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Despite Legislature, Missoula council moves to affirm rights of transgender youth

Posted at 2:28 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 16:28:23-04

MISSOULA — The Missoula City Council on Monday held its first public hearing for a resolution stating the city’s support of transgender and LGBTQ+ youth in response to bills passed by the state Legislator earlier this year.

The proposed resolution in support of transgender and LGBTQ+ youth was sponsored by council members Gwen Jones, Bryan von Lossberg and Jordan Hess in late June as a reaction to House Bills 112 and 427, which passed by both chambers of the Legislature in January.

The bills directly targeted transgender youth and restricts their participation in interscholastic sports to their gender at birth. The Republican measures also prohibited gender transition surgeries from being performed on minors.

Monday’s proposed resolution outlined the City Council’s reaction to the bills and states that they don’t represent the morals and beliefs of the council. It also states that legislation violates the rights of transgender youth in Montana.

“This resolution states the Missoula City Council’s opposition to HB 112 and 427 and also communicates to the people of Missoula that transgender youth in our community are valued, respected, and welcomed within any activities in which they choose to participate; additionally, their medical treatment should be addressed, and only addressed, between the youth, their parents and their medical provider.”

During her opening comments, council member Gwen Jones referenced multiple instances in which the bills violated both state and local laws that were intended to protect individual rights of dignity, privacy and nondiscrimination in education based on gender.

“When you look at all these statements, there is clearly a strong message in our Montana state constitution that, in my mind, values the autonomy, the privacy and the civil rights of transgender youth,” she said.

Jones referenced Policy 3210 of the Missoula County Public Schools, passed in 2003, which states that “No student shall, on the basis of sex, be denied equal access to programs, activities, services, or benefits or be limited in the exercise of any right, privilege, or advantage, or denied equal access to educational and extracurricular programs and activities.”

Jones concluded her statement by reading the last two sections of the resolution:

“Montana’s LGBTQ+ youth are entitled to respect, privacy, inclusion, safety and security; the City of Missoula supports these youth to help them thrive and reach their potential, which in turn enriches all of us and strengthens our community.”

During the public comment portion of the hearing, Deena Mansour spoke in favor of the resolution and praised the actions of the council by calling attention to the importance of local government supporting transgender youth.

“I want to affirm that this is the kind of community that my family and my children would like to live in. One that is affirming and supportive of transgender individuals,” said Mansour. “Gender affirming behavior by community leaders is critical to support these youth. When you see gender-affirming behavior it supports the mental health and well-being of these individuals.”

Zoey Zepher, who identifies as a transgender woman, also called in for support of the resolution.

“I can tell you that these laws are doing a lot of harm to my community. As we pleaded at the state level, our pleas fell on the ears of people who would not listen. Now, in addition to the damage that those laws are doing specifically, my community is also facing more harassment and worse harassment both in the state and in Missoula.”

The public hearing will stay open for a week until July 26th when it will be voted by the council.