With antitransgender legislation on the rise, it’s on each of us to support transgender lives
On March 31, 2021, President Joe Biden released a proclamation on International Transgender Day of Visibility calling for the celebration of transgender individuals and advocating for the continued break down of systematic barriers faced by the LGBTQ+ community. The statement, in stark contrast to the actions of the previous administration, was the first time a sitting president has officially recognized the holiday since it was established in 2009.
While President Biden has passed several executive orders in the first few months of his presidency acknowledging and protecting the rights of transgender people, many state legislatures have promptly done the opposite. This year alone, a record number of 117 pieces of antitransgender legislation have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, nearly double the 66 introduced in 2020 and over six times as many from the 19 introduced in 2019.
The bills largely focus on either locker room and bathroom bans or youth sports bans, and often more specifically on the participation of transgender women in women’s sports. These bills are rooted in blatant sexism and transphobia, as seen both in the title and content of Arkansas’ “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” and they send a dangerous message to transgender youth that their identity is not recognized or valued.
Most of these bills operate on the notion that biological differences based on sexes as assigned at birth are foundational for the division of sports, claiming that “chromosomal and hormonal differences” would provide transgender women an advantage in female competitions. Not only do these claims ignore a transgender person’s right to live by their gender identity and the psychological harm that may be caused by not doing so, they also perpetuate the sexist stereotype that women need to be protected in order to be successful.
While the topic of hormonal levels for transgender individuals in sports remains highly debated, there are few examples—which are contested—that lawmakers use of transgender women performing better because of their sex assigned at birth. Lawmakers and sponsors of these bills have framed them as being “proactive” in preventing future unfairness—a roundabout way of saying they’ve invented an unsubstantiated issue to encourage discrimination against a marginalized group of people. When the Associated Press reached out to two dozen lawmakers sponsoring these transgender sports bans, only a few could name an instance when transgender people competing in sports has raised any controversy.
Twenty-nine of the 117 antitransgender legislation pieces this year directly ban gender-affirming health care for minors—a direct attack on the rights of transgender people to transition.
One bill passed by the Arkansas legislature, the first law ever expected to go into effect that would ban health care professionals from providing gender-affirming care to minors, is framed as protecting children from hormonal drugs and treatments. The bill is ironically titled “The Arkansas Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act” or SAFE, when studies have supported the idea that having access to gender-affirming care can dramatically reduce sucide rates within transgender populations.
Instead of acknowledging this, the bill minimizes the stuggles transgender individuals face by saying “only a small percentage of the American population experiences distress at identifying with their biological sex” and claims that because most children experiencing “distress at identifying with their biological sex” end up identifying with their assigned sex at birth later “most physiological interventions [are] unnecessary,” ignoring transgender people’s rights to gender-affirming care.
Even if many of these bills may not come into law, they can be demoralizing and exhausting for transgender people, particularly transgender youth. It also shows that even in 2021, transphobia is rampant across the U.S. including the highest offices of our state government. Yet on an individual level, we can work to promote safer environments for transgender individuals by continuing to hold our leaders accountable, voting for officials who support transgender lives and calling out transphobic comments and microaggressions in our everyday interactions.
Written by: The Editorial Board