct.
Meanwhile, representatives from anti-LGBT hate groups (including the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Freedom Research Council) spent over 40 minutes making their case.
Nico Lang first reported the case at them.us.
"It was just shocking sitting there in jail thinking that this is what happens when you speak to people about how their proposed laws are affecting your children," Attig tells them. "They don't want to hear it. They put you in jail."
Attig spoke to defend the rights of people like his own 22-year-old son, who needed gender-affirming medical care during their transition. The bill in question — the "Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act" — would ban any form of gender-affirming care from being given or even offered to transgender youth, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and surgery (which isn't even performed on minors in the first place).
Attig began their testimony by speaking directly to transgender youth, saying, "No matter what happens here today, you are loved. You are loved." But despite their own words, Attig worries that bills like HB 1570 send the message that transgender people are less-than, that attacking them based on who they are is permissible.
"Whether or not these laws are targeted at somebody above or below the age of 18, the singular message that they send is it is OK to bully and persecute people who are trans," Attig adds. "It says, 'The legislature is doing it, why can't I?'"
While the bill was initially vetoed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, the state legislator eventually overrode the veto, and now trans youth and their families are left to wonder, "What now?" Some are planning to move to other states, others are willing to get hormones on the black market. Dr. Michele Hutchison says she knows of at least 4 young trans people who have seriously contemplated suicide since the bill's passage. From LGBTQ Nation's reportage:
"My families are in a state of panic, asking what state should they move to, saying their child is threatening to kill themselves," Dr. Michele Hutchison said. "They want to know what they should do next and we don't have a clear answer for them."
"They're going to find a way to get them, and it's going to be dangerous because they won't be monitored for side effects," she said.
Dr. Stephanie Ho echoed Dr. Hutchison's sentiment:
"You're basically kicking these people when they're down," Dr. Stephanie Ho said. She has cared for about a dozen trans teens in the past. "They have very little resources to begin with and now you're going to make them choose between rent and their child's life."
The bill goes into effect in July.