This year on pace to see record anti-transgender bills passed by states, says Human Rights Campaign

This year is set to see more legislation targeting transgender youth than any previous year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

One area of ​​contention stems from the growing prevalence of teaching about gender identity in schools and the recent rise of so-called “parental rights” measures that would prevent any classroom discussion of gender in classrooms or ban gender identity books from school libraries.

Other measures challenge LGBTQ+ participation in high school and college competitive sports — 140 of the proposed bills would deny them medical care for gender transitions and place limits on the restrooms they can use. In total, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were proposed in 2022, according to the advocacy group’s tracker.

“It’s something that’s been built over the last three years,” said Kate Oakley, the organization’s legislative director and senior counsel. “We are well on our way to surpassing last year’s 150 [pieces of legislation] record.”

Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, said educational gag orders in state legislatures have already affected trans students, whether they were successful or not. The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ+ youth.

“Some of our research has shown that up to 85% of trans youth say they watch these debates about their identity unfold,” Ames said. “The direct results of these bills when passed are to remove things that we know are correlated with increased mental health and reduced risk of suicide: participating in a sports team, seeing each other depicted in a classroom, being accepted by parents and healthcare professionals. These are all associated with significantly lower odds of attempting suicide.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. And for transgender and non-binary youth, that number jumped to 52%.

The politicians show a tendency in Republican legislatures to push what they see as an animation issue for their base, in the face of outrage from LGBTQ+ groups and vetoes from some Republican governors.

Legislation that bars trans youth from participating in sports has been introduced in at least 30 states this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Bans have been put in place in at least four states: Arizona, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah. The governor of Tennessee has a similar bill awaiting signature on his desk.

But some Republican governors have also rejected the bans, worried about the effect of excluding trans youth. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican, vetoed a bill that would ban trans participation in school sports. Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has vetoed a bill that would limit the participation of trans student athletes, citing an increase in suicides among trans youth and the small number of trans athletes as part of his reasoning.

“I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do,” Cox said in a statement. “But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can significantly reduce suicidal tendencies.”

He was unable to stop the bill from becoming law — the Utah legislature overruled Cox’s veto, and Indiana is expected to do the same.

Alabama has passed the most “anti-transgender” legislative package in history, Oakley said.

His main bill, “The Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act,” prohibits the use of puberty blockers or any medical procedures for under-19s related to gender reassignment. The bill also requires teachers and school employees to inform parents if “a student’s perception of his or her gender or sex matches the sex of the minor.”

The bill makes it a crime – with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years – for a doctor to perform surgery or prescribe medication for gender transition.

“It is not permissible for a legislature or a governor to make a law that discriminates against a very small group, a very vulnerable group of people, just because they don’t like them,” Oakley said, referring to the HRC’s legal challenge to the Alabama bill. “It is a violation of the equal protection of the law.”

Bills that restrict health care for trans youth, similar to those in Alabama, have been introduced in at least 19 states, according to the ACLU. The Arkansas Legislature passed a similar law in 2021, but it was reversed by a federal court.

“Our job is to teach students and make them feel welcome,” Andy Jackson, 2021 Alabama Teacher of the Year, told CBS News.

“As individuals transition and choose a name that works for them, whether I agree with their transition or not, my job as a teacher is to support and validate who they are,” said Jackson, a National Board-certified instructor who teaches fourth grade in Pell City, Alabama.

John Wahl, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, defended the bills passed in Alabama as necessary “protection” for children and a “positive reinforcement of family values”. He criticized an education system that teaches sex education “from younger and younger” and framed the debate as one about “parents’ rights” to their child’s education.

“I think parents all over the country want our kids to stay kids,” he said. “There are genders, whether we want to admit it or not. There are men and there are women, and we can stick our heads in the sand all we want, but there are a lot of people who know that’s common sense. They know there’s men and women, they know there’s gender roles, and they’re not just going to sit here and have that redefine from this natural law.”

Asked if it would have harmed Alabama Governor Kay Ivey politically in her primary race if she hadn’t signed the bill, Wahl replied, “It certainly would have. ” Ivey is challenged on the right by Lindy Blanchard, a former ambassador to Slovenia backed by former President Trump.

“I think the vast majority of Republicans are with the Republican Party on this issue,” Wahl said. “Also, I think there are a lot of independents, and even a lot of Democrats who understand that. It’s a matter of common sense.”

A March PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that 38% of Republican adults support the criminalization of gender-transitional medical care for minors. That number jumps to 42% among those who voted for Trump in 2020.

Another bill passed by Alabama includes language similar to Florida’s controversial ‘parental rights in education’ bill, which prohibits classroom teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity. kindergarten through third grade, or in older grades in a way that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate”.

Wahl argued, “There’s this idea that you push this on younger and younger kids, when they’re not really mentally ready. And I think that’s a tragedy. I think most kids see that [issue] more in the media than in state legislatures. »

Public debates are taking their toll on students like Codi Rasor, a 17-year-old from Montgomery County High School in Kentucky, who identifies as gender fluid, a designation that falls under the trans umbrella.

“It’s scary,” Rasor said. “With these bills passed, we may not be able to have a safe space in a classroom or in a school system.”

Last week, Kentucky’s Republican majority overruled Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the Women’s Sports Equity Act. While that may come as no surprise to Rasor, the president of their school’s Gender Sexuality Alliance, Rasor thinks Kentucky’s anti-trans sports bill is a no-start.

“Transgender women are women,” Rasor said. “Essentially, that’s what it boils down to – is that a transgender woman or a transgender man is their gender.”

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