Anti-trans bills are emerging across U.S. state legislatures, most of which are targeting trans youth. And when Republican lawmakers aren’t going after trans kids, governors and state agencies are filling in. For example, see Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s recent directive (more on this later).
This post will explore the GOP strategies behind these attacks, an overview of what recent legislation means, and ways we can stand up and fight back.
GOP STRATEGIES BEHIND THE ATTACK ON TRANS YOUTH
The supporters of restricting trans kids’ access to health care are the same people who favor a broader conservative agenda that is interested in privatizing how we care for one another as a society, while blaming people for their own failures to do so.
“A Promise to America’s Children” lays out a shared policy agenda that leverages a sexualized moral panic about trans kids, rooted in strategic misinformation. To gain popular support, they argue that trans kids are predatory aggressors encroaching on cisgender spaces, rather than victims of gender politics. “To protect children,” it promises, from “a culture—and sadly, a government” that want to “sexualize children for the sake of a political agenda.”
We see two main goals from the GOP in advancing this legislation.
1. Republicans are using trans people as a social and political scapegoat — a strategy they deploy with frequency. It’s a classic strategy of finding a wedge issue that motivates a political base.
“For the past 30 years, the GOP has pursued a consistent strategy: Find a misunderstood or marginalized group, convince voters that the members of that group pose an existential threat to society, and then ride to victory on the promise of using state power to crush them.” — Adam Serwer
2. These bigoted bills start with cissexism, the idea that cisgender bodies are natural and normative and trans bodies are artificial and disruptive.
Transness destabilizes and challenges society’s preconceived notions about sex and gender. It is particularly threatening to those who sit atop social and economic pyramids rooted in patriarchy. Ana Valens said, “if gender and sex are not as innately tied together as neatly as most people think, and if cisgender people recognize that they are a privileged class benefiting from an oppressive understanding of gender that stigmatizes non-cisgender bodies, then the West’s entire grasp on gender and sex has to change.” This means that far-right lawmakers, like the folks behind A Promise to America’s Children, see what’s at stake. They believe transness must be repressed because it inherently threatens the way we think about gender and sex. These bills are a reactionary response that shows they would rather have a trans child suffer than have their power questioned.
Laws + bills circulating state legislatures intended to restrict trans folk’s access to a variety of important things — whether it’s healthcare or participation in youth sports. USA Today reports approximately 280 anti-trans legislative proposals are projected for this year, up from 147 in 2021 and 79 in 2020, per the Human Rights Campaign.
Earlier this year, Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, issued an opinion statement that gender affirming care for transgender youth constitutes “child abuse.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott used that opinion to require teachers and others to report the parents of transgender youth, and he directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate such allegations. While Lambda Legal and the ACLU have filed a suit against the directive, other states are introducing similar legislation.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
Gender-affirming care is medically necessary care that can be life-saving for transgender youth. Medical decisions belong to trans youth, their parents, and their doctors. All relevant major medical organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association — say that gender-affirming care is medically necessary for transgender youth and is backed by decades of research. Major health, education, and child welfare organizations that oppose anti-LGBTQ state-based legislation released this statement in response to Governor Greg Abbott's directive:
“Medical evidence, not politics, should inform treatment decisions. The governor’s directive reflects widespread misinformation about gender-affirming care. When young children experience feelings that their gender identity does not match the sex recorded at birth, the first course of action is to support the child in exploring their gender identity and to provide mental health support, as needed.”
CALLS TO ACTION FOR ALLIES
Art by Art Twink + Forward Together +Trans Student Wellness Initiative. Please visit Forward Together’s Trans Day of Resilience page for “art that dreams beyond resilience, towards our free trans future.”
1. Educate Yourself + Learn More
“People around the country need to know how harmful these anti-trans bills and directives are. We need to lift up what’s happening so that the country understands that this is a national outrage. We need to emphasize that transgender youth are just trying to be healthy and happy. The more support from family and community the more likely they are to have awesome outcomes in life.” — Currey Cook
Where to start? The Trevor Project compiled this Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth, an introductory educational resource that covers a wide range of topics and best practices on how to support transgender and nonbinary people. The guide includes: the difference between sex and gender; basics of gender — identity, expression, and perception; forms of address that show respect (names, pronouns, honorifics); helpful tips to increase understanding; and common mistakes and what to do if you’ve made one
Some rabbit holes, courtesy of the ACLU, for you to dive into:
- Your Guide to Talking About Attacks on Trans Youth
- Transgender and Non-Binary Leaders Tell Federal Court Trans People Deserve Joy at Any Age
- The Coordinated Attack on Trans Student Athletes
- Doctors Agree: Gender-Affirming Care is Life-Saving Care
- Five Things to Know About Gender-Affirming Health Care
- Trans in America Documentary Series
2. Support & Follow These Organizations
- ACLU and ACLU Texas — they fight nationally and on a state-level to secure the full exercise of everyone’s civil rights and liberties
- Black Trans Texas Connection — is a grassroots organization working toward the liberation of Black LGBTQIA+ folks.
