Arizona pronoun bill advances but will likely never become law

By Jill Ryan
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 10:14am
Updated: Friday, January 20, 2023 - 11:14am

On a party-line vote,  the Arizona Senate Education Committee approved a bill (SB 1001) that would force school employees to only refer to students by their birth-given names, or nicknames "commonly associated with the student's name of record.” Teachers would need a parent's permission to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

But even if this bill passes the Legislature, the governor’s chief of staff made it clear on Twitter that it’s dead on arrival. 

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. John Kavanagh, persists, saying this is a mental health concern for children with gender dysphoria.

“They suffer from anxiety and some are even suicidal. Well if that’s the case, these children need for their parents to know so their parents can provide the support, and the comfort and perhaps outside professional help," Kavanagh said.

But Erica Keppler, an LGBTQ community activist, says the senator’s understanding of gender dysphoria is flawed. 

“No one commits suicide because they are gender dysphoric. They do it because family and society won't accept them or allow them to live as their true selves," Keppler said.

Kavanagh seemed to brush aside concerns that this bill, which could out certain children to their parents, may put them in danger of ridicule, abuse or being kicked out of their homes.

"That's a very cynical view of the American family,'' Kavanagh said.

Still, he said, if there is such a danger, then a parent could be contacted by a school counselor or even the Department of Child Safety.

Research from the Trevor Project shows LGBTQ youths are more at risk for homelessness and housing instability — which has a direct affect on their mental health. The driving factor is family conflict with the youths’ identities.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the reference to gender dysphoria.

Politics Gender