TRANSformative: An Open Letter to South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

Dear Gov. Daugaard,

This is a friendly hello from your neighbour to the north – well northwest in my case. I come from Vancouver, on the west coast of Beautiful British Columbia, and about a three hour drive from Seattle. One thing I have enjoy about Canada, and particularly Vancouver, is our long history of supporting LGBTQ rights. Gay marriage became legal in Canada in 2005, and Vancouver’s Pride Parade is one of Canada’s biggest (and loudest and proudest).

This is why it is so distressing to hear that a bill which would negatively affect the rights of the transgender community – especially kids and teens – is about to cross your desk. A bill sir, that you have the power to veto. Why I am so concerned you ask? Let me outline a few problems I have with it:

First off, it lacks validity. Senator David Omdahl claimed that it would “preserve the innocence of young people”. Actually, it would increase bullying for trans kids, who already have a high risk of suicide. Besides, young people won’t be young and innocent for the rest of our lives, and school is the perfect time to learn about sexuality and gender. (because, they are different after all). Brock Greenfield has stated that transgender people”spontaneously decide they no longer consider themselves transgender, and that happens with great frequency.” So let me ask, when did you decide to become straight?

But more than that Governor, I feel that the passage of this bill will set progress back several years. Since your president has taken office, we have seen extraordinary in gay rights, and we can only move forward, not back. Besides, what message are we sending the youth of today if we tell them that are not allowed to be who they want to be? Rather, they have to be what society tells them. I’m pretty sure that any time a specific and narrow set of rules are imposed on a certain group of people, it generally leads to an armed insurrection and/or revolution.

Let me offer a comparison. I know you are a CODA and to become the first CODA governor in the history of the United States is no small feat; I applaud you on that. My grandparents were deaf, so I can relate on a personal level as well. But your parents had one thing going for them that the trans youth of today don’t; they couldn’t hear the verbal arrows that were no doubt slung their way as a result of them being perceived as different. Trans youth don’t have that luxury; they endure every word, every curse, every torment that comes their way, largely because of the lack of education high schools offer.

Here in Vancouver, many high schools have written anti-bullying and Trans-positive positions into their charter and many more now have gender neutral bathrooms. Sure, there was some resistance at the beginning, but it has largely died away as those who were initially opposed realized whatever bathroom a trans person decided to use didn’t harm them or even personally affect them in any way. Beyond that, it fostered dialogue.

Trans visibility is at an all time high – with TV shows such as Orange is The New Black, Transparent, and Her Story each doing their part. The trans community has fantastic spokespeople like Mya Taylor, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner. As a cis male, I don’t know what it’s like to be trans. But I do know what it’s like to not fit in; to be brutalized and tormented just for being who you are. This is what awaits the trans community should you sign that bill into law.

I wonder if you might take a walk over to Black Hills and look into the faces of four of your greatest presidents. What would Washington Do? What would Jefferson do? Abe? Teddy? They would probably tell you to mind your own business. The founding fathers did believe in a limited government after all? Isn’t that one of the bedrocks of your party? When then is your government trying to impose such a hateful law on a group of people who need our support more than ever?

Think about it. Do the right thing.


Dan McPeake

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


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