Since the beginning of 2021, there has been an increase in bills targeting transgender youth and young adults. While we are dismayed at the pernicious attacks and falsehood in these efforts, we also consider them a first effort in a new wave of legislation targeting LGBTQIA+ people in this nation.
They use familiar strategy, designing a template for a bill that is introduced in multiple states and municipalities at the same time. This was the same game-plan that was used a decade ago to establish laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, and it is similar to the one used to enshrine other forms of discrimination in our state governance documents over the past fifty years.
We remain vigilant to these attacks on civil liberties and we are working with national advocacy groups to track each effort. Below is a general description of the two bills currently proposed in multiple states, along with a partial list detailing the current status of these efforts.
Legislative Effort #1
To ban transgender youth from sports.
While this proposes to ban ALL youth participation from sports, the supportive statements used to promote the legislation specifically targets transgender girls and young women. Many of these bills are even being supported by Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminists (TERFS) who have been vocally advocating for discrimination against transgender people – especially transgender women.
The appropriate agencies have already spoken on this issue after a deep analysis and review which found as parents and medical experts asserted – transgender female athletes do not have an advantage over cisgender female athletes that is outside of normal variation of body type and innate ability.
The Transgender Law & Policy Institute’s Guidelines for Creating Policies for Transgender Children in Recreational Sports states; “All young people should have the opportunity to play recreational sports and have their personal dignity respected. Transgender young people are no different. In fact, because transgender young people often must overcome significant stigma and challenges, it would be particularly harmful to exclude them from the significant physical, mental and social benefits that young people gain by playing recreational sports. The impact of such discrimination can be severe and can cause lifelong harm. In contrast, permitting transgender children and youth to participate in recreational sports in their affirmed gender can provide an enormous boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem and provide them with positive experiences that will help them in all other areas of their lives.”
Other considerations for Trans-Affirming policies are outlined in GLSEN’s TRANSGENDER INCLUSION IN HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETICS guide which debunks four myths that frame these efforts, including the most damaging:
“Claim: Being assigned male at birth gives female transgender athletes competing in women’s sports unfair advantages in athletic competition. Being assigned female at birth is correlated with being weaker and more sensitive, making male transgender athletes competing on men’s teams a competitive liability. Reality: There is no research to support the claim that allowing trans athletes to play on the team that fits their gender identity will create a competitive imbalance. Trans children display the same variation in size, strength, and athletic ability as other youth.”
So far, the only state to fully pass a bill into law is Idaho, but they have not been introduced to dozens of states including Georgia where one proposal would establish a team of doctors to visibly check all girls genitalia before clearing them to play.
A recent list of states and descriptions of the bill can be found through HRC.
Legislative Effort #2
To stop any affirming medical treatment from transgender children and youth, and in one case from adults through the age of 21.
Again, there are policies in existence that were designed by doctors, medical practitioners, and parents that already establish guidelines. In two areas these bills are incredibly troublesome. First, they often ban the use of puberty blockers – commonly used for not just trans kids, but also kids with other medical conditions. Second, some of them carry this ban into criminalizing parents who travel to other locations for affirmation care of their minor children.
Often, like the sports legislation, these bills are based on false assumptions and a lack of knowledge regarding how gender-expansive children and youth are supported. The use of puberty blockers often allow the child to mature to an age where they can give informed consent, but hormones including testosterone and estrogen are not routinely offered to any child under the age of 16 and most surgical affirmation is limited to people over the age of 18.
Gender affirming care also includes things like social transition; mental health treatment; and consultation with families, schools, and medical environments. At every step, efforts are made to make sure the child is being heard and affirmed, and to support them through their journey. Like adult transgender people, this means that each step of the affirmation process is compassionate care, allowing the person to reach a place where they feel supported and affirmed in their gender identity. The leading pediatric medical organization – The American Academy of Pediatricians has already provided extensive guidelines on care and they are supported by other research. Additional information on these policies can be found through The Trevor Project.
There can and is significant impact on transgender people’s dignity when any form of compassionate care of the whole individual is denied. Additionally, we are already seeing the result of the medical treatment bans in other countries, and it supports existing data – denial of support for LGBTQIA+ youth leads to increases in suicide. Those rates in transgender youth are already much higher than their peers, and affirmation saves lives.
Once treatment is banned, it also opens to door to legislation that declares any parental affirmation of gender outside of declared sex at birth a form of child abuse. Already, there are numerous court decisions stripping parents of their custody in divorce because they affirm their child’s gender identity. These bills have the additional risk that they – in essence – establish affirmation of transgender children and youth as a form of child abuse, allowing the state or extended family to take children away from ANY parent/s who affirm gender.