Minnesota state rep alarmed by attacks against other transgender lawmakers

After a transgender state representative in Montana was barred from speaking on a bill that would put binary definitions of gender into the state code, the first transgender state rep in Minnesota is speaking out. 

DFL representative Leigh Finke, the state's first transgender lawmaker, told FOX 9 she was alarmed by the actions taken against Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr over the last week. In addition to being barred from speaking on the bill Thursday, Zephyr has also been threatened with censure after speaking against a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors. She has also been repeatedly misgendered by Republican lawmakers.   

 "I was angry. I was frustrated. We have only about 12 trans and non-binary people who are serving across the nation. And to see our voices being silenced is very upsetting… what's happening to Zooey is totally unacceptable and we can't be silenced and we can't be silent about it," Finke said. 

According to The Associated Press, Republicans objected to Zephyr, a Democrat and the first transgender woman to hold a position in the Montana legislature, told lawmakers on Tuesday they would have "blood on their hands" if they voted in favor of a bill to ban gender-affirming medical care for minors.

Conservative lawmakers in Montana justified the moves against Zephyr by appealing to civil discourse and the need to "maintain decorum." The Associated Press reported a group of conservative lawmakers posted a letter to Twitter demanding Rep. Zooey Zephyr be punished "for trying to shame the Montana legislative body and by using inappropriate and uncalled-for language during a floor debate."

Finke said she found it difficult to understand those arguments considering the tone of the attacks used against Zephyr by some of her colleagues.  

"We are just hearing constant misgendering, deadnaming, humiliating language. The idea that somehow we are crossing the lines of decency and decorum is absurd," she said. 

Leigh said she expects the passage of anti-trans legislation in Montana and other states would increase the number of trans people seeking refuge in Minnesota — a trend many believe has increased in recent months.

"We know that people are already here. We know many more people are coming. That's not going to stop… we need to be prepared to be a safe and welcoming state because it's not going to stop."


Minnesota's gender-affirming laws act as magnet to transgender population and their families

Minnesota’s laws related to the transgender population are working as a magnet for people and families from less friendly states, especially in the South.

Finke urged Minnesotans to understand that the attacks on trans people across the country make it more urgent for everyone to do what they can to make their local communities feel welcoming. 

"We do have the political will in the state of Minnesota to protect trans people, and we will. But we still need our communities to make clear that they are also safe," she said.