Equality Utah marks 20th year in Utah as director talks culture wars

Jul 15, 2021, 4:29 PM
FILE - In this July 26, 2017 file photo, people with the Human Rights Campaign hold up "equality flags" during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, in support of transgender members of the military. Defense officials say the Pentagon will sweep away Trump-era policies that largely banned transgender people from serving in the military and will issue new rules that broaden their access to medical care and gender transition. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Culture wars that inflame passion on both sides of an issue, such as trans athletes competing in women’s sports in schools, are borne out of a misunderstanding of who trans kids are, said one of their longtime champions in the state.

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams joined Inside Sources on KSL NewsRadio Wednesday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Equality Utah and give a preview of the next legislative session.

Culture wars come from misunderstanding, misinformation

Guest host Sen. Todd Weiler said Williams helped pass Utah’s historic non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in housing and employment. In 2017, he worked successfully to overturn a state law that prohibited the discussion of LGBTQ issues in classrooms. And last year, Williams led the campaign to successfully ban conversion therapy for children.

Because a lot of people maybe haven’t had much exposure to the transgender community, Williams said, there is misunderstanding and misinformation.

Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan, sponsored a bill last session that would have banned transgender athletes from participating in school sports teams. Her bill died in a Senate committee. Birkeland told KCPW in March that she’s worried about possible future lawsuits against the state.

Read more: Utah bill barring transgender girls from playing girls’ sports makes comeback

Williams said lawmakers sponsored this bills so far in 30 different states. He accused what he described as an anti-LGBT group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, of instigating the bills.

“They’re really designed to provoke lawsuits. It’s important for us — as we are inflamed in these cultural battles — to step back, take the emotion out, remove it from a culture-war context, so we can sit down together, see if there is a way to balance the principle of fairness, inclusion, and also [we] can’t violate the constitutional rights of kids. 

“I’m tapped into all the parent groups who have trans kids,” Williams said. “We’ve been searching all throughout Utah high schools, looking for trans kids participating in sports. We can’t find any. It’s because trans kids are terrified of being bullied or hazed in locker rooms, bathrooms on the field.

“You’ll find most trans kids where I was in high school, which is the theatre department.”

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Equality Utah marks 20th year in Utah as director talks culture wars