A young trans person wearing a face mask, draped in a trans flag, holds a sign at a protest.

Montana Republicans Push Bill Saying Students Cannot Be Punished for Misgendering Trans Classmates

What in the fresh hell is this?

In today’s installment of unnecessary garbage that conservative lawmakers do to harm trans people, it could soon be illegal for Montana teachers to hold students accountable for harassing their trans and non-binary peers. 

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The bill, sponsored by GOP Rep. Brandon Ler, and co-sponsored by more than two dozen other conservative Montana legislators, would declare that intentionally misgendering or deadnaming (using a trans person’s birth name instead of their chosen name) would not be considered discrimination or harassment by law. Also—deep breaths—punishing students who intentionally harassed trans students by using the wrong pronouns or names would be illegal. 

At a hearing Wednesday where he introduced the bill, Rep. Ler compared Montana students to cattle when he said his children “have learned from a very young age that cows are cows and bulls are bulls,” adding, “Children should not be forced to call somebody something they’re not.”

And every Montana legislator in the room with decency and compassion went “WTF?” Because it seems obvious that news of this law passing would just feed bullies’ sense of entitlement to behave badly with impunity. Hot take: Shouldn’t it be obvious to a state congressman that you shouldn’t compare kids to cattle or whittle human gender down to genitals?

Let’s summarize. Rep. Ler’s bill argues that schools should not be able to punish purposeful bullying and harassment around misgendering and deadnaming, or institute anti-harassment policies surrounding trans issues. 

What does an expert think? “The problem with the bill is that it takes away the ability of schools and teachers and administrators to intervene when something becomes cruel before it becomes physical,” SK Rossi, testifying on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, explained.

Also, is there any other purpose a law like this serves besides increasing bullying and tyranny over LGBTQ+ students in the halls? Because is there really a major existing issue surrounding students being wrongfully punished over harassing trans students in Montana schools? 

Richard Schade, the stepfather of a 9-year-old non-binary kid he says is bullied almost daily without intervention from school administrators doesn’t think so. “This demonstrates that the stated purpose of [the bill] is to address a problem that doesn’t exist and that the real intent is to send a message to trans kids that they deserve to be bullied because of who they are,” he told lawmakers. 

It’s important to note that opponents of the new bill did not try to argue that students who accidentally misgender a student should be punished. A student unintentionally calling a trans or non-binary student the wrong pronoun once, then learning the right pronoun and changing their behavior, does not constitute bullying or discrimination. Nobody is trying to argue that those students who simply make a mistake should be punished. 

Rep. Ler’s bill is the first of its kind in the United States, but it is just another in a gross-ass collection of anti-trans laws popping up nationwide that are designed to strip folks’ rights away. 

You can check out the National Center for Transgender Equality for some more reading on the subject.

(via HuffPost, featured image: Isabel Infantes Morcillo/Getty Images)


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Author
Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.