(LA Blade) During her weekly press conference Feb. 17, South Dakota Republican Governor Kristi Noem was asked by a reporter her opinion of the fact that nearly 90% of the LGBTQ+ community in South Dakota reported dealing with anxiety or depression.

“I don’t know,” Noem responded. “That makes me sad, and we should figure it out.”

Critics were quick to point out that the governor’s answer was disingenuous since she had helped draft, pass, and then sign into law SB 46, which bans trans youth from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. With her signature, she became the first governor to sign discriminatory anti-transgender legislation into law in 2022.

One high-profile opposition response came in the form of a Tweet from Principal White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who wrote: “Here’s a start for you, Governor. 1. Don’t advance policies that attack trans youth, 2. Don’t fund ads attacking LGBT youth, 3. support @POTUS agenda to enhance support for youth mental health needs, with funding made available through the American Rescue Plan.”

The question to the governor was attributed to a recent report by HelpAdvisor, a health and health care coverage assistance site, that analyzed rates of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ+ people across the United States. At 87%, South Dakota had the highest rate of LGBTQ+ residents reporting those mental health conditions, compared to 63% nationally.

According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. However, LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity — including schools — reported lower rates of attempting suicide than those who did not.

A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project found that 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth—and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health. When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

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