As Montana legislators prepared to pass a gender-affirming care ban on Tuesday, Rep Zooey Zephyr called out the danger such restrictions would pose to trans youth. Mincing no words, the states first and only openly trans legislator told lawmakers they would have blood on their hands. Republicans have responded with calls for Zephyr to be censured—for “inappropriate” language.
The gender-affirming care ban, SB 99, had already passed the House and Senate, but due to amendments requested by Gov Greg Gianforte, it returned to the senate floor for another vote. The proposed amendments would make an exception for minors “born with a medically verifiable disorder of sex development”—which would allow medical intervention on intersex minors.
“You could not legislate binary sex any more than you could legislate that the Earth is flat,” Zephyr said during a floor debate on Tuesday. “Intersex people exist, trans people exist, and this bill doesn’t change that.”
“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. This body should be ashamed,” she continued. “If you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”
Within hours, the Montana Freedom Caucus, a coalition of conservative lawmakers, posted a statement calling on Zephyr to be censured—misgendering her in the process. Their reasoning was that in advocating for the lives of trans children, Zephyr “attempted to shame the Montana legislative body” and used “inappropriate and uncalled-for language.”
The caucus went on to link Zephyr to the Nashville shooter—again, for saying that trans kids should have access to healthcare. “This kind of hateful rhetoric from an elected official is exactly why tragedies such as the Covenant Christian School shooting in Nashville occurred,” they said.
In the hours after the shooting, authorities identified the shooter as transgender and have since offered no further information about how they’d made that determination. The incident has quickly become a common right-wing talking point for linking trans people with violence—even though nearly all mass shootings are disproportionately perpetrated by cisgender men.
Zephyr responded to the call for censure with a tweet standing by her words. “When I said there is blood on their hands, I meant it,” she wrote. “All legislators (& the Gov) received a letter from an ER doctor who dealt w/ a suicide attempt from a trans teen who cited OUR LEGISLATURE as a factor in their suicidality. ‘My state doesn’t want me,’ is what they said.”