Mayfield: We need to shed our tribal bloodlust and start listening again

Apr 21, 2023, 7:54 AM


FILE - Zooey Zephyr, right, attends a legislative training session at the state Capitol in Helena, Mont., on Nov. 16, 2022. Zephyr, who is one of the first two transgender candidates elected to the Montana Legislature, was intentionally misgendered on April 18, 2023, in a demand by the Montana Freedom Caucus that the state House censure her for comments she made on the House floor about a bill to ban transgender medical care for children. (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

(Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP, File)

It’s the kind of expertise voters elect their leaders to use. It is not only an intensely lived experience but deeply researched and studied as well.

So with that breadth of expertise, why is Rep. Zooey Zephyr not even being allowed to speak while her colleagues debate a bill about the very subject she literally has lived since birth?

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Because she is trans and she has the tenacity to tell other lawmakers in the Montana State legislature that their actions will harm or possibly kill other trans people.

Montana’s Republican-controlled legislature is debating a bill restricting the kind of medical care a parent can help their trans child get in that state.

Rep. Zephyr, a first-term Democrat from Missoula, spoke on the house floor earlier this week and said supporters of such a bill would have “blood on their hands.”

Opponents reacted instantly, but not to ask her about her own lived experience as a trans woman in a rural state or about the reams of studies and medical expert opinions showing the increased risk of suicide, self-harm, and violence trans youth and adults face.

No, those opponents reacted by calling her hateful. Well, technically, they misgendered her first — a truly hateful act where they call her a him on purpose out of spite — then said her testimony was hate-filled, and finally, the speaker of the house announced she could no longer speak on bills on the floor until she apologized.

What kind of Orwellian timeline are we in?!

The speaker says all Zephyr has to do is apologize, but then what? Do they keep on ignoring her genuine expertise? Keep aiming hate-filled invectives at her?

Which leads me back to a place I find myself constantly these days; why can’t we just start listening to and hearing each other?

Why can’t these lawmakers shed their tribal bloodlust and sit across from each other and see each other as a human with experience, emotion, and expertise? Why can’t they step out of the marching orders and talking points and think about the humans who elected them? Even when they sincerely disagree on the merit of a bill, can’t they still be willing to hear the other side speak?

Instead, we are moving into a world where not only do we refuse to listen, but now we refuse to even let others speak.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Mayfield: We need to shed our tribal bloodlust and start listening again