Two anti-trans bills have passed the Idaho House and Senate (HB 500, HB 509), with one held up in committee (HB 465). With the forward momentum of these bills, one has to wonder how our state priorities have gone so far off course. Each bill has a host of legal issues, if passed, and bears little resemblance to the common-sense legislation Idaho is famous for.
HB509, dealing with preventing individuals from changing their markers on birth certificates, seems to serve little purpose other than to prevent people from legally transitioning. HB500, dealing with trans women and girls playing sports, is a solution looking for a problem and somehow fails to even raise the question about trans men.
Looking across the country, we can see legislating this particular issue has been challenging. Case in point, follow multi-year state champion and undefeated wrestler Mack Briggs in Texas, the trans man forced to wrestle with girls after courts ruled he must play sports by his birth record assigned sex (female). While adhering to that ruling, parents of those girls challenged again, trying to remove him from competition citing a competitive advantage from his hormone treatment as part of his transition. As court challenges went flying, a simple question…if he can’t wrestle with girls, and he can’t wrestle with boys…where exactly should he wrestle?
These are complex issues that need thoughtfulness, understanding, compassion, but most importantly, good policy and common sense. Idaho’s approach will create an endless cycle of legal challenges and an alienating environment of “otherness” for one of our most vulnerable populations. No matter what you believe or which way you slice and dice it, that is poor policy.
As a business owner and an organizer of Boise Startup Week, one of our biggest messages is that Idaho is a welcoming place for all. Idaho companies are on the front lines of positive ambassadorship speaking with technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and students from around the country, and Idaho businesses will bear the consequences.
Data suggest only 0.6% of the U.S. population identifies as transgender (Williams Institute 2016). The impact of doubling down on divisive issues rooted not in real community challenges such as housing, public transportation or good-paying jobs, means we are creating more legislative red tape, and overall it reduces our competitiveness in the global marketplace. But most important, it keeps perpetuating negative perceptions about our community.
And for what? What do we gain rushing sloppy legislation to tell a tiny fraction of healthy kids they should be fearful of trying to play sports? Or that a legal adult can’t make a choice with their own doctor? Is that even remotely rational? Is that the Idaho way?
Lawmakers should take note: There is no force stronger to drive away capital, talent and resources then a perception that Idaho is unable to welcome everyone. The best lessons of the workplace show over and over that a diversity of perspectives and ideas builds strong companies and communities. Attracting this diversity and developing bridges of understanding is the best way to build better products and services.
Recently, HP, Micron, Chobani and Clif Bar & Company co-published an open letter to this effect.
Their words echo what real leadership on these issues sounds like.
To the trans people reading this article, keep your chin high. Be proud of who you are. There are entire communities of business owners who know your value and the diversity of perspectives you offer.
We’re here for you. We welcome you, and you can play any position you want on the company softball team. We don’t believe in barriers.
Nick Crabbs is a partner at Vynyl and co-chair of Boise Startup Week.
Open letter to legislators from HP, Micron, Chobani and Clif Bar
Dear Senators Lodge and Harris:
We write to share our concerns regarding legislation that recently passed the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate. Specifically, this includes House Bills 500 and 509.
As businesses, we’re committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion, and we are very proud to call Idaho home. It’s a privilege and honor to be ambassadors for the state in our daily interactions with customers, communities, and companies across the nation and around the world. We proudly talk about its strong and growing economy, and how it’s one of the best places in the nation to do business and live. Most important, we talk about the welcoming, big-hearted spirit of its people, and why our employees are so grateful to live and raise their families here.
This is a well-earned reputation and these bills targeting transgender Idahoans puts that reputation at risk and goes against creating a workforce that welcomes all. Passage of these bills could hurt our ability to attract and retain top talent to Idaho, and it could damage Idaho’s ability to attract new businesses and create new jobs.
With respect, we ask you to support all of Idaho’s diverse communities and reject these measures.
Clif Bar & Company