The Rainbow Squad Program is a monthly program for LGBTQ+ youth and allies to connect and participate in non-academic activities at the Post Falls library. (Courtesy of Denise Neujahr)
A bright ray of love and compassion has just broken through the ugly cloud of misinformation about transgender kids that was created in the just-concluded legislative session. At a time when extremist legislators, particularly from the northern climes of the state, seemed hell-bent on punishing these kids, a courageous panhandle librarian was selected for a national award for supporting LGBTQ+ teens, despite backlash from some in her community.
Denise Neujahr, a librarian at the Community Library Network based in Post Falls and Hayden, will receive the American Library Association’s “Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity” in June. The award is for the Rainbow Squad Program she initiated in 2019 to bring LGBTQ+ kids and their allies together on a monthly basis to interact in a non-threatening atmosphere. Neujahr said the program lets the kids “be themselves without any judgment or bullying, which they experience daily at school, church or home.”
Neujahr’s work is important because of the hysteria raised about transgender youth by some legislative troublemakers this year. Transgender-bashing has become the foremost national culture war issue this year, designed primarily to stoke fear and score political points. In spite of the fact that nobody has been able to point to evidence of a transgender problem in Idaho, legislative miscreants targeted this bullied minority, causing untold grief and dread for them and their families. And it is not as if these kids did not already have more than enough derision, severe depression and suicidal ideation to deal with before the legislators piled on.
Legislators who have claimed to be dead set against the government meddling in family medical decisions could not wait to prohibit families with trans kids from getting the gender affirming medical care prescribed by their doctors. In fact, the Legislature provided in House Bill 71 that those doctors could spend up to 10 years in prison for providing that care. That will certainly give more doctors a good reason to move out of state, making it more difficult for even the extremists to find a doctor.
Dorothy Moon, the head of the extremist branch of the Idaho GOP, appears to believe that people choose to be in the LGBTQ+ community, speaking of the “LGBTQ+ ideology.” It is not a choice, and it is not an ideology. Rather, according to medical experts, it is biology with an element of genetics. As one expert put it, “The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades.” Gender identity “comes from the brain, not the body.”
Moon claims that doctors must be prevented from providing gender affirming care because it is harmful to children. Mainstream doctors in Idaho and across the country say that is flat wrong and attest that gender affirming treatment is essential to the well-being of transgender kids. Indeed, one recent study showed 60% less depression and 73% less suicidality in kids who received such care.
HB 71 will be challenged in court and likely be declared unconstitutional. The state will be stuck with paying substantial attorney fees for both sides. The proponents of the legislation probably knew this would be the result but decided that point scoring with their base was more important, even if it caused immense fear and heartache for transgender kids and their families.
In this combative atmosphere, where facts have played little part in the war against transgender kids, it is encouraging to see people like Denise Neujahr standing up for an oppressed minority group and extending a hand of compassion and inclusion. Despite the ugliness emanating from the Legislature, decency is still alive and well in the Gem State.
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