What impact does transgender bills in South Dakota legislature have on youth?

Sioux Falls, S.D. - It’s been a busy legislative session for lawmakers as they decide on a number of bills.

A handful of those have to deal with South Dakota’s transgender youth.

“All a kid wants to do is belong,” New Idea counseling mental health counselor Anne Dilenschneider said.

Every year dozens of bills are introduced in the South Dakota legislature. This year a select few are standing out, those geared toward transgender youth in South Dakota.

“This year there’s been so many bills that it’s very disconcerting and distressing to the people that are affected by it,” Dilenschneider said.

That includes two bills, one in the senate and one in the house which both have to deal with transgender youth in athletics.

Senator Jim Bolin introduced the bill which ended up failing in the senate.

“Individuals who made this claim concerning their gender status were allowed to compete in girls athletics,” Bolin said. “People who were classified as boys on their birth certificates were allowed to compete in girls’ sports and I think we should have a concern about that. I don’t think that’s fair competition.”

Anne Dilenschneider is a licensed mental health counselor in Sioux Falls.

She said transgender individuals have to deal with telling family, friends, and those in school on top of transitioning.

“When kids are feeling like they don’t belong then the suicide rates go up and the suicidal ideation, which is the suicidal thoughts, go up,” Dilenschneider said. “This group of kids has a really high rate of suicide attempts.”

The ACLU of South Dakota said each time an “anti-trans bill” is introduced, they are flooded with calls from scared kids and their families.

Dilenschneider said so is she.

“When these bills keep coming up, the kids keep hearing this in the news, the level of distress goes up for the kids and their families,” Dilenschneider said. “We don’t need more suicides in South Dakota. What we need to do is say hey we need to understand. We need to educate ourselves.”

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide you can reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

You can also call the 211 helpline center.