A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature on Monday would train social workers and foster parents to refer to foster children by their preferred pronouns and gender identity.
Assembly Bill 99, sponsored by Las Vegas Assemblyman Nelson Araujo (D), would require two-hour mandatory training for workers and foster parents on accommodating LGBTQ minors’ gender identity, pronouns, and preferred clothing.
“This would be a requirement for everyone in contact with LGBTQ youth, whether it’s directly or indirectly,” Assemblyman Araujo explained to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “So people know how to respond if they encounter a 6-year-old who identifies as male even though their gender marker (at birth) might be female.”
The bill also requires the Division of Child and Family Services to better handle LGBTQ-related reports, according to Children’s Advocacy Alliance executive director Denise Tanata.
“When we were talking to the youth, often times they feel the people who they were supposed to talk to were often the people they felt discriminated against,” Tanata told the Journal. “They tell us they don’t know who they can talk to or often have hard times getting hold of the right person.”
Transgender foster children’s experiences lie at the heart of the bill. If passed, foster parents would be trained to treat and gender trans children based on trans children’s presenting gender identity.
Tristan Torres, a 19-year-old trans activist, testified in support of the bill on Monday. He explained that his foster mother repeatedly misgendered him, blamed his transitioning for being bullied, and prevented him from spending time with her children, the Las Vegas Sun News reports. As a result, Torres contemplated suicide.
Now out of the foster system, Torres hopes that passing the bill will help LGBTQ minors feel protected and heard on a state level.
“We have to show through this bill’s passage that that we know [LGBTQ foster children] exist and we want to help them,” Torres said.
The Nevada state government had previously sponsored and discussed legislation to support LGBTQ youth. In 2015, the Nevada Legislature passed an anti-bullying initiative, protecting Nevada students from harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law was applauded by such LGBTQ organizations as the Human Rights Campaign and GLSEN.
But Assembly Bill 99 would focus specifically on protections for LGBTQ youth across the foster system. Which, according to Araujo, are largely missing from Nevada laws.
“Nevada does have comprehensive discrimination laws but they do not specifically address child welfare,” Araujo explained in committee. “[Foster children] face discrimination, neglect, and abuse from the very institutions meant to protect them. This is why today we are here to discuss AB99.”