On MSNBC, State Rep. Zooey Zephyr condemns anti-trans legislation after being silenced in Montana statehouse

Zephyr: “They have called for civility in debates while misgendering, they called for limited government while trying to use government to take away trans peoples’ access to health care”

Video file

Citation From the April 22, 2023, edition of MSNBC's Yasmin Vossoughian Reports

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN (HOST): I’m just gonna ask you, first and foremost, as you stood you stood up inside that hall and you addressed all of you colleagues there, other lawmakers, many of who disagree with who you inherently are, right, and are trying to make other people not to be like you, what was that like for you? 

ZOOEY ZEPHYR (MONTANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE): You know, Senate Bill 99, the bill banning gender-affirming care, was one of many bills targeting the trans community. We’ve seen bills banning art forms, our stories, allowing people to bully us in schools, deny us medication, and we had a bill coming up that wrote us out of Montana code entirely. And, for me in that moment I felt critical that I stand up in defense of my community and call out these pieces of legislation for what they are, which is harmful.

VOSSOUGHIAN: What do you say to kids that are watching you? Right, they view you as a role model, you have the courage to do what you do, stand up for trans rights every single day as a trans woman yourself, inside those halls as lawmaker to give them the courage to continue on this fight with so many people trying to take their rights away in this country and in your state specifically. 

ZEPHYR: The first thing is, what trans people already know, is that when we get to transition and live as ourselves, we live lives full of joy. I wouldn't be able to do the work I do in the Montana legislature and in my community had I not transitioned and come into myself fully. So, I would say first and foremost, stand tall in yourself and know that we’re going to win these fights in the end. Even if we are not winning them here in the legislatures, we’ll win them in the courts, and we are already winning them in our communities when we stand up and show the world who we are and how we love the world. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: I want to dig in, as you mentioned there are so many anti-trans bills happening in your state. I want to dig into some of those we can, some of the reporting that I want to read from is from the Daily Beast, saying, quote unquote, Montana could soon define trans people out of existence as they put it. The latest and most extreme piece of anti-trans legislation, SB458, which will soon head to the House for consideration, seeks to define sex according to reproductive capacity, stripping legal recognition from trans, nonbinary, and those with intersex conditions. What can you tell us about this bill and the worries that you have about it passing? 

ZEPHYR: That bill was the bill, the first bill that the speaker did not allow me to partake in debate on. He denied a trans woman to speak on a bill that writes us out of code. It’s a bill that misdefines sex. They attempted to edit the definition of sex three different times. Each time the medical community said, this doesn't fit. Additionally, it opens up areas where people may not be able to prosecute crimes against intersex children, it also opened up weird loopholes in selling eggs for human cloning if you are intersex. Poorly written bill,  but the intent was to write trans people out of Montana code. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: It is interesting because the Freedom Caucus in your state also misgendered you when they called for you to be punished for that speech that we just played at the very top. On top of that, as we’re talking about these bills, there is another bill that you colleagues are pushing to make it easier for students in schools to do that very same two other students, right, essentially misgendering them, allowing them to call them by their name that they were given at birth. Give us the status update on that and also, just what you see this doing to kids. 

ZEPHYR: So, the hypocrisy of the Freedom Caucus’ letter  is apparent. They have called for civility in debates while misgendering, they called for limited government while trying to use government to take away trans peoples’ access to health care. And, policies like the one allowing people to misgender trans students, it is designed to, they couple it with this notion of parents rights when it allows parents or other students to bully trans children but whenever trans children are asking to be themselves, they also want to take that right away. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: It seems as if, and it is clear, that Republicans want to use LGBTQ+ rights, or the taking away of them, as a wedge issue heading into the 2024 election. What is your suggestion, your proposal, as to how Democrats fight back? 

ZEPHYR: We need to stand up for our communities. And we are seeing that here. They are targeting me, but in the rules committee, we heard a Native American woman in my party call out the discrimination against her community. We’ve seen in Tennessee when Black lawmakers are standing up and calling out the gun violence that’s happening in their communities. I think that it is important that we don't let those in the majority parties of Republican controlled legislatures set the rules to silence the people. We can’t be complicit as they try to eradicate us. 

VOSSOUGHIAN: State Representative Zooey Zephyr, you are a very brave woman and a true leader and I hope you know that about yourself. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.