Throughout the first week of the year, lawmakers in at least seven states have proposed laws that would limit the rights of transgender and non-binary youth.
Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota have introduced at least nine measures targeting trans and non-binary youth, such as their ability to participate in sports, receive gender-based care, or use the toilet.
The legislative push in the first days of 2022 quickly follows what some advocates have called “”worst year in recent history for legislative attacks by LGBTQ states. “
“Sadly, I think we are preparing to see a race to the bottom among lawmakers who are competing to see who can do the most harm to trans children,” said Gillian Branstetter, a longtime trans activist. and media officer for women’s rights group, the National Women’s Law Center. “This is a hostile and dangerous trend that I’m sure we will see continue throughout the year.”
The majority of this week’s measures reflect the two types of legislation that dominated the record number of anti-trans bills last year: measures that prevent trans children from competing on school sports teams that match their goals. gender identity and those that restrict their access to gender. affirm care.
Last year, bills banning health care for trans youth were introduced in more than 20 states, with two states – Arkansas and Tennessee – enacting them, according to one. American Civil Liberties Union tally. And of the more than 30 states that introduced restrictions on trans athletes last year, nine states have enacted the legislation, according to the rights group. Human rights campaign.
Supporters of the bills have widely argued that they want to prevent young people from making medical decisions they might later regret and protect the rights of cisgender girls and women in school sports.
“It is unfortunate that we see this as taking away the rights of all people,” Republican State Representative Rhonda Milstead, who this week introduced a ban on trans sports in South Dakota, told NBC News. “If competitive sports are meant to be fair, there is a place for everyone to compete according to the biology they were born with. “
Conversely, major sports organizations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the International Olympic Committee, allow transgender and non-binary athletes to compete in teams that match their gender identity under certain conditions. The IOC updated its guidelines on trans athletes in November, removing controversial policies that required competing trans athletes to undergo what it described as “medically unnecessary” procedures or treatment.
Another type of measure proposed this week is aimed at preventing trans children in South Dakota from using multi-occupant shower rooms, toilets or locker rooms. However, Republican state representative Fred Deutsch, who introduced the bill, denied that the bill involved trans youth and disparaged the concept of gender identity.
“Across the country, including South Dakota, laws and policies are being changed to redefine sex in a way that negates the material reality of sex,” Deutsch wrote in an e- mail. “This bill is designed to ensure that, at least in South Dakota, we maintain a definition of sex that truly reflects reality.”
South Dakota’s proposal would also allow students to continue with their school district if they encounter trans students in one of these settings or if a teacher allows trans students to use single-sex toilets that match their gender identity. .
In other words, the proposed legislation relies on “premium-type penalty systems” modeled on Texas Senate Bill 8, a controversial law that allows private citizens across the country to sue abortion providers. in Texas, said Chase Strangio, deputy director of transgender people. justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.
Strangio predicted that legislation with similar clauses will be a common theme in 2022.
“One concern people have for the future is, ‘How are lawmakers going to try to avoid accountability and judicial review? I think one way is to limit the government’s enforcement of its laws and sort of delegate individuals to act as government officials to be basically the people who enforce the law through. private prosecution, ”Strangio said.
While state lawmakers have been aggressive in their efforts to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary youth in recent years, Americans overwhelmingly oppose anti-trans laws: two-thirds of Americans and majorities among all ideologies policies and age groups oppose laws that would restrict transgender rights, a 2021 PBS NewsHour / NPR / Marist poll find.
Major medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Pediatric Endocrinology Society, have also openly opposed bills limiting trans rights, with WADA warning that they could have “tragic health consequences, both mental and physical.”
On mental health in particular, LGBTQ advocates have long warned that the bills hurt the already vulnerable group of young people.
To 2021 survey conducted by The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, found that one in five trans and non-binary youth had attempted suicide in the past year.
Last year’s spate of anti-trans bills cannot be directly attributed to the declining mental health of LGBTQ youth. However, a separate report from The Trevor Project last year showed that hotlines saw an increase in calls from young people living in Texas, who considered more than 50 bills targeting trans children last year, the group said. Defense Equality Texas. From January through August, the organization received nearly 4,000 crisis calls from young trans and non-binary Texans, a 150% increase from the same time in 2020.
Going forward, Branstetter urged trans and non-binary Americans to “stand up and fight with every breath we have,” but acknowledged that the drumbeat of anti-trans legislation can sometimes trigger a “meaning. of misfortune “.
“It’s very dark and trans people have a strong sense that the door is slammed in our face just as we step in the door,” she said.