OPINION: Extreme anti-trans legislation across America

By Robin Aughney | March 28, 2023 2:30pm

Photo courtesy of Robin Aughney.

In just these three months of 2023, there have been more anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills introduced (430 as of March 24, 2023), than were introduced in all of 2022 combined (315), and many of them are passing and going into effect. 

These bills are wildly concerning, and are blatantly following the ten stages of genocide. What concerns me most though, is that out of all of the dozens of people I've talked to about these bills, only one other person knew about them.

These bills started with banning trans kids and athletes from playing on the sports teams of the gender they identify with, and have since escalated exponentially. Last year we saw a massive rise in book banning – four out of every ten books banned in 2022 cover LGBTQ topics. Florida is also attempting to ban all gender studies, essentially trying to erase transgender people’s existence from their learned history. 

Following in Hitler’s footsteps, who burned over 20,000 books of queer and trans history and erased the world’s first known trans clinic, the destruction of LGBTQ representation in books and medical practices is a deeply concerning, and very large step, in the wrong direction for our country. The moral panic currently being used to justify it also mirrors the Nazi’s motivations: “What began as a project of ‘protecting’ German youth and raising healthy families had become, under Hitler, a mechanism for genocide.”

States are also banning trans people from using public bathrooms when children are present, which will effectively make it impossible for trans people to use public bathrooms at all. A law like this will severely limit the amount of time trans people can simply exist in public. 

Tennessee has criminalized drag performance under SB0003, and the language in the bill is deliberately loose. It names drag to be “impersonating the opposite sex,” effectively making it illegal to cross-dress (or simply exist as a visibly trans person) in public. Being arrested for this crime once would land you with a misdemeanor, and a second offense is a felony. This law will go into effect on July 1

Along with Tennessee, West Virginia is actually attempting to outright ban being trans in public, and they are not even attempting to hide behind the false definitions of drag. SB252 states that “(4) For the purposes of any prohibition, protection or requirement under any and all articles and sections of the Code of West Virginia protecting children from exposure to indecent displays of a sexually explicit nature, such prohibited displays shall include, but not be limited to, any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display to any minor.” 

Not only would this bill ban being trans in public, it would also force any content including trans people to be labeled explicit and prohibited from children.

The conservative legislators’ main reasoning for banning drag is that it is, they claim, sexual and dangerous to children, calling drag queens and trans people pedophilic and groomers. I invite you to research the dozens of people arrested so far in 2023 for child sex abuse crimes — there are countless articles covering the arrests of the childrens’ family members, teachers, police officers, priests, youth pastors, and other prominent members of the community, none of which were drag queens. 

The leading cause of child mortality across America is firearm related, and in Tennessee nearly a quarter of all children live in poverty — this legislation has nothing to do with the safety of children and everything to do with the erasure of transgender people. It is also worth noting that enforcing a false image of sexual deviance is a tactic America employed against black people in order to uphold the systems of slavery. A most notable representation of this stereotype was in  the film “The Birth of a Nation” (Griffith, 1915), a significant piece of anti-black propaganda based on sexual predation. None of these methods are new.

Florida is proposing a bill allowing for the forced removal of trans kids from supportive households, either by the state, or by parents or people who do not have custody, and even allows removing any children “at risk” of receiving gender-affirming care. This means trans children could be kidnapped and cis children of trans parents could also be taken (following hand in hand with the attempts to undo the Indian Child Welfare Act, from the same right-wing politicians), and can be legally forced into conversion therapy or state custody. 

Many states are also revoking gender-affirming care, forcibly de-transitioning all minors, and in some states, anyone under the age of 26. Hormone replacement therapy is shown to decrease suicide attempts and ideation by 73%, and they want to take that away from the exact group who 82% of us consider suicide and 40% attempt it

Revoking gender affirming care will absolutely, without a doubt, lead to mass suicide. I’ve personally seen many young trans people online express feelings of defeat and grief as a result of this onslaught of oppression, either mourning the loss of trans friends or considering giving up themselves. After Arkansas revoked gender affirming care, “Michele Hutchison, a pediatric doctor in Arkansas, testified in front of the state Senate last Monday, March 22, that just after the bill passed the House, there were ‘multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide, just in the last week.’”

One of the republican’s reasonings for these laws is that trans children will come to regret their medical transition — yet vast swaths of studies show that a stunning 98% of trans youth do not regret transitioning and continue their transition well into adulthood.

Prominent right-wing personality Michael Knowles recently stated that “Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” When he was called out for his overtly genocidal rhetoric, he defended his statement by saying that they'd be eradicating “transgenderism,” not trans people. However, you can't destroy a person's identity without destroying the person; you cannot remove or separate transness from a trans person, just as you cannot remove their race or sexuality. Until those social constructs are broken down and abandoned, the identity will remain deeply integrated with one’s personhood. The rhetoric being used here is again closely mirroring the language and methods used to enact the genocide against Native Americans, such as, “kill the Indian, save the man.”

Knowles went on to argue that “eradicating transgenderism” would not constitute a call to genocide, yet every major world health organization agrees that sex and gender are separate, and that trans people are real and deserving of gender affirming care.

Additionally, the Texas attorney general sought out the personal data of over 16,000 trans residents including their drivers' licenses and birth certificates, which civil rights attorneys are calling worrying and a violation of privacy. I don't think I have to explain why government officials who have been actively demonizing, persecuting, and revoking the rights of a specific minority, seeking out information including their names and addresses, is concerning.

California has recently signed protective legislation into place and is actively taking trans refugees from other states, as is Canada. Supportive governments are legally acknowledging that the conditions of life being inflicted upon the trans community is deliberately unbearable. Yet, news coverage on these bills has yet to break into the mainstream media flow. 

I have not seen a single headline referring to this genocidal legislation on my New York Times app, or my Apple News. The only reason I know about any of this is because of my personalized social media algorithms, because I regularly seek out and interact with LGBTQ political news.

This media repression is especially shocking considering our campus is in Portland, a city well known for its queer community. That being said, Oregon does have a notable history of conservative values and racism. 

These laws and the rhetoric surrounding them are downright genocidal, and major media is not covering it or pushing it. This legislation completely ignores all scientific fact, as well as earnest human pleas for the right to life and freedom of expression. 

These laws are based solely on opinion, religious superiority, and an attempt to uphold the power dynamics prominent to our culture. These legislators have utterly ignored the thousands of heartfelt testimonies from community members. Please do not allow this to continue going unnoticed. Trans people are real, we are here, and we just want to live.

Robin Aughney is a freshman at the University of Portland. He can be reached at aughney26@up.edu.

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