Blatant Transphobia in Utah Legislation

Utah Governor, Spencer Cox, signed the first anti-trans bill of the new year.

Utah Governor, Spencer Cox – Photo taken from

Discrimination towards transgender and queer people has been rampant, with media and legislation spewing hateful rhetoric in recent years. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the US, “Last year alone, 344 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across 23 states. More than 25 were enacted across 13 states—17 of which have a disproportionate or targeted impact on transgender people.” This trend has bled into the year of 2023 with Utah approving the first anti-LGBTQ+ bill of the new year.

On Saturday, January 28, 2023, Utah Governor, Spencer Cox approved the SB (Senate Bill) – 16. This bill prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender people under the age of 18 who aren’t already established patients for any of the following: hormonal therapy, hormone/puberty blockers, and gender-affirming surgery. Governor Cox heard multiple testimonies from transgender youth, activists, and allies, including Brie Martin, an editor of the West High newspaper and an open and proud trans woman. She urged the Utah senate avidly against the approval of the bill saying, “Many have questioned my safety as someone receiving hormone therapy and let me make clear that the medical interventions I am receiving are nothing short of life saving…No matter the opposition, transitioning was always the only option for me.” Despite the testimonies of many individuals, Spencer Cox still went ahead with approving SB16. 

In a statement about the bill, the Governor said to pause, “these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.” He went on to say that he sympathizes with the transgender people and their families who disagree with his decision, but many trans people have come out saying how ingenuous that sentiment is. 

The queer youth at Herriman High and other schools in the Salt Lake Valley have been discussing the new bill and sharing their feelings on the matter. On the Herriman High Gender and Sexuality Club (GSA) group chat, people were sharing their feelings about SB16. After hearing the news of the bill being approved, a Herriman High student and the transgender individual stated, “Old homophobic men have no idea what we go through so why are they the ones making decisions about our healthcare.” Many students also showed their disagreement with overwhelming messages along the lines of a “I hate Utah” sentiment.

A transgender individual currently going to Herriman High has written up a letter he plans to send to Governor Cox and encourages others to do the same. His letter states his opinion on the decision of SB16 and backs up his statement with both his personal experience and studies and data about trans people that prove Governor Cox’s reasoning for the bill is invalid. One reason for many of the anti-trans bills that have been passed recently, is that some people believe being transgender is a phase and they will regret surgery and hormone therapy if they get it too young and wish to revert back to their original assigned gender, or in other words, detransition.

The same student talked about his experience with hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery saying, “I was 11 when I first learned what being transgender was, and the whole concept felt right to me. After extensive research, I began taking testosterone about a month before I turned 14. At age 16, I got top surgery, and it’s by far the best decision I have ever made. Over 3 years on hormones and 9 months post surgery, I’m far happier than I was before my transition and I can’t imagine living my life any other way.” Him and many other transgender individuals have come out stating how surgery and hormones as a minor changed their lives for the better.

In a study conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2015, they surveyed 17,151 participants who identified as transgender/gender diverse. Of that survey, 13.1% said yes to having any history of detransitioning. And of that 13.1%, only 2.1% explained that it was due to their own psychological feelings and ideas about their transition. The study went on to explain, “These experiences did not necessarily reflect regret regarding past gender affirmation, and were presumably temporary, as all of these respondents subsequently identified as [transgender and gender diverse].”

People all over Utah and in other parts of the country are constantly fighting back against anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Letters and statements have been sent to the Utah legislature and beyond hoping to reverse the damage that has already been done. Hopefully, in 2023, the trend of increased hateful legislation will stop.