OPINION: Indiana politicians back out when it counts

It is time to put an end to inaction and a lack of transparency from Indiana lawmakers regarding legislation directly affecting their most vulnerable constituents.

Attendee of the ACLU Rally to Protect Trans Youth holds up a sign at the Indiana State House on April 1. The rally was held in relation to SB 480. Olivia Ground, DN
Attendee of the ACLU Rally to Protect Trans Youth holds up a sign at the Indiana State House on April 1. The rally was held in relation to SB 480. Olivia Ground, DN

Evan Chandler is a fourth-year journalism and Spanish major and writes “Nonbinary Nonsense” for The Daily News. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

April 5, 2023. 

It’s a day that many trans Hoosiers will remember for the rest of their lives, including myself. 

It’s the day many trans youths had to begin making their game plans on how to continue receiving gender-affirming care, or they will have to stop receiving it by Dec. 1 in Indiana. It’s the day their government failed them, and the state’s highest office watched it happen without quarrel.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s endorsement of Senate Bill 480 speaks volumes, and it is confusing. On April 4, Gov. Holcomb described the bill as “clear as mud” to reporters. Furthermore, just last year, he vetoed an anti-trans youth sports bill barring trans girls from competing on girls sports teams.

So why the direct endorsement now, especially given his statements? Why now when the consequences are just as, if not more, harmful?

According to a 2022 peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, access to gender-affirming hormone therapy, or GAHT, is closely linked to lower rates of suicide, suicidal thoughts and depression. 

When Senate Bill 480 goes into law, this life-saving care will become unavailable for all trans Hoosiers under the age of 18 in the state of Indiana. Many of our legislators have decided to go against the advice of medical professionals to ensure their bigotry becomes the standard by which all Hoosier parents must abide.

This comes at a time when, according to a report by the Emergency Care Research Institute published this year, a patient safety and research firm, pediatric mental health is the top patient safety concern of 2023.

To remove a safeguard against an already struggling population is disgusting and counterproductive to the constant “protect the children” narrative spewed by the Republican Party to defend other harmful legislation, such as banning drag shows in public spaces.

Indiana's lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2023, tripling the amount introduced last year. Repeated harassment where there is an imbalance of power is bullying. 

Full stop. 

Statehouse Republicans have disgraced themselves choosing the next target of their hate to be minors.

Gov. Holcomb evidently does not care about his younger trans constituents enough to take a stand against his own party again — even when the consequences may be deadly. To skip taking this stand against it in order to benefit your own political career and attempt to use the refusal to do your job as a way to escape accountability is shameful behavior from the highest office of the state. 

Regardless of an inevitable veto override from the Statehouse’s supermajority, at least Gov. Holcomb could have been on record as being on the right side of what is turning out to be a very dark part of the history of Indiana politics.  

Being a bystander is no better than being a bully, and when you have the power to stop the situation or stand up to the bully but don’t, it’s also being complicit.

It adds insult to injury to take such incendiary actions and then refuse to answer for them. As a journalist, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get the opportunity to speak to politicians, let alone get one to tell you the complete truth. In the pursuit of covering Senate Bill 480, our publication reached out to the author of the bill, Sen. Tyler Johnson, who declined to comment.

It makes the process of doing our due diligence as journalists harder, and, in turn, continues to fuel inaccurate depictions of local news media being biased or practicing unbalanced and unfair reporting.

The direct refusal to answer questions regarding legislation he wrote is to deny his constituents the opportunity to be heard and feel their issues have been addressed or even acknowledged. 

Sen. Johnson should be embarrassed, as hearing the concerns from the people he serves is a basic part of his job that he is seemingly failing to do. 

It is also denying the people the explanation or reasoning behind his actions which will directly affect them, their friends and/or their families. I consider that even more sinister.

How can a government run by the people for the people not fight for their most vulnerable constituents? It seems as if some members of the government intend to make matters worse by blatantly ignoring questions and concerns from the people and the press alike. 

A government without that most basic level of transparency simply cannot work. 

I’m sick of politicians running away from accountability for the direct results of their actions. How easy it must be to deliver a death sentence to some LGBTQ+ youth and then decline to comment on why you did it. 

The percentage of trans and/or gender non-conforming Hoosiers may be small, but those are real human lives we are talking about. Even if it is one life, that is still an endless and immeasurable amount of pain placed onto those parents feeling the consequences of being denied the opportunity to make the decision on what is best for their child. 

None of our representatives would like for us to come in and tell them how to raise their children.

Senate Bill 480 will go into effect July 1, and once again, there has been radio silence from many major players in its passage. This disgraceful practice from Indiana lawmakers simply has to change, for the good of all Hoosiers.

Contact Evan Chandler with comments via email at eachandler@bsu.edu or on Twitter @evanachandler.


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