PCDP Statement on Anti-Trans Legislation

PCDP Statement on Anti-Trans Legislation

TUCSON – PCDP EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE APPOINTEE JAMES CERASIA released the following statement on the recent passage of anti-trans bills SB1138 and SB1165, which restrict access to gender-affirming care and ban sports participation for transgender children in Arizona.

“The Pima County Democratic Party vehemently condemns The Arizona Legislature’s passing and Governor Ducey’s signing into law two pieces of discriminatory legislation. These new laws target transgender children by restricting their access to gender-affirming care and banning transgender girls from engaging in school sports. These laws deny fundamental rights and protections to transgender children under the Constitution, and thus violate our American and Democratic principles.

Some of our most vulnerable community members are under attack in the State of Arizona.  The first bill, Arizona Senate Bill 1138, effectively bans gender-affirming surgery for transgender children.

The Governor signed the bill into law to protect trans children from “undergoing irreversible gender reassignment surgery [until they] are of adult age.” However, the opposite is true. The law is creating life-threatening harm to transgender children for whom such treatment is medically necessary.

Access to gender-affirming care saves lives. Transgender and nonbinary children have a drastically higher rate of suicide than their cisgender peers. When this community has access to gender-affirming care, they are allowed the option to explore their gender identity without judgments or assumptions. Not every trans person elects this care when given a choice—it’s a highly individual choice. Nevertheless, by banning access to gender-affirming care for transgender children, the Republicans are not helping this community, but instead ignoring the American Academy of Pediatrics and other leading medical professionals by denying best practices and life-saving care.

Further, medical providers and patients determine their healthcare decisions, not government officials. Arizona’s Republican Governor and Legislature are once again overreaching into the private affairs of citizens by policing one’s rights over their own body. Republicans claim to be the only party that cares about personal freedom and choice, yet this bill was created for the singular purpose of limiting and owning the bodies of trans children. 

Last week, the United States Department of Justice wrote a letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, warning that this law violates constitutional rights and the Department is prepared to pursue legal action. Are the Republicans willing to waste millions of taxpayer dollars defending a discriminatory law?

The second bill, Senate Bill 1165, bars trans girls from participating in female sports in all schools (public and private; kindergarten through university) that compete against Arizona public schools. The Republicans claim they passed this measure to protect cisgender female athletes. Again, such a claim is pretextual. Cisgender women are not under attack by transgender people. Modern science demonstrates that trans females do not have an inherent and unfair advantage in sports. Does a tall person automatically dominate on the basketball court? No. Are the Republicans claiming that cisgender women are weak and inferior and thus need protection? If the Republican Party wanted to protect cisgender women, they would stop restricting access to abortions and the ballot boxes. They also would put more effort into strengthening our laws against sexual assault and domestic violence.

In actuality, the Republican Party is creating a scapegoat from a historically underrepresented community to win votes. They are targeting a primarily misunderstood and vilified community. The Republicans are bullying young students that want to live their lives like their peers—able to express themselves in a manner in which they are comfortable and play the sports they like with their friends.

We say this to our transgender brothers and sisters: you have an ally and an advocate in the Pima County Democratic Party. We will not tolerate nor allow your existence to be debated, policed, or politicized. We see you, we love you, and we will fight for your rights.

The Death of Richard Heakin

The Death of Richard Heakin

By Jack Ryan Wampler

On June 6th, 45 years ago, Richard “Dickie” Heakin, a 21 year old openly gay man from Lincoln, Nebraska, was here in Tucson visiting friends. Around midnight, when Heakin and his friends were leaving the Stonewall Tavern near Speedway, they were harassed by a group of thirteen high school boys aged 15-17. Four of the teenagers delivered blows to Heakin, with one to the neck that a medical examiner said “caused extensive hemorrhaging.” Heakin was rushed to the hospital, but later died from injuries to his brain.

The four attackers, Charles Shemwell, Herman Overpeck, Scott McDonald, and Russell Van Cleve, were arrested later that night. On June 29th of the same year, court hearings for first degree murder charges began. Judge Ben Birdsall reduced the charges to involuntary manslaughter, and decided the defendants would stand trial as juveniles. After over 3 months of hearings, Birdsall found them delinquent in the manslaughter charge, and on October 21 they were sentenced with probation until they turned 21.

The LGBT+ and local communities were outraged, calling the sentencing a slap on the wrist for an obvious hate crime. They were spurred to action, and founded Tucson Pride the following year, the first organization of its kind in Arizona. Tucson also became one of the first cities to pass anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation, and held a Gay Pride & Heakin Memorial in Himmel Park.

While Pride Month began as a way to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York, Pride Month in Tucson has an even deeper meaning.

Richard Heakin’s death changed our community forever, but hate crimes and injustice have not yet disappeared. While celebrating this June, we hope that you remember the tragedy of Richard Heakin, the community organizers that came together to transform our city, and the work that still needs to be done here and all across our country

Jack is one of our Summer 2021 Interns

The Death of Richard Heakin

Pride Month In Tucson

By Jack Ryan Wampler

The LGBT+ community has always faced harassment in the United States because of societal gender and relationship norms. The gay rights movement reached a pivotal moment during the Stonewall Riots in New York City in June of 1969. Since then, the month of June has been designated Pride Month to celebrate the milestones achieved by the LGBTQ+ community and to reflect on the hard work accomplished by those before us.

In honor of Pride Month 2021, we will be making regular posts throughout June about LGBTQ+ history in the city of Tucson. We will start by recounting the tragic death of Richard J. Heakin, a young gay man beaten to death in Tucson in 1976 . However, we follow with the stories of a community rising together, in protest of such a horrific hate crime. Finally, we end with a collection of LGBTQ+ resources for our readers.

According to Gallup and the Williams Institute, approximately 14.65 million US adults identified with the LGBTQ+ community in 2017. Today, the acronym represents a diverse range of sexualities and gender-identities.

42% of people who are LGBT report living in an unwelcoming environment, but in 2013, 92% of adults who are LGBT said they believe society had become more accepting of them than in the past 10 years.

Our LGBTQ+ community in Tucson has a vibrant history, and we hope to shine some light on those who struggled to bring us where we are today.

Some Facts

If you remember important events in Tucson’s LGBTQ+ history we encourage you to share them with us!

Happy Pride!

Jack is one of our 2021 Summer Interns

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