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Trans Is Beautiful.jpg

Anti-Trans Healthcare Bills Gain Terrifying Momentum Across The Country

By Jen Maravegias | Politics | February 24, 2023 |

By Jen Maravegias | Politics | February 24, 2023 |

Trans Is Beautiful.jpg

The United States, and I feel like I should put united in quotes these days, is a young country. We don’t have the breadth or depth of shared history to draw from that Greece, China, or Great Britain has. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for the Moral Outrage Machine to get revved up and spin out of control.

It feels like The Machine is always churning over the wrong topics. Never mind that some of our political leaders are calling for a “national divorce” or that there have been 85 mass shooting events in the 54 days of the year so far, because there are transgender people trying to live their lives. *Checks notes* yep, the real threat to democracy and freedom is definitely the peaceful existence of transgender people and drag performers.

As the presidential election season gets started, political homophobia and transphobia are snowballing. Right now multiple state legislatures are trying to pass laws affecting gender-affirming healthcare, either fully banning it or severely limiting access to it. According to this NBC News story, there were approximately 120 bills focused on transgender youth trying to make it into state law books last month. It’s the usual suspects: Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama, among others. A lot of others.

Building off the false narrative that healthcare for trans youth allows doctors to “castrate, sterilize, and mutilate minors,” the Tennessee House of Representatives passed two bills yesterday. One bans gender-affirming care for transgender minors and requires transgender youth to detransition by March 2024. The other bans drag performances in any place where minors might be present.

H.B. 1 - the first bill filed this year because Republicans wanted voters to know that this is their top priority -bans treatments like puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy for people under the age of 18, forcing transgender youth to go through the puberty of their sex assigned a birth and exacerbating gender dysphoria. Puberty blockers are reversible treatments used to delay the permanent effects of puberty so that trans youth, their families, and their doctors can understand their identities better.

The legislation allows for the same medications to be used by cisgender youth for other conditions. The bill doesn’t ban any treatment for being too dangerous; it bans a class of people from using them for a specific purpose.

Minors in Tennessee can still make actual permanent changes to their bodies by getting nose jobs or boob jobs. In 2021 Tennessee eliminated its permit requirement for carrying concealed handguns in public spaces and last year republicans in that state proposed making common law marriage legal but neglected to add any age restrictions to that bill, which would have made child marriage much easier if it had passed. So, you know, this isn’t about the safety or well-being of children. It’s about erasing transgender people from existence.

Last year around this time we reported on Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill that he continues to double down on by supporting bills banning healthcare for trans youth like this one.

Every article about a specific bill also mentions bills being passed by other states. It’s the world’s worst rabbit hole. And, lest you think these bills are all focused on “protecting the youths” or that the GOP will draw an age line in the sand at 18 years old there’s a bill making its way through the Texas Senate right now criminalizing gender-affirming health care for adults.

The bill, S.B. 1029, which was introduced on Feb. 17 by Republican state Sen. Bob Hall, would ban “public funding for gender modifications and treatments,” bar some health plans from providing “coverage for a gender modification procedure,” and increase legal liability through malpractice suits for medical professionals or health care providers that offer gender-affirming care.

It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of the GOP was co-opting the language of reproductive rights advocates about keeping laws off of their bodies and “my body, my choice” to push back against mask mandates in the middle of the pandemic. It must be nice to operate at this level of cognitive dissonance. Like a mutant goldfish with no memory who screams at the top of its lungs every time it swims past a piece of aquarium decor that it doesn’t particularly like.

In a healthy democracy, we might be able to rely on the 5th estate to illuminate and rally the citizens against this rising tide of pseudo-Christian fascism. But we can’t even depend on that anymore. Florida State Rep. Alex Andrade (R) filed a bill this week that would make it easier for religious people (or anyone really) to sue anyone or any publication, that calls them out on racist, homophobic or transphobic beliefs.

The bill would make it easier to sue journalists, publications, or social media users for defamation if they accuse someone of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia. The bill specifically says that publications can’t use truth as a defense when it comes to reporting on people’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments by citing the person’s “constitutionally protected religious expression or beliefs” or “a plaintiff’s scientific beliefs.”

And do not get me started on The New York Times. If you’ve been following along with the new drama over at The Gray Lady you know that earlier this month almost 200 past and present Times contributors signed an open letter speaking out against the paper’s coverage of transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people. It was a good letter and much-needed in the face of all the hatred and fear the transgender community and its allies deal with. Proving the signers’ point, the day after the letter went live, The Times published an article titled “In Defense of J.K. Rowling.” The Times’ prestigious history as The Paper Of Record is only outshined by its history of supporting racism, homophobia, and transphobia. Joe Kahn, the current Executive Editor of The New York Times, published his own open letter conflating the one written by NYT contributors with a similar letter received from GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). It highlighted the paper’s policy against its journalists joining with advocacy groups or in protest actions. What a great way to limit those journalists’ rights to disagree with the garbage that The Times often gives inches to on its Op-Ed pages and in news articles.

Further, it’s been reported that some Times contributors who signed that letter have been called into “investigatory meetings” and that disciplinary actions are being considered, which prompted The NewsGuild of New York to confirm that “If any member is disciplined for signing the NYT Letter, they will have Guild representation.” This is not the journalism my college professors taught us about, and I’m sure it’s not the treatment the journalists who signed that letter expected. It’s definitely not what they deserve. The whole point of journalism is to ferret out the truth, not giving air to racists and bigots in the name of “balanced” reporting. If The Times was really concerned with journalistic integrity and ethics it would report on the science — both physical and psychological — that supports the need for gender-affirming healthcare and the acceptance of transgender people. It would call out the baseless anti-trans propaganda that is being used to further the far-right’s political agenda. Hanna Phifer, a journalist who contributes to a number of publications, nailed it on the head in this essay for The Nation.

I signed my name to the letter not only as a journalist but also as a person who knows that history has shown us that when institutions create barriers for the most vulnerable amongst us, solidarity is the only way to move forward.

While our institutions may be failing us, the power of individuals coming together and visibly supporting gay and trans rights should never be undervalued. There’s an internet meme making the rounds again about how important it is to tell the trans folks in your life how much you love them. That is true and important. I love and support all of my trans friends no matter how young or old they are. No matter what state or country they live in. No matter what. And I support the trans allies who are willing and able to take the heat for their beliefs. Even if they’re sometimes wrong about other things.

And I strongly support the burgeoning group of out and proud LGBTQIA legislators, like Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who lead with their hearts and persist in the face of adversity.

Header Image Source: Getty Images