A wave of anti-trans legislation in the U.S has sparked outcry and debate over transgender rights. Several states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee have passed legislation that directly targets transgender minors in the last few weeks. Specifically, the bills have all targeted one of two issues: the presence of trans women in sports and trans-affirming care for minors.
Concerns are pouring in from activists, medical groups and organizations on the detrimental effects these bills will have on trans youth. Already a vulnerable population, trans youth often struggle with gender dysphoria and are more likely to face suicide or mental health problems. While the lawmakers proposing these bills claim they’re for the protection of trans youth, critics have pointed out just how discriminatory the bills are.
In the aforementioned states, legal measures have been introduced to essentially ban transgender girls and women from participating in women’s sports. Mississippi was the first to sign in such a bill on March 11. The explanation? According to Governor Tate Reeves, banning trans women’s participation will give “young girls in Mississippi…a fair, level playing field.” Reeves’ statement embodies the spirit of the bill: misformative and inherently transphobic.
The latest and most shocking bill comes from Arkansas, which just passed the Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act, which is a direct attack on the medical care trans youth need to access. The Act bars doctors/organizations from providing gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers or hormone treatment to minors. Public funding to gender-affirming care practices for minors will also be prohibited. Those proposing the bill state that it is necessary to protect children from making mistakes and Republican Robin Lundstrum even went as far as to call gender-affirming care “mutilation.”
These comments are not only derogatory, but also misrepresent the trans community. These bills, despite focusing on specific issues, are a part of a larger battle against transgender people. There is an active attempt to persuade the public to interpret transitioning as a misguided choice youth make. Demonizing gender-affirming medical practices is a key element of this narrative, despite the reality being that medical care is essential for a trans youth’s well-being.
Puberty blockers and hormone treatment are parts of a complex and deeply personal discovery of true gender identity. To strip trans youth of their access is not only discriminatory, but puts them in danger. A recent study revealed that access to medical treatments are integral to preventing suicide or mental health issues in trans youth. And it is important to remember that an individual’s body is not a politician’s jurisdiction.
Backlash has been swift towards the politicians and states supporting these bills. The ACLU has already vowed to take Arkansas to court and an open letter from 465 celebrities and activists has been published in solidarity with the trans community.
But it doesn’t stop in Arkansas. Looking ahead, 28 states are currently considering over 60 different bills that target transgender rights. Advocates are rallying together to fight against them, spread awareness and contact officials to prevent further anti-trans legislation from being passed. It is clear that the fight for accessibility and rights is far from over.