Trans student and president of the Republican club discuss recent restrictive legislation in NC


Verna Townson

Senate Bill 49, as well as House Bills 187 and 43 may threaten the comfort of LGBTQ+ youth in North Carolina.

Verna Townson, [email protected], News Writer

Recent legislation in North Carolina attempts to restrict student rights and the rights of trans minors. Two UNCA students discuss the importance of these bills and how they might impact the public. 

Miles Van Heusden is a trans student at UNCA and he is double majoring in New Media and Art.  

“As a trans individual myself I have many concerns about anti-trans legislation. I’m concerned for the young trans kids who are already struggling so hard. I fear for my life and well-being more than I already do. I fear one day I may be ‘illegal,’ no human should be illegal,” Heusden said. 

Senate Bill 49, titled the Parents Bill of Rights targets LGBTQ+ communities by prohibiting instruction on gender identity, sexual orientation, or sexual activity in kindergarten through fourth grade. The bill was passed in North Carolina in February. 

“It is evident in psychology that making something ‘taboo’ will only make people want it more. I do not believe this law will keep children from experiencing the ‘gay agenda’. It honestly may only cause them to want to seek out information even more,” Heusden said. 

The Parents Bill of Rights requires parents to be informed if a student changes their pronouns or preferred name.

“Denying kids knowledge, especially if it doesn’t align with the beliefs of an individual is not protection, it is indoctrination and brainwashing,” Heusden said. 

House Bill 187 prohibits the discussion of race and gender in classrooms. This legislation could result in censoring discussions of different ways of knowing in school.

“The impact of this bill will be paramount. Kids will only continue to be told lies and sugar-coated history. I understand leaving out certain gruesome details to an extent, but denying literal systematic issues that exist and can very much affect the children they are trying to ‘protect,’ is not going to help,” Heusden said. 

According to Yale, transgender individuals who undergo gender-affirming surgery are significantly less likely to seek mental health treatment for depression and anxiety.  

“Why shouldn’t children be able to discuss this? Are kids supposed to be blind to the fact that racism is still rapidly impacting the lives of many citizens in this country? Are they supposed to just skip over the civil rights movement in school,” Heusden said. 

Transgender individuals who start gender-affirming during adolescence experience better mental health than those waiting until adulthood, according to Stanford University. 

“Denying kids treatment and care they desperately need will only continue to ostracize trans kids, more than they probably already feel. The trans community already has high suicide rates, and they will only continue to go up if discrimination persists,” Heusden said. 

House Bill 43, also known as the Prohibition of Certain Hormone/Surgery/Minors would prohibit medical professionals to engage or facilitate in providing trans minors with gender-affirming care. 

“In reality, if politicians wanted to help and protect the youth they should be strengthening restrictions on guns rather than the ‘gay agenda.’ Hundreds of school shootings occur every year resulting in countless child deaths. However, I don’t think there is any blood on the hands of the ‘gay agenda’,” Heusden said. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, LGBT students are protected by the Civil Rights Act and Education Amendments of 1972, both prohibiting discrimination including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes. 

“No matter what laws they make they can’t ever get rid of us and we will always exist just like we always have. The only thing anti-queer legislation will do will continue to make the lives of innocent people even harder than they already are,” Heusden said. 

Transgender patients had increased prevalence for all screened psychiatric conditions with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder being the most common diagnoses, according to the National Library of Medicine.

Micah McKenzie, 20, is the president of the Republican Club at UNCA. 

“Obviously we do need legislation to keep people safe, but I think the government really needs to keep out of peoples’ business. If somebody wants a procedure or an operation, that’s their business and the government should not be interfering in that,” McKenzie said. 

It was determined by the Supreme Court the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex-based discrimination, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

“I just believe in freedom: people do what they’re going to do and we just mind our own business for the most part. I think it’s a very scary thing when legislators or people in power start trying to tell private citizens ‘Hey you can’t do this, talk about this subject, or you can’t do this procedure.’ I think that’s a very dangerous thing and it’s a slippery slope,” McKenzie said. 

HB187 or the Equality in Education bill does not include what penalty offenders would face if they participated in certain discussions in class regarding race and gender.

“I think a good education consists of knowing what happened, and making your own conclusions. No, the government should not be saying: ‘we’re not going to teach this topic,’ I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think anyone deserves to be limited by the government in what we should be able to learn,” McKenzie said. 

The bill outlines 13 expectations for classroom discussions, stating it prevents discriminatory concepts and students from feeling anguish associated with their race or sex.   

“As far as this bill and the one in Florida I think they’re pretty ridiculous because look, these things happen, oppression happens and it’s still gaining on in this world and you can’t not talk about these things. This isn’t a free country if we can’t have an open discussion. Obviously, we need to have these discussions in classrooms,” McKenzie said. 

According to Stanford, transgender individuals who received gender-affirming care in adolescence were less likely to binge drink or use illicit drugs chronically. 

“I think that’s a very dangerous line when the government starts saying, you can’t do these things, like if your parents are saying ‘Hey, I’m fine with you getting this,’ or ‘I’m fine with you going and getting hormone blockers,’ OK then I think that’s it, I don’t think the government should be able to say ‘no you can’t do that’,” McKenzie said.

This year, the Biden Administration announced its attempts to support LGBTQ+ citizens through inclusive efforts such as signing the Respect for Marriage Act and offering a gender-neutral marker on passports. 

“If you can’t talk about things in the classroom, where can you talk about them? All you’re going to be doing is just getting reinforced with opinions you learn and home,” McKenzie said.