March 28, 2017
The Honorable Chairman Alan Doane House Committee on the Judiciary
268 County Road 521
Bloomfield, MT 59315
Dear Chairman Doane:
The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth (LGBTQ) writes to strongly urge you to vote against HB 609, the Montana Locker Room Privacy Act. Many organizations are weighing in on the devastating impacts this bill will have on transgender youth, but it is also critically important that you consider the public health impact this bill will have on the transgender youth of Montana.
The Trevor Project serves youth under 25 and works to save young lives through our accredited free and confidential lifeline, secure instant messaging services which provide live help and intervention, a social networking community for LGBTQ youth, in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources, and advocacy.
Unfortunately, there is a great need for an organization such as Trevor. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. (i) While this alone is shocking enough, it pales in comparison to the statistics regarding transgender youth. In a recent national survey, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. (ii)
There are many factors that contribute to the high suicide rate for transgender youth: lack of understanding and awareness from others: the rejection of family and friends; bullying; mental health challenges; discrimination and societal stigmatization. If HB 609 is allowed to become law, this ostracizing policy will become one more brick on the backs of transgender youth who are already on the verge of collapsing from too much weight.
Not being allowed to use the restroom or locker room consistent with one’s gender identity can cause significant psychological and social distress. In fact, research has shown a high correlation between transgender young people being denied the right to use the appropriate bathroom and suicidality. (iii) The spread of knowledge that a young person is transgender by others because one requests a reasonable accommodation can lead to severe bullying and violence, including homicide. Every year in the United States, transgender individuals are killed simply because of who they are. This year alone at least eight transgender individuals have been murdered in the United States. (iv) Living one’s life as a transgender individual is brave, but it’s also very risky.
Many cities and states have laws explicitly allowing transgender individuals to use the restroom consistent with their gender identity. (v) Since the passage of those laws there hasn’t been a single case of a person posing as a transgender individual to gain access to a restroom for the purpose of carrying out a sexual assault. (vi) Therefore, the idea behind this bill to “protect” children was actually built on a false premise and passing it does nothing to help protect students from predators. In addition, as discussed above, allowing this bill to pass may cause significant suffering for transgender youth in Montana. This should be of particular concern for legislators because Montana currently has the third highest rate of suicide deaths of all fifty states. In 2015, the most current year for which we have data, Montana had a total of 272 deaths by suicide. The national average of suicide deaths is 13.8 per 100,000 residents, Montana’s is 26.3, almost double that of the national average. (vii) In the past year, Trevor has had almost 200 calls, chats and texts from youth in Montana that include transgender youth in mental health crises or youth who were struggling with suicidal ideation. We don’t want the sometimes fragile mental health of transgender youth to possibly be made any worse through public policy that actively discriminates and ostracizes them.
In order to ameliorate this serious public health issue facing Montana, we strongly urge you to vote against HB 609. Should you have any questions or comments please contact Amy Loudermilk, Associate Director of Government Affairs at
Interim Executive Director
i Kann, L., O’Malley Olsen, E., McManus, T., Kinchecn, S., Chyen, D., Harris, W. A., Wechsler, H. (2011). Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contracts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students Grades 9-12 – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Selected Sites, United States, 2001-2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 60(SS07), 1-133.
ii James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality
iii Seelman, Kristie L. (2016). Transgender Adults’ Access to College Bathrooms and Housing and Relationship to Suicidality. Journal of Homosexuality. 63(10), pp. 1378-1399. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.1080/00918369.2016.1157998?scroll=top&needAccess=true
ivSchmider, Alex. (2017). GLAAD calls for increased and accurate media coverage of transgender murders GLAAD. http://www.glaad.org/blog/glaad-calls-increased-and-accurate-media-coverage-transgender-murders
v American Civil Liberties Association. Know Your Rights: Transgender People and the Law. Accessed at: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/transgender-people-and-law
vi Brinker, Luke and Maza, Carlos. (2014, March 20). 15 Experts Debunk Right-Wing Transgender Bathroom Myth. Media Matters. Accessed at: http://mediamatters.org/research/2014/03/20/15-experts-debunk-right-wing-transgender-bathro/198533
vii Drapeau, C. W., & McIntosh, J. L. (for the American Association of Suicidology). (2016). U.S.A. suicide 2015: Official final data. Washington, DC: American Association of Suicidology, dated December 23, 2016, downloaded from http://www.suicidology.org.