Story at a glance
- South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) during a press conference last week said she did not know why the state’s LGBTQ+ population is reporting outsized rates of depression.
- Noem earlier this month signed into a law a bill — which she helped author — barring transgender athletes from playing on sports teams aligning with their gender identity.
- A recent report from HelpAdvisor found that 87 percent of LGBTQ+ people in South Dakota had reported feeling depressed, compared with a national rate of 64 percent.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), who late last month signed a bill banning transgender girls from playing on school sports teams which match their gender identity, last week said she was unsure why nearly 90 percent of the state’s LGBTQ+ population had reported feeling depressed.
“I don’t know,” Noem said Thursday during a press conference when asked by a reporter. “That makes me sad, and we should figure it out.”
Noem early this month signed into a law a bill — which she had also helped draft — barring trans athletes from competing on girls’ and women’s sports teams, becoming the first governor of 2022 to pass a piece of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people.
“This bill has been an important priority for a lot of the people behind me,” Noem said during a signing ceremony. “And I appreciate all of their hard work in making sure that girls will always have the opportunity to play in girls sports in South Dakota and have an opportunity for a level playing field, for fairness, that gives them the chance to experience success.”
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The same day, South Dakota’s House advanced a bill that would prohibit transgender or nonbinary students from using restrooms or other school facilities that align with their gender identity.
Noem in January released a television ad promoting her then-proposed transgender athlete ban, promising to give South Dakotans the “strongest law in the nation protecting female sports.”
“In South Dakota, only girls play girls’ sports. Why? Because of Governor Kristi Noem’s leadership,” the ad said.
Public figures and advocates last week accused Noem of feigning ignorance to the worsening mental health of the state’s LGBTQ+ population, which was recently highlighted by a report from HelpAdvisor that found 87 percent of LGBTQ+ people in South Dakota reported feeling depressed.
“Here’s a start for you, Governor. 1. Don’t advance policies that attack trans youth, 2. Don’t fund ads attacking LGBT youth, 3. support @POTUS’ agenda to enhance support for youth mental health needs, with funding made available through the American Rescue Plan,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter.
“You not only signed an anti-trans bill into law, but also authored it yourself,” the Human Rights Campaign tweeted. “If you’re looking for a reason why LGBTQ+ youth are struggling in South Dakota, look in the mirror.”
Noem did not immediately respond to Changing America’s request for comment.
A recent poll published by the LGBTQ+ suicide prevention and crisis intervention group the Trevor Project found that more than two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth feel their mental health has been negatively affected by state bills to restrict the rights of transgender and nonbinary people — even if those bills don’t become law.
In another Trevor Project survey, more than 40 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said they had seriously considered taking their own life over the past year, including more than half of trans and nonbinary youth.
Those who had access to affirming spaces like online communities or supportive schools reported lower rates of attempted suicide.
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