Leave these children alone! Conservative lawmakers respond to youth LGBTQ issues with fear and hatred | COMMENTARY

Dex Rumsey, 15, seen here in a January 2020 photo with his mother Robyn and father Clay at their home in Utah came out as transgender at age 12. In consultation with a counselor and doctors, he gradually began wearing short hair and boy's clothes, then began using puberty blockers and eventually testosterone. His parents say he's gone from a shy, withdrawn child to a happy, thriving kid. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Look, I get it, OK?

A lot of this, you plain do not understand. Much of it leaves you confused. Well, me too.


I have no idea what it must be like to grow up feeling as if you were assigned the wrong body, a girl with boy genitalia or vice versa. I confess to being discombobulated at the idea of having to declare my preferred pronouns. And all my life, I’ve been just a guy, a mister, a man. Now I learn that I’m a “cisgender male?” What even is that? And don’t I get a vote?

So, yes, conservative state lawmakers, I get your sense of bewilderment, your perplexity at waking up in a changed world. What I don’t get is your reflexive response of hatred and fear. What I cannot respect is that you encode that hatred and fear into law, something you have lately been doing with a vengeance.


In a year that is only four months old, you’ve already introduced 122 bills in 33 states to restrict sexually non-conforming people. This, according to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group. That’s nearly double the 66 bills that were introduced in all of 2020, which was itself a record-setting year. Tragically, most of the bills are aimed at young people, as if adolescence were not already tough enough.

Some would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming health care. Others bar educators from referring to transgender students by their chosen gender pronouns. A Texas bill would identify as a child abuser any parent who affirms a trans child’s gender identity. Some bills restrict teachers from teaching about LGBTQ issues — because apparently you find enforced ignorance preferable to learning, which, after all, carries a threat of tolerance. Many bills would prohibit trans students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identities. The stated concern is that some beefy boy, dressed as a girl, will enjoy an unfair advantage over athletes who were born female. No one seems able to say when this has ever happened. Like voter fraud, it’s apparently a “problem” that exists mainly in your minds.

I mean, really. Look at yourselves. If conservatism is, as you often say, a doctrine of personal liberty, a statement that the state has no business telling people what to do, how is it you’re snooping at the genitals of kids? Do you really think this is a good look for you? Do you actually believe you’ll be lauded someday for bullying children at their most vulnerable? Do you suppose this will stop trans kids from being trans kids, or induce trans adults to leave the sunlight and return to the shadows?

When has that ever happened? When has the marginalized group ever returned quietly to the margins?

Yet people like you insist on pushing them in that direction, just the same. And that’s always the way, isn’t it? It seems to be the sad destiny of humankind that we hate and fear — those words again — what we don’t understand.

Yes, change is scary. It is disorienting. It takes us out of what we know and are comfortable with. But it also stretches us, if we let it. Teaches us, if we let it. Helps us grow.

If we let it.

If, in other words, we don’t panic and jettison principle, compassion and common sense every time life throws a curve. Because here’s the thing: Life is always throwing curves. We have no control over that. What we can control is how we respond.


You are responding with cowardice, ignorance and meanness. And for that, you should be ashamed.

Leave these children alone.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may contact him via email at