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In 2016, then-North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed into law HB2, a bill that would force transgender North Carolinians to use the bathroom of the gender they were assigned at birth rather than the one with which they identify. Thankfully, Governor McCrory lost a tight race in 2016 to now-Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who repealed the bill, but Republicans and a small handful of Democrats (such as Cezar McKnight of South Carolina and Harold Dutton of Texas, both of whom deserve to lose to primary challengers) all around the country are trying to restrict the rights of trans people. Fortunately, there has not yet been a successful bathroom bill since the North Carolina law was repealed as of Apr. 12, 2022, but bills that would discriminate against trans people, especially youth, in bathrooms, sports, education and healthcare have been introduced and/or passed in many states. One hundred seventeen anti-trans bills were introduced in state houses in 2021, up 51 from 2020. In the same year, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and South Dakota banned trans people from playing on sports teams that don’t correspond with the gender they’re assigned at birth, and Arkansas banned gender-affirming health care.
2022 has gotten off to a bad start for the trans community. Nearly two hundred forty hateful bills have been filed so far this year; in comparison, 41 anti-trans bills were filed in 2018. Although anti-trans legislation makes up the bulk of these bills, cisgender queer people are also targeted. Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the state Child Protective Services to remove trans children from the families of parents that support them. Bills that ban transgender youth from competing on the sports teams that correspond with their gender identities, ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, restrict bathroom access and force the state to misgender transgender people have been introduced in most states. South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma and Utah enacted legislation against trans youth in sports, with state legislators in Utah overriding Governor Spencer Cox’s veto. Thankfully, in most of these states, the legislation is not in effect, but the message it sends is intimidating and hateful to trans people and their families.
It’s not just legislation. Conservative politicians have become more openly hateful towards the trans community in recent years, directly fueling the rise in hate crimes. Hateful state legislatures have decided to attack the trans community rhetorically as well as legislatively. On March 17, 14-year-old Avery Jackson testified in the Missouri State Legislature about an anti-trans bill being considered. State Senator Elaine Gannon chose to ask this 14-year-old if they had “gone through the procedure.” It should go without saying that it’s not appropriate to ask strangers about their genitals, especially a child. On March 29, on the floor of the Nebraska State Legislature, Senator Bruce Bostelman claimed that schools are providing litter boxes as bathroom alternatives for students who “identify as cats.” This is hateful and false. I don’t think I need to explain why. On March 25, former Mississippi State Representative Robert Foster, a man who refuses to interact with women in professional settings, accused transgender allies of “grooming” minors into being transgender and called for the execution of adults who support trans kids. This is a direct incitement of violence, which is a crime.
These bills are hateful, discriminatory and illogical. If it’s already illegal to sexually assault someone, which it is, a law preventing a rapist from entering the bathroom isn’t going to stop them, and criminalizing transgender-affirming care isn’t going to stop those children from wanting to transition. The point isn’t to prevent sexual assault or protect children from parents “forcing” treatments on them. The only purpose of this hate is to rile up their base. It’s no longer a political asset to be openly hateful to gay people, so transgender people have become the new target, similar to the way that Donald Trump fearmongered about Muslims and Mexicans to get elected. When politicians like Abbott, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (who should be careful who he accuses of violating state law) and Idaho Governor Brad Little, criminalize trans kids, the harm it does to these families is unfathomable.
The truth is that these people don’t care one way or the other about transgender people. Much like the reelection campaign of George W. Bush in 2004, these Republicans are using trans people to rile up a voter base they see as hateful and easily brainwashed. It’s unacceptable, and those who do it are shamelessly lying to rile up their base. Trans rights and trans families are worth fighting for, and there’s no better time to take up that fight.