ASUI defends transgender sanctuary resolution

“Senators, you have an obligation to make sure trans students will always have a place on this campus,” Ella Webber said.


John Keegan | Argonaut

Senator Daniel Hopovac Martinez addressing a guest speaker.

By: Royce McCandless

Immediately before the announcement of election results, ASUI engaged in a heated back-and-forth on a newly proposed “transgender sanctuary” resolution. 

“I stand here today in fierce opposition of this bill and the idea that transgenderism on this campus will be championed and promoted rather than treated,” ASUI Senate candidate Hayden Cassinelli said. “Transgenderism is a mental illness.” 

ASUI’s legislation came in response to the Idaho Legislature passing HB 71, which criminalizes gender-affirming care for minors, blocking access to puberty blockers and hormone treatments. Reasserting commitments to inclusion, ASUI’s resolution sought to ensure that the University of Idaho campus remains a “safe haven” for transgender people, as well as all the entire LGBTQ+ community. 

Discussion on the legislation was initiated by Cassinelli, who ran a campaign for the ASUI Senate as a conservative Christian candidate but was not elected.  

Cassinelli pointed to suicide rates as evidence of trans people having mental disorders. 

“The prime evidence of this fact is the suicide rate of the trans community,” Cassinelli said. “The commonly studied attempted suicide rate of transgender people is 42%.”  

Though the source of this number wasn’t made clear,  a 2018 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics reported suicide rates ranging from 50.8% amongst “female to male adolescents” to 29.9% amongst “male to female adolescents.” 

Cassinelli would then go on to invoke the Holocaust as further evidence that a transgender identity is a mental disorder. 

“Jews in Nazi Germany had an attempted suicide rate of about 25%, which is considerably lower than even the lower end of trans suicide attempt rates,” Cassinelli said. “San Francisco trans suicide rates as a whole are 32%.” 

Cassinelli explained that rejecting the premise that transgender identity was a mental disorder would lead one to believe that trans people in San Francisco faced comparatively greater oppression than Jewish people in Nazi Germany. 

“I don’t think I need to explain why that logic doesn’t check out,” Casinelli said. 

Cassinelli went on to say that taking an approach of “blind acceptance and affirmation” when it comes to transgender identity was akin to being “loving” by not working to intervene for a friend struggling with drug addiction.  

ASUI senators swiftly rebuked Cassinelli’s characterization of trans individuals. 

“Many a Vandal here at the university (are) transgender and you speaking in that way does not represent the values of ASUI,” author of the resolution, Sen. Daniel Hopovac, said. 

Sen. Nate Trachimowicz characterized Cassinelli’s comparison of transgender identity to drug addiction and invocation of the Holocaust as “appalling.” 

Director of Internal Services Ella Weber followed up Cassinelli’s statements in open forum, offering her support for the resolution.  

“Trans individuals face numerous challenges and discrimination on a daily basis including in educational settings,” Weber said. “The University of Idaho, as a respected institution of higher education, has a responsibility to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students.” 

Weber said that necessary protections include providing access to gender-neutral restrooms and allowing students to use pronouns in accordance with their gender identity. 

“Senators, you have an obligation to make sure trans students will always have a place on this campus,” Weber concluded, urging the ASUI Senate to vote in favor of the resolution. 

The resolution will be considered for a vote in next week’s ASUI meeting along with a resolution encouraging the UI Vandal Athletics Department to hire a full-time sports psychologist. 

Though transgender identity was the focus of Wednesday’s meeting ASUI also passed multiple pieces of legislation after their introduction in the prior week. 

ASUI passed a resolution in solidarity with the students at North Idaho College, as the school is at risk of losing its accreditation. 

A resolution passed, urging UI and the City of Moscow to reinstate discounted tuition for students employed as full-time first responders in Moscow  

ASUI also urged the Latah County Republican Party to withdraw its no confidence motion for District 6 Rep. Lori McCann, with the resolution expressing support for her voting record on the state legislature. 

Royce McCandless can be reached at [email protected] or Twitter @roycem_news 

This piece was published with permission from The University of Idaho Argonaut