Utah Attacks Trans Rights on Penultimate Day of Sundance

Key artwork for the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

On the penultimate day of Sundance, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill to eliminate gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

After the Utah legislature overruled Governor Spencer Cox’s veto for the trans athlete ban, I decided I wouldn’t be attending Sundance 2023. Lawsuits were filed. Ultimately, trans athletes would be allowed to play sports but only after a committee said they could. This put trans rights in a place where I felt comfortable enough to step foot in Utah and hand my money over to the state. Who would have thought that things would change by the final day of Sundance 2023?

According to Cox’s statement on SB 16:

“Legislation that impacts our most vulnerable youth requires careful consideration and deliberation. While not a perfect bill, we are grateful for Sen. Kennedy’s more nuanced and thoughtful approach to this terribly divisive issue. More and more experts, states and countries around the world are pausing these permanent and life-altering treatments for new patients until more and better research can help determine the long-term consequences.

“We will continue to push the Legislature for additional resources to organizations that work to help this important Utah community. While we understand our words will be of little comfort to those who disagree with us, we sincerely hope that we can treat our transgender families with more love and respect as we work to better understand the science and consequences behind these procedures.”

This isn’t love and respect. Banning gender-affirming care is bigotry and will kill transgender youth. Do conservative legislators not even pay attention to how high the trans suicide rate is? My guess is no. Conservatives would rather we not exist. At the rate things are going, trans citizens will probably have to leave the country.

This bill is nothing but bigotry at the end of the day. What experts are suggesting pausing gender-affirming care? They certainly aren’t experts in treating transgender youth. It’s conservatives listening to bigoted doctors as usual to say what they what to hear. The states and countries placing a pause are those that are bigoted against trans people so here’s a hearty fuck you to Spencer Cox and the Utah legislators that voted for this piece of shit bill.

The ACLU released a statement one day before Cox signed bigotry into law.

“This bill effectively bans access to life-saving medical care for transgender youth in Utah. It undermines the health and well-being of adolescents, limits the options of doctors, patients, and parents, and violates the constitutional rights of these families,” said Brittney Nystrom, Executive Director of the ACLU of Utah.

They expand in a letter to Cox:

The bill is riddled with numerous constitutional issues. It violates the equal protection rights of transgender adolescents and the due process rights of their parents. This bill clearly discriminates on the basis of sex and transgender status. The bill also infringes upon the substantive due process rights of parents to direct the care, custody, and control of their minor children, which includes the right to follow medical guidelines for treatment.

I expect that the likes of the ACLU will further respond by filing a lawsuit. Hopefully, the court will toss this bill out and find it unconstitutional. Meanwhile, it will be nearly impossible for me to invest my money in Utah for Sundance 2024. I love being able to attend film festivals like Sundance and SXSW but no, I will not spend money in a state that does not care to treat transgender citizens like people. The fact that they are taking away our rights is more than enough for me to place my foot down and say no. It’s a shame because I saw people this year that I haven’t seen since Sundance 2020.

Unless a court throws out SB 16, Sundance 2023 will be my last time stepping foot in Utah because I cannot in good conscience invest my money in a state where transgender rights are under attack. Please G-d let something change by the time that Sundance 2024 comes around.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.