Content warning: This story contains references to anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and legislation.
On April 27, Washington State enacted a new shield law, House Bill 1469. The law includes provisions that protect transgender individuals who come to Washington from states with laws banning gender-affirming care from extradition and prosecution.
Nationwide, more than 45 bills were passed limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals in the most recent legislative session, according to the ACLU. HB 1469 will protect any individuals who violate laws where gender-affirming care is illegal from being criminally charged under those laws. The law also offers legal protection to those who have gotten abortions in other states.
“It’s hard to predict what … terrible ideas other states will come up with, and what this Supreme Court could decide to do next. What I can say is this law is probably the beginning, it’s probably not the end,” said Washington State Representative Alex Ramel (D-40).
Ramel represents students from Western Washington University, as the campus and many student residential areas are in the 40th District.
Though out-of-state students make up only about 16% of the student body at Western, according to College Factual, this law will still have an important impact on its LGBTQ+ population.
“For me, it’s just… it’s a weird feeling of being so thankful that Washington has been so kind to me in such a terrible situation,” said Gabriel Kelly, a transgender man and student at Western.
Gender-affirming care, which the new shield law protects, has been shown to improve the health outcomes of transgender individuals significantly.
A Cornell University literature review of 51 peer-reviewed studies found that gender-affirming care, including hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, not only provided significant positive mental health benefits but also that the regret rate for those who received gender-affirming care was very low and generally associated with lack of social support.
Despite this, no Republicans voted in favor of the bill. It still passed with support from Democrats.
“They are doing the work, but it’s just one of those things where the action of one person trying to do good is drowned out by the actions of so many trying to do bad,” Kelly said.
Though the new law does offer broad protections specifically designed to avoid legal challenges and keep the law from being bypassed, it’s still possible that other states could pass additional restrictions that are not covered by the protections from HB 1469.
“This is gonna be sort of the world’s worst game of ping pong over people’s rights,” Ramel said.
JoeHahn, the director of LGBTQ+ Western, noted how it can be important to have positive fun events that don’t just focus on negatives.
Getting new students involved in the LGBTQ+ community on campus is a major goal of LGBTQ+ Western.
“People can make those connections and really find their people. And college is really a great time for that to happen because there’s a more diverse population in general,” said JoeHahn.
With a growing number of anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the United States, such as a law banning gender-affirming care for minors in Idaho which passed in the most recent legislative session, according to the ACLU.
“Right now we’re seeing anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ legislation nationwide, and that just has a bit [of a] psychological impact on us, even if we feel like Washington is a safe space for us,” he said.
LGBTQ+ Western is holding several upcoming events for transgender individuals, including Trans Tea, a bi-monthly event held in VU 462.
Joshua Grambo (he/him) is a campus news reporter and journalism/news editorial major in his second year at Western. Outside of the Front, Joshua enjoys reading, playing dungeons and dragons, spending time with family, and working on craft projects. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.