During the past several years, we have witnessed a huge wave of recognition and acceptance of transgender people. Large movements and organizations have formed to address issues trans people face and to spread awareness and education on these issues, building on the historical legacy of trans resistance and activism dating back to the Stonewall revolt and Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of the 1960s. However, this increased visibility has been accompanied by an intense backlash from the right-wing media and government. Just three months into 2023, we have seen the highest number of bills attacking trans rights to date. More than 425 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been brought before state and national legislatures in 2023 alone and are being passed in rapid succession across all areas of the country.
These laws will result only in pain for the LGBTQ+ community — and lives are also on the line. Bills have been introduced that would prohibit trans youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare. Forty-three bills are waiting to be passed that will deny LGBTQ+ people vital services, including access to domestic violence and homeless shelters. Several bills have gone so far as to prohibit grown adults from transitioning. It’s clear that these laws, despite being presented as protecting the rights of women and children, are just all-out attacks on them, and will also disproportionately impact People of Color and people with financial hardship who are already victimized by state-sanctioned violence.
These highly restrictive laws are still not enough for our political leaders; calls for “transgenderism [to] be eradicated from public life entirely” were made at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference — to raucous applause from the audience.
This is not some far-off problem we have the privilege to ignore. Washington is a historical defender of LGBTQ+ rights, and right now, a bill is in committee that would ban those under the age of 18 from accessing gender-affirming care under the guise of “protecting children’s bodies.” A similar bill in Idaho, HB 71, has just passed through the senate and house, making it a felony punishable by up to a decade in prison to provide youth with gender-affirming healthcare.
Elizabeth Callahan, a trans woman from Idaho, described this movement:
[This legislation is] misguided at best, and at worst, genocidal in its intention. These bills are supported by, lobbied for, and even voted for by state legislators who align with movements that target the legal, social, and physical safety of a historically marginalized and vulnerable minority, and they do this by attacking the rights of children first. In pushing this legislation, they deprive the rights of their citizens to lifesaving medical care, effectively forcing transgender Americans who need access to it to flee the state. In the case of trans children or trans people living in poverty (transgender people are roughly twice as likely to live in poverty than cisgender people), options in moving to states not actively discriminating against them become dramatically more limited, leading to hopelessness, depression, wasted years, and even suicide. I miss my home state of Idaho every single day. I miss it with all my heart. But I can’t go back because of who I am.
It’s vital that we connect these assaults on trans rights with those on abortion access and privacy. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the right-wing was granted a huge victory as they seek to control the decisions we can make in our personal lives. Only an organized opposition to these assaults on our bodily autonomy will allow ordinary people of all gender identities to be free. We must build a militant mass movement as we resist these laws, defend trans lives, and fight to build a better world.
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