GOP governor calls for ban on drag shows & pronouns preferences to protect “free speech”

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA - JANUARY 16, 2016: U.S. Representative Kristi Noem speaks at a Republican political rally in Iowa.
Photo: Shutterstock

South Dakota’s anti-trans Gov. Kristi Noem (R) wrote a letter to the state’s college governing board requesting that they ban drag shows from public college campuses and remove all references to “preferred pronouns” in school materials.

Noem described higher education as “in a state of crisis” and said that “many states have allowed liberal ideologies to poison their universities and colleges.”

“Once a hotbed of ideological diversity, debate, and the pursuit of truth and discovery, many institutions have become one-sided, close-minded, and focused on feelings rather than facts,” she said.

Noem also decried the fact that “students have been taught the importance of diversity and equity,” and she blamed “safe spaces” and diversity initiatives for low graduation rates and post-grad underemployment.

Noem then provided a list of requests for the board, including the banning of drag shows and the removal of pronoun preferences. Paradoxically, her list of requests also includes removing “any policy or procedure that prohibits students from exercising their right to free speech.”

Noem also announced that she established a whistleblower hotline where citizens can “report concerns at institutions of higher education” in the state.

“As I work with our Board of Regents and Board of Technical Education to chart our path for higher education, we are giving students, faculty, and parents this tool to help voice any concerns so that they can be addressed,” she said in a statement about the launch of the hotline.

Noem – widely believed to have presidential ambitions – has devoted her time as governor to terrorizing trans youth.

Last February, she signed a bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in school sports, saying she was “grateful” to be able to sign it.

Several weeks prior, Noem released a national television ad that was entirely about the upcoming transgender sports ban, saying it was “the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports.”

“In South Dakota, only girls play girls’ sports. Why? Because of Governor Kristi Noem’s leadership,” she tweeted.

In early 2023, Noem also signed a gender-affirming care ban that threatens to revoke the state licenses and certifications of any doctor who provides this care to trans youth. They can also be sued for civil damages up to three years after providing the care or until their minor patient reaches the age of 25. This allows parents to sue if they disapprove of their children’s transitions.

The law goes against the best practices outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of societal acceptance and access to gender-affirming care contribute to high rates of suicide among trans youth.

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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