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South Dakota’s cruel governor Kristi Noem has no idea why LGBT+ people might be depressed

Maggie Baska February 18, 2022
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South Dakota governor Kristi Noem wears a red outfits as she stands at a podium

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference on 27 February 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Getty/Joe Raedle)

Governor Kristi Noem, who has supported legislation targeting trans kids, is confused why so many LGBT+ people in South Dakota are living with depression.

The Republican governor was recently questioned at a press conference about her thoughts on a damning statistic that nearly 90 per cent of her state’s LGBT+ community had been diagnosed with “either anxiety or depression”.

Without missing a beat, Noem told the reporter who confronted her with the information that she was seemingly unaware of the high numbers of people dealing with mental health issues in her state.

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

It would appear that the figure might originate from a recent report by HelpAdvisor, a healthcare coverage assistance group. The report analysed US Census Bureau data, captured between December 2021 and January, on depression among LGBT+ Americans.

According to the report, South Dakota had the highest rates of depression among LGBT+ residents at 87 per cent, compared to roughly 63 per cent nationally.

In South Dakota, 49 per cent of LGBT+ people experienced feelings of depression “nearly every day” in the last two weeks, the highest of all the states in the report.

Several people on Twitter pointed out that Kristi Noem should know why there are startling high rates of depression among South Dakota’s LGBT+ community.

The Human Rights Campaign put it in the simplest terms: “If you’re looking for a reason why LGBTQ+ youth are struggling in South Dakota, look in the mirror.”

Earlier this month, Noem signed into a law banning trans girls and women from playing in sports leagues that align with their gender identity.

Her signature on the reviled legislation made South Dakota the first state to pass a trans athlete ban into law in 2022.

In January, she released a national advert to promote the anti-trans bill that would go on to prohibit trans student-athletes in sports. It also promoted Noem’s 2022 re-election campaign.

The 30-second ad, which didn’t directly mention trans people, claimed that Noem’s leadership meant that “only girls play girls’ sports” in the states. It also declared that Noem’s “steady, conservative leadership doesn’t win headlines” but allegedly “wins results”.

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem stares at the camera while wearing a baseball cap
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem speaks to reporters after riding in the Legends Ride for charity on 9 August 2021 near Sturgis, South Dakota. (Getty/Scott Olson)

The Trevor Project, a US-based suicide prevention organisation for LGBT+ youth, released research in January on the impact of politics on the mental health of queer youth.

The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, revealed that 85 per cent of trans and non-binary youth – and 66 per cent of all LGBT+ youth – said that debates around anti-trans bills have had a negative impact on their mental health.

Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of trans and non-binary young people said policies that ban transgender student-athletes participation in school sports teams made them feel angry.

Over half (57 per cent) said they felt sad because of such legislation while 43 per cent felt stressed.

More: Kristi Noem, mental health, south dakota

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