Members of the Arkansas transgender community continue to look for acceptance

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:45 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Shockwaves are still running through Arkansas’ transgender community despite a recent win in court. A law that would prevent transgender minors from getting care and procedures related to their transition was blocked from going into effect over a month ago, but the impact of that legislative effort still lingers for some.

Carmen Gresham has been navigating life as a transgender person in Little Rock for years. The journey took her to some serious lows.

“I had considered suicide at a couple of points,” said Gresham, a nurse in Little Rock.

Her family pushed back when she told them at a young age she felt like a girl. Gresham says they saw inevitable social consequences in their deeply religious state.

“Just like, you know, you need to cut that out,” said Gresham.

At 15 she told her doctor she wanted hormone treatment. She says the doctor laughed off her request. Gresham endured harassment through the years, but she received her treatment and is happy living her “best life” as she calls it.

But when Arkansas House Bill 1570 became law - a measure that would prevent minors from hormonal or surgical intervention - her heart sank for those who would be barred from transitioning as she did. Gresham saw misinformation guiding lawmakers.

“Why do you think you get to make that decision, when your decision isn’t informed on science or ethics or even on public health care?” said Gresham.

A district court judge blocked the law from going into effect in late July, a small win for the trans community. Michael John Gray, chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party argues Republicans are trying to play on fear and misunderstanding by passing these laws.

“We’re not talking about passing laws to make people’s lives better,” said Gray. “They’re passing laws to make people conform to how they think it should be.”

The Arkansas Republican Party refused to be interviewed for this story. The lawmaker who authored this law, Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-AR), did not respond to an interview request.

Governor Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill, arguing there was too much government overreach. But the Republican legislature overrode that veto, making it law before the eventual court injunction. Lundstrum said at the time the measure is about protecting minors, not hurting them.

“We should never experiment on children. Ever,” said said.

Lundstrum told her colleagues these kids should be 18 before making these decisions.

“The brain is not fully developed, this is harmful to children,” Lundstrum argued.

Gresham considered moving, but she says she is holding off for now, hoping all Arkansans ultimately come to accept her way of life.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to hear our stories because they’ve already made up their minds about us,” said Gresham. “I think it’s going to take sharing the stories of transgender people, and the listening of transgender people.”

Obama appointee US District Court Judge Jay Moody blocked the law on grounds that it would cause irreparable harm.

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