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Gov. Hutchinson Urged to Protect Transgender Arkansans

A letter has been sent to Arkansas' governor asking him to protect the state's transgender community. (Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition)
A letter has been sent to Arkansas' governor asking him to protect the state's transgender community. (Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition)
May 18, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - The transgender community in Arkansas is pushing back against Gov. Asa Hutchinson's recommendation that public schools ignore President Obama's directive allowing students to use the restroom of the gender with which they identify.

The Rev. Gwen Frey, president of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition, has written a letter to Hutchison asking for a face-to-face meeting. Frey said she believes the Republican governor might understand the issue better if he got to know a "trans" person. She said he might then realize they're just trying to live their lives, like everyone else.

"Every trans person I know is very discreet and doesn't want to draw attention to themselves whenever they absolutely have to use a public facility," she said. "We're more concerned about making other people uncomfortable than we are about anything else."

Hutchinson called the president's directive "social engineering," and said schools should use common sense to maintain a healthy and safe environment. He has recommended that schools disregard the order.

Frey said that viewpoint only fuels misinformation about the transgender community that has made it an easy target for conservatives and the religious right.

"It's an easy way to raise fears among the general public," she said, "and it's difficult to fight against, especially if those folks really don't have a relationship or know a trans person. If they did get to know some of us, they would see that we're just like everybody else."

Frey called the fear that a trans person will misbehave in a public restroom "ridiculous."

"Really need to look at who is actually being assaulted in public bathrooms, and that would be transgender individuals," she said. "There are no cases on record of any trans person ever assaulting anyone in a bathroom - but, unfortunately, the rest of the community can't make that same claim."

Arkansas' governor isn't the only politician refusing the president's directive. Donald Trump has vowed that if elected president, he would rescind the Obama administration's plans to protect transgender people against discrimination, both in schools and health-care coverage.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR