Week 34: April 12, 2021
As of March 13th – only three months into 2021– 82 anti-trans bills have been introduced, the most ever in US History. Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been on the rise ever since the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, and as same-sex marriage becomes more accepted, there has been a general shift towards targeting trans people.
Although anti-trans laws are relatively unpopular among republican voters, some conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation are pushing state legislatures on the issue, forcing through bills that target trans youth. Where the rights of Trans adults have become more protected and garnered increasing cultural and institutional support, the rights of trans youth are not established in the same ways. As a result, many anti-trans politicians have turned to targeting transgender minors under the guise of ensuring child safety. These arguments claim that trans youth pose a threat to other children and that allowing gender affirming treatments for children can result in forced transitions and child abuse. However, there is no evidence for these claims as many of the states trying to pass this legislation have not had a single incident which could be used to support the passage of these bills. Additionally, organizations such as the ACLU are working to challenge these laws in court (although there is some concern in potential rulings by the Supreme Court).
There are two main categories of anti-trans bills right now: those that restrict access to gender affirming healthcare for transgender youth, and those that aim to ban the participation of transgender athletes on girls teams. Earlier this month, Arkansas became the first state to pass a ban targeting treatment for transgender youth with HB 1570. The bill, titled the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) act,” was passed only after the Republican controlled legislature voted to override Gov. Hutchinson’s veto. The Republican Governor, who went against party lines to veto the bill, said that the legislature had gone, “a step way too far” and that “[they] did not want to interrupt treatment that the parents had agreed to, the patient had agreed to, and the physician recommended.” (www.npr.org) Fifteen other states are considering similar laws that will prevent, or at least heavily restrict, gender affirming health care.
While governor Hutchinson viewed the SAFE act as government overreach, he is in favor of certain transgender restrictions. He signed into law a bill that bans the participation of transgender athletes in girls sport’s teams at all levels of education and also includes intermural and club teams. This makes Arkansas the second state restricting transgender athletes in sports and among 25 states considering such action. Ensuring that girls and women have access to competitive and equitable sports is vital, however, this priority must also extend to transgender athletes. Studies have shown that participating in organized youth sports leads to better academics, self-esteem, problem-solving skills, and stress relief, not to mention the physical benefits. There is no evidence that transgender athletes participating in sports will result in an unfair playing field, however, the impact of restricting access to sports is clear.
Anti-trans bills can have lasting ramifications on the health and wellbeing of transgender youth. Trans minors, who already experience increased rates of suicide, anxiety, and depression, can benefit greatly from environments which affirm their gender identities. Gender affirming surgeries and treatments for example, have been shown to decrease rates of suicidal thoughts and actions, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, in a country where trans people face disproportionate risks of violence and abuse, legislation which acts to deny their identity helps perpetuate a culture of intolerance.
While the rise of anti-trans legislation is frustrating and frightening, there is a lot of hope in the increasing acceptance of the community. Biden’s administration has made equality a focus and is pushing for the passage of the Equality Rights act which would provide unprecedented “anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.” (www.hrc.org). If you are interested in taking action to support the Equality Rights act, go here.