Residents react to legislators' negative comments about transgender people

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - The Legislative Coffee in Sioux Falls is a way for area legislators to connect with residents and give updates on the session.
Saturday morning's breakfast took a quick turn from inquisitive to insulting after constituents brought up the transgender bathroom bill.

“There was an audible gasp in the crowd. It was offensive and appalling,” Minnehaha County Democrats Chair, Heather Halverson said.

She says legislators reaching out to community members backfired Saturday morning at the Holiday Inn when local law makers expressed their views on transgender people.

One senator was talking about trans students when he said, “I'm sorry you're so twisted you don’t know who you are.”
Kendra Heathscott, a transgender woman and a member of the Center for Equality says statements like this are ignorant.

“We know for a fact that transgender people, it's not a mental illness, if that, they may be struggling with depression because of comments that are made like that,” she said.

She says promoting this kind of thinking can be dangerous.

“I think that the comment the legislators made this morning just promotes more bullying, it promotes more misinformation. It doesn’t teach people the correct things and how trans people want to identified, and how they want to be talked about and how they want to be discussed,” she explained.

Transgender bathroom bill co-sponsor, Ernie Otten attended the meeting this morning and had this to say about the comments:

“Dave is just a very passionate man, so you'd have to ask him on that there, i try to keep things a little more mellow,” he explained.

He says HB 1008 is not meant to target transgender kids, but ensure modesty.

“I still remember the first time in high school when I had to disrobe in front of a group of guys and it was a little disconcerting. How would you feel walking into any sort of facility that you want in the state of South Dakota and you had to use the bathroom and there is a guy in there,” he asked.

Even though Otten says the bill isn't targeting transgender people, members of the ACLU say it promotes negative stigmas.
HB 1008 is one of a series of bills that the ACLU is lobbying against that the organization says violates rights of members of the LGBT community.