Lawmakers, your votes and policies are harming Montana children

April 11, 2023 11:33 am

Photo illustration by Getty Images.

As a warning, this article talks about potentially triggering subjects such as suicide and suicidal ideation.  If you are in crisis and want help, are thinking about suicide, or are worried about a loved one, call 988 or text “MT” to 741741. 

The following letter was provided to all members of Montana’s legislature, as well as Governor Gianforte, on Thursday in response to the wave of legislation targeting the transgender, non-binary, two spirt and gender diverse populations in Montana.  Although some of the situations in the letter may be difficult to read about, it is important that we hold legislators accountable for the true impact of their words and actions.  Before reading this letter, to all in this community, please know you have allies in this state and whatever the legislature says or whatever bills they pass, you belong.  Your community has belonged in Montana since long before this wave of discriminatory legislation, and there are allies in the state who will stand with you to fight this discrimination.  

Dear Senators and Representatives of the Montana Legislature, 

I am writing to share an experience from my work that is relevant to the work you are doing in Helena.  I work as an emergency medicine physician, and during a shift this week a partner of mine came to share his distress about a young suicidal teen he was caring for.  He had asked the teen what their biggest stressors were, and at the top of the list the teen, who happened to be transgender, referenced the current legislative session and told my partner, “My state doesn’t want me.” 

Please consider that statement and let it sink in. 

This young teen is so distressed by the laws that you all have been discussing and passing, that they were driven to want to kill themselves.  

I share this to help show how the repercussions of the laws you are passing are real, and this child is not alone.  This was only the first case I became directly aware of this week.  I found out about a second very similar case less than 12 hours from the first, and our emergency department is only one of many across this state.  Many primary care providers, teachers, behavioral health professionals, and other providers across the state are already reporting other Montana children in similar situations, and more will follow.   

Many of you in the legislature have been working hard to pass meaningful legislation for all Montanans and to combat discrimination, and I thank you deeply for your efforts.  Your efforts are appreciated and noticed.  Unfortunately, many others have been focused on passing discriminatory and harmful bills that single out and discriminate, particularly against young transgender Montanans.  My colleagues from the medical field and I, parents, community members, and others have testified over and over about the harms this type of rhetoric and discrimination can bring, but the laws have progressed, nonetheless.  I share this experience with you as a concrete example of the harm you are actively causing to our youth.  

Every “yes” vote on a discriminatory bill targeting transgender Montanans contributed to this child being driven to the point of wanting to kill themselves.  If you voted “yes,” on Senate Bill 99, you contributed to driving this child to consider suicide. 

If you voted “yes”on House Bill 234, House Bill 303, House Bill 361, House Bill 359, Senate Bill 458, House Bill 676, or any other discriminatory bill targeting transgender and/or LGBTQ Montanans you contributed to driving this child to want to kill themself.  Words matter, votes have consequences, and kids and teens are watching your actions.  

Thankfully, there are families and professionals in the schools, behavioral health field, primary care, and our emergency departments in Montana who deeply care about kids and who still have a legal right to provide the care needed to help kids.  Through their actions, this child’s distress was identified, and care given to help them cope and survive their stressors, at least for the present.  Although this child will receive help, that is a band-aid; only the legislature has the power to remove one of this child’s primary stresses. 

Please remember this child saying, “My state doesn’t want me,” and consider the effect of your votes.  

Please vote ‘no” on any legislation that will be harmful and discriminatory to transgender and/or LGBTQ+ Montana youth.  It is not stretching the truth to say their lives may depend on it.  

Dr. Lowe is a full-time Emergency Physician who has worked in Montana for close to 15 years.  He is currently chief of emergency medicine at Bozeman Health.  

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