By Gabby Cushman
The harm these bills would cause the trans community could be catastrophic
As a trans ally and member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I’m growing ever concerned about the current political climate surrounding queer and trans issues. Much progress has been made in recent years to support LGBTQ+ people in living their lives openly without fear of discrimination and hate. However, it’s still evident now as much as ever that we have a long way to go.
On March 3rd, at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), many speakers took aim at the LGBTQ+ community with a barrage of cruel jokes and vows to back discriminatory legislation. Trans youth were specifically targeted, with calls for a national ban on transgender medical treatment for young people, bills that would criminalize doctors for providing gender-affirming care to minors, and one political commentator proclaiming that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
And these aren’t vague threats. In 2023 so far, we’ve seen 487 anti-trans bills introduced in 46 states, with 19 already passed and 425 still active. That’s a record-breaking increase from 2022, with only 174 bills introduced during the whole year and 26 passing. Transphobic beliefs will continue to be pushed as the upcoming election cycle draws nearer, which is why we need to be talking about this issue now.
Anti-trans rhetoric has been on the rise in recent years
During the last few years, we have seen a sharp increase in hate and violence directed toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. In 2021, a record number of 50 fatalities were reported, with 2022 having 38 reports of fatal acts of violence against trans people. For both years, the majority of the victims were BIPOC.
This increase in violence can be attributed to a rise in transphobic rhetoric in online and offline spaces. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s 2021 Online Hate and Harassment report, 64% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported experiencing online harassment, a much higher rate than respondents of other demographics. Some of this harassment included physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment, and doxing (using sensitive information to harass or exploit someone online). Offline, lawmakers' language while pushing for anti-trans legislation sends a dangerous message that outdated and inaccurate gender binaries should be enforced and those outside the binary are “confused” or “mentally ill.”
What anti-trans legislation is being discussed/passed?
The bills being considered right now cover a wide variety of issues, mainly affecting transgender youth. There have been attacks on gender-affirming care, education on gender-related topics, trans youth participating in athletics, proper identifiers on birth certificates and IDs, and more. The majority of legislation seems to be tackling healthcare and providers who offer gender-affirming care to minors. In Wyoming, a bill being considered would find a person guilty of child abuse for “intentionally inflicting upon a child under the age of 18 years any procedure, drug…to intentionally or knowingly change the sex of the child.” A ban in Arizona seeks to remove books from schools that “promote gender fluidity or gender pronouns.” And in Oklahoma, physicians or other healthcare professionals could face felony charges for “knowingly referring or providing gender transition procedures to an individual under 26 years of age.”
This issue isn’t exclusive to the state level, either. National anti-trans legislation emerged in 2023 as well. One is called the “Women’s Bill of Rights”, which would erase trans recognition by the federal government and defines sex assigned at birth as an unchanging signifier of someone being a man or woman. There’s also the “My Child, My Choice Act”, which asks that teachers obtain written parental consent before teaching lessons about gender identity, sexual orientation, or transgender studies.
Why we need to speak up about trans issues
Transgender youth make up 1.4% of the U.S. population, while transgender adults make up 0.5%. The trans community is a small group of people compared to the percentage of people in the United States who are cisgender, and they don’t have a large platform to defend themselves against this onslaught of discriminatory legislation outside of select online spaces. That’s why it’s so crucial that cisgender people use their privilege to amplify trans voices and condemn the hateful rhetoric being spread.
The Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Mental Health reported that 21% of trans and nonbinary youth have attempted suicide, and 52% have seriously considered it. Though this is alarming, research shows that when people in their lives consistently use their proper names and pronouns and when they have access to gender-affirming care, suicidal ideation among trans youth decreases. These are exactly the things that current anti-trans legislation is attempting to block, which could cause a mental health crisis for transgender and nonbinary youth. Speaking out against these bills and taking action to prevent them from passing could save lives.
As allies, we must do our part in researching and discussing trans issues. Teaching our little ones to respect and understand different gender identities can make a world of difference for their trans and gender non-conforming peers. The next couple of years will be crucial for LGBTQ+ rights, and we want to do everything in our power to make sure we’re moving forwards and not backward.
To join our community of changemakers bringing social justice education to kids everywhere, sign up for the LJL newsletter here.
Thank you for this article. Going to share it with teachers at my school!