- Black Trans Travel Fund — a grassroots, Black Trans led Collective, providing Black transgender women with financial and material resources needed to remove barriers to self-determining and accessing safer travel options
- Campaign for Southern Equality — providing some rapid resource response and financial support to families
- Equality Texas — works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration
- Lambda Legal — Youth in Out-of-Home Care — advocates on behalf of LGBTQ+ youth in child welfare, juvenile justice, and homeless systems of care for youth experiencing homelessness
- StepUp - The Trans Formations Project — a small, grassroots 501(c)(4) nonprofit dedicated to tracking and educating about the anti-trans legislative crisis currently sweeping the country
- Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid — has attorneys who represent parents who are involved with DFPS cases or subject to investigation
- The Knights and Orchids Society Inc. — based in Alabama, they provide affirming STD/STI testing, reproductive care, and Trans-Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) care. They also provide behavioral support services and direct support assistance in a financial or housing crisis.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality — a trans-led organziation that works to advance the rights of the trans community through advocacy and empowerment. They’re devoted to ending discrimination and violence against transgender people through education and policy change.
- Trans Justice Funding Project — a community-led funding initiative to support grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people. You can see their grantee list for more local organizations.
- Trans Student Educational Resource — a youth-led organization that works to transform the educational system for transgender and gender-nonconforming students. They offer advocacy workshops for young people and teacher trainings led by youth.
- Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) — dedicated to furthering gender diverse equality in Texas through education and networking in both public and private forums.
- Transgender Law Center — works to challenge and change policies and laws to allow the trans community to live safer, authentic lives
3. Call Your Reps
Check what legislation is happening in your state with this legislation tracker. Then call your legislator, governor’s office, or any elected official and detail your opposition.
1. Call* your goddamn state and local electeds. Tell them you are fucking WATCHING them. That you demand that they support trans people and their families. That you care and you vote and you are WATCHING THEM.— Sigrid Ellis (@sigridellis) March 8, 2022
* If you cannot call, email, use a webform, or use Resistbot to text.
For some quick links:
- Tell Elected Officials: Stop Targeting LGBTQ+ Youth NOW! — this HRC resource will follow-up with additional actions whenever bills affecting the LGBTQ+ community move in your state legislature.
- Text the word Texas to 472-472 to call Greg Abbott and remind him that providing children life-saving, medically necessary healthcare is not child abuse - it’s parenting at its best. (via Resources for Transgender Youth in Texas)
- Send a message to the DFPS Commissioner that gender-affirming care is lifesaving and does not constitute “child abuse”
4. Share Resources
- Resources for Transgender Youth in Texas — This site is compiled by ACLU Texas, Lambda Legal, Equality Texas, and TENT. It includes this comprehensive toolkit: Free to Be Me: A Toolkit to Protect LGBTQIA+ Students’ Rights
- Know Your Rights Resource — What you should know if you’re living in foster care, a group home, or juvenile justice facility
- Direct Service Providers for LGBTQIA Youth — This resource is Google Doc compiled by Lambda Legal that organizes resources by State.
- Trans in the South: A Directory of Trans-Affirming Health & Legal Service Providers
- LGBTQIA+ hotlines:
- Trans Lifeline — (877)565-8860: The Trans Lifeline is a suicide hotline staffed by transgender people, for transgender people. A $25 donation funds one day's worth of calls for the all-volunteer line.
- LGBTQ+ National Suicide Prevention Hotline — (800)273-8255
- Trevor Project Lifeline — (866)488-7386, Text: START to 678678, and Online chat also available
5. Affirm Parents of Trans Kids
There are incredible parents that are fighting to give their kids an opportunity for self actualization. Affirm parents and share these resources: Parents of Trans Youth and Resources for Parents of Texas Trans Youth
6. Share Your Support
Text HEART to 472-472 to share a public message of support for trans youth and show you’re fighting for them. (Please note that message and data rates may apply.)
Show your support on social media and use the hashtag #ProtectTransKids
7. Wear Your Support