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Friday is Transgender Day of Visibility. Transgender Americans are getting a lot of visibility these days, for many of the wrong reasons. This is not their doing, it is because politicians across the country are working to take rights away from transgender Americans.
Transgender Americans, who make up a small fraction of the U.S. population, are ludicrously — and dangerously — being blamed for many of our country’s problems.
This year, nearly 400 bills have been introduced in 44 states to restrict transgender rights, according to Track Trans Legislation. Hundreds of other bills aim to restrict LGBTQ rights. Many of these bills have already passed.
Cumulatively, these bills aim to push transgender Americans into the shadows, to deny their humanity and, in some cases, their very existence.
This is cruel and dangerous.
Many of the bills, especially those aimed at restricting gender-affirming medical care for minors, are touted as measures to protect children. For example, proponents of legislation to ban this care have suggested that it protects children from undergoing treatments that they might regret later. Yet, data show that such regret is extremely rare.
In addition, many of those seeking to spread LGBTQ-targeted fear and hatred are using this week’s school shooting in Nashville — the shooter was transgender, according to police — to try to spread fear and misinformation about transgender Americans. This is despicable considering that nearly all mass shootings in recent decades have been committed by cisgender men.
In reality, transgender Americans, especially those who are young, are much more likely to suffer if they are unable to access care that affirms their gender identity. A horrifying 86 percent of transgender youth report they have considered killing themselves, and 56 percent say they have tried. They often do so because of harassment from their peers and, worse, from teachers and other adults.
These numbers speak to the need for more support, not more harassment, marginalization and worse, a denial of the very medical care that can improve their lives.
Yet, lawmakers in many states are moving in the other direction. Republican lawmakers in Kentucky on Wednesday overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of a law that banned gender-affirming care for minors. Under the law, doctors must set a timeline to “detransition” children who are already receiving gender-affirming care. The bill also bars schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity and allows teachers to refuse to address students by the pronouns they use.
Although Kentucky’s bill was considered the most extreme in the country by groups like Human Rights Watch, 10 other states also have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for people under 18. Federal judges have blocked enforcement of recently passed laws in Alabama and Arkansas.
While not as extreme, Republicans lawmakers in Maine have introduced bills to restrict teaching around gender identity and to prohibit the use of transgender students’ pronouns. Although such bills will likely fail in the Democratically controlled Legislature, their introduction sets a harmful tone. It sends a message to transgender Mainers that they are not valued.
It is a message that must be countered by Mainers who reject the divisive notion that being transgender is wrong or inappropriate.
Transgender people are not new, and they are not invisible. They are our neighbors, co-workers and family members. Like the rest of us, they want to live their lives without harassment and fear. Now, more than ever, they need our support and love.