By Max Tendler (’24)
November 21, 2021
Content Warning: Mentions of sexual harassment and violence
Throughout my life, I have been taught in a hundred million different ways to fear myself; to treat counter-normative behavior as a virus to be sweated out and killed. I spent so much of my adolescence lost, sailing seas of self-loathing, confusion, and Shakira blasted at 150% volume only to find my identity as a queer kid after years of repeatedly shoving myself back into the closet.
On and on the list continued for more than 250 bills that have been proposed to strip transgender kids’ rights away, as reported by the Human Rights Campagin (HRC), an LGBTQ advocacy group based in Washington D.C. As shocking as that statistic is on its own, the real danger here is in what lies beneath the surface: a growing trend of anti-transgender legislation and sentiment that aims to ostrasize and eliminate the trans community and the increasing share of political and social power that we hold.
This is a story of fear and hatred; of strife and overcoming; of dehumanization and social reconstruction; and of the incredible power of organized religious lobbying and why we need to stop it.
“Hey, why don’t we fire Allison? Because now it’s legal, we have HB2.” Those were the words Allison Scott–trans woman and now director of policy and programs for the Campaign for Southern Equality–revealed she overheard five years ago following the inception of North Carolina’s now infamous House Bill 2. Better known as the “Bathroom Bill,” it tore down anti-discrimination statutes for trans people and barred them from using the bathrooms that aligned with their chosen gender.
As Allison’s coworker demonstrated expertly, the ramifications of this bill were far more dangerous and destructive than the facade of passive protection it let on. Under the guise of “protecting women,” state lawmakers spurred the sexual harassment of individuals like trans man Fletcher Page, who had his shirt pulled up by three women outside a men’s bathroom checking to see if he was “really” a man. As South Carolina-based newspaper The State puts it, the bill has given people like these women the “permission to hate.” Intentional or not, if a bill is designed to protect and ends up accomplishing the opposite, it’s a bad bill.
Just as this trend of anti-trans legislation mimics the mistakes of our past, so too will the consequences. So, it seems weird, right? Hate will continue to propagate, just as it always does following these bills. States will continue to suffer absurd economic repercussions–North Carolina, for instance, has lost an estimated $3.76 billion due to HB2 alone, according to a 2017 study by the Associated Press. The Human Rights Campaign estimated losses of up to $8 billion for Texas’ recent bills. In fact, in that same study, it was found this transphobic legislation isn’t even all that popular; 67% of Americans (including 66% of Republicans) oppose these anti-trans sports bills. You would think these politicians would know that, right?
“It signifies politicians who are out of touch with their constituency.” As The 19th reported earlier this summer, Kansas state representative Stephanie Byers took office just this January and has already been hard at work calling out transphobic legislation in her state and across America. “They know where their constituents are on this, and yet they’re afraid that in order to stay in power they have to agree with these heinous ideas,” Byers told The 19th.
Republican politicians are acutely aware of their quickly dwindling power as the Trump administration falls into the history books. Consequently, it’s not so much the politicians who are making these decisions as it is the religious hate groups that lobby them extensively. Cathryn Oakley of the HRC outlined the situation in Florida earlier this spring: “[These bills are] based in fear, not fact, and pushed by legislators who have been fed misinformation by anti-LGBTQ extremists who don’t care about women’s sports… they care about dismantling equality and have no compunction about transgender youth being harmed in the process.”
When the simple act of your existence seems to threaten these politicians’ power, they must prevent you from being you to maintain their unstable status.
Politicians will tell you they serve to “protect women” and then turn a blind eye when cisgender (non-trans) women like Michelle Scott are attacked in bathrooms for “looking like a man” directly after the legislation passes.
They will tell you these bills are for “fairness in girls’ sports,” yet, as West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice exemplified in a recent interview on MSNBC, will fail to name a single time the presence of a trans girl on a sports team has led to an advantage. Because, of course, their concrete, monolithic views of the world always fail in representing the ambiguity that is the trans community.
They will purport that gender-confirmation healthcare is dangerous or that we should just “wait a little longer before we make such a big decision” while ignoring healthcare officials like Dr. Gary Wheeler–chief medical officer at the Arkansas Dept. of Health–who vehemently encourages this kind of treatment and explains how the act of stopping or preventing it is actively more dangerous than just trusting the doctors and trans kids.
Politicians will talk and talk and talk, all day long, to justify bigoted legislation, but you know what I say?
Enough with the hypotheticals.
Real trans women are being harassed and killed every single day, far more so than their cisgendered counterparts, as the Office for Victims of Crime reports. This kind of legislation encourages hatred against trans people and shoves kids into the closet for the very fear I have experienced my whole life. I refuse to feel that way any longer and I refuse to let it happen to any other kid in the world who feels invalidated by the people they were meant to trust most. This trend of transphobic legislation led by hateful lobbyists is an indignity, an injustice, and a disgrace to every trans person in this state and in this country.
Hold your politicians accountable; put the people who support them in their place; and slap some sense into the heads of anyone in your life who brushes aside or justifies this legislation. We’re counting on it.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Green and White editorial team. Any content written by our contributors is their work and is not written to malign any specific groups or Jim Justice-like individuals.