Shaw: The human side to the anti-transgender bills

Jim Shaw talks to family members of transgender teens and children about bills targeting them making their way through the North Dakota Legislature.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

The North Dakota Legislature’s shameful attempts to demonize and marginalize transgender people will cause enormous damage if their horrifying bills become law.

There’s a 7-year-old transgender girl in Fargo who would face a rough future in this state. Born with male anatomy, by age 4, she said she wanted to wear dresses and said she wanted to be called a girl.

“When she was age 5, she said, ‘I think I was born with a boy’s body, but a girl’s brain,’ ” her father told me. She was right.

The anti-transgender legislation would make life very difficult for her. She would be prevented from using a girls bathroom, not referred to the way she wants, and be banned from receiving puberty blockers.

“The Legislature is making lives worse for these kids,” the father said. “It makes me angry and sad. They’re exploiting a minority for power.”


They write, "If this ban on transgender youth care goes into effect, providers will consider leaving our state, decreasing access to care for everyone."

So, because of the Legislature’s actions, this family of four is moving from North Dakota to Minnesota.

“It’s infuriating that we have to move out of our home state,” he said. “If I have to choose between North Dakota and my daughter, I’m going to choose my daughter every time.”

There’s a girl from North Dakota who at age 6 was diagnosed with early onset puberty, with body and breast changes and early onset menstruation. She had thoughts of suicide. Now, she’s 9 and is receiving puberty blockers.

“Her medical condition affects no other child,” her grandmother told me. “Her condition is not part of any left-wing ideology … Her intentions are to make it through grade 3 without feeling different, without being singled out for looking different.”

The problem is legislators are out to ban puberty blockers.

“Who is my granddaughter hurting?” the grandmother said. “She’s just trying to get through life.”

Haley Feldmann was a teenage transgender girl living in Beach, North Dakota.

“She was terrified of what people were going to do and say to her,” said Christina Feldmann, Haley’s mother. “She was afraid to leave the house. She knew people would harass and physically attack her.”


The picture is of 18-year-old Haley Feldmann of Beach, North Dakota, who died by suicide in November of 2021. Haley was transgender.
Contributed / Christina Feldmann, Haley's mother

Haley died by suicide. She was just 18.

What bothers Christina the most is that the legislators have heard the medical science about gender dysphoria, the statistics of violence against transgender people and their high suicide rate. The lawmakers know better. She knows this legislation will make things much worse.

“This is voluntary discrimination. These legislators know the science, but they choose to pursue their personal beliefs,” Christina said. “I’m furious. I’m outraged. They’re taking away the dignity and safety of children. There’s no need for this legislation. These bills will kill children.”

Is this what North Dakota legislators want? Do they really want families to leave the state? Do they really want to deny children necessary medical treatments? Do they really want more suicides? If they have any decency, empathy and humanity, they will kill these unnecessary and frightening bills.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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