Transgender Day of Visibility, celebrated annually on March 31, began in 2009 as a way for the transgender community to come together in joy. To celebrate the living, rather than mourn the dead. To be seen, and to feel proud in that exposure. It is both a simple and profound concept: To revel in your own existence, and to have other people understand the fact of that reveling.
Most of us never have to think about visibility, which is how it should be. It should not be a privilege to be seen for who you have always known yourself to be. Everyone deserves this, and no one should feel threatened by it. I think about this a lot lately, even as I marvel at the bravery of that existence — of how transgender people have always been there, and how they remain beautifully visible now, even as ever more politicians try to erase them entirely.
The Big Takeaway
What is now a nationwide assault on LGBTQ+ rights began as these things tend to begin: With a single bill. That legislation, filed in Idaho in February 2020 as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” barred transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s athletics. Its lead sponsor was state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a Republican and former collegiate basketball player and coach, who said the policy was designed to protect athletic opportunities for (cisgender) women. She’d come up with the idea after hearing about transgender girls winning track meets in Connecticut.
“I thought that was wrong; biological boys should not compete against biological girls,” Ehardt said. “I realized if we don’t do something about this, we all see where this is heading.”
But Ehardt had trouble translating her epiphany into a legislative proposal. So she reached out to a handful of right-wing groups known for defending “traditional family values,” a phrase typically embodied by Christian nationalists to signify intolerance for any number of marginalized populations. She found a sympathetic partner in the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group that provided legal counsel and legislative advice. The resulting bill was signed into law by Gov. Brad Little in March 2020; by the end of 2021, it had spawned copycats in at least 30 states. Seventeen of them eventually became law.
It began with athletics, but it’s gone much, much farther. Over the past three years, GOP lawmakers have steadily expanded their aim, drafting hundreds of bills that target everything from gender-affirming health care and personal pronouns to drag shows, reading materials and classroom discussions that include topics like gender identity or homosexuality. The proposals have faced dozens of legal challenges, and few of them have been signed into law, but the attacks continue to spread unabated. In 2021, state lawmakers filed 191 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, a record high that stood until 2022, when they introduced 340. So far this year, lawmakers in 30 states have introduced at least 234 similar bills.
The laser-focus isn’t rooted in legitimate concern, because there is no legitimate concern. The LGBTQ+ community does not pose a threat to children, or athletics, or schools, or so-called “family values.” Non-cisgender humans are simply a convenient “other” that a coalition of conservative organizations identified as a useful target for voter anger. Look at how they’re different from you, the rhetoric whispers. Look at how we’re fighting back against them to defend your way of life.
It’s not clear how — or if — voters have responded to that message, but state Republicans are continuing to amplify it anyway. On Tuesday, lawmakers in Montana advanced a bill to prohibit kids from surgically or socially transitioning their gender, which proponents said was no different than imposing age limits on tobacco or alcohol, per the Daily Montanan. Across the border in Idaho, state Rep. Bruce Skaug introduced a proposal to add hormone therapy and surgical treatments to the state’s “female genital mutilation” laws, making it a felony to provide care to minors even when their parents have consented, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.
“There are a small number of children who suffer genuinely from gender dysphoria,” said Skaug, a Republican who cares so deeply about children that he tried to ban them from testifying before the committee he chairs. “That’s a genuine mental issue that needs to be dealt with, and should still be dealt with, but not by cutting off healthy body parts.”
Republicans in Iowa took aim at classroom materials that mention gender identity and students’ ability to use their preferred pronouns at school, per the Iowa Capital Dispatch. A lawmaker in Arizona reintroduced a bill restricting restroom access for trans kids at school despite knowing it will fail again, the Arizona Mirror reported.
It’s the principle of the thing, he explained.
“We need to have public debate. We need to inform legislators and people in the public,” said state Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican from Fountain Hills. “People’s minds can be changed — but, regardless, voters need to know where I stand and where the governor stands, and where every legislator in this building stands on critical issues.”
Those same “critical” issues are at the forefront in Mississippi, where lawmakers have introduced at least 31 anti-LGBTQ+ bills — the most of any state legislature, per Mississippi Today. Most of them are duplicates that will die in committee, but that doesn’t negate the harm they inflict on LGBTQ+ kids and on public perception of the transgender community as a whole, advocates said.
It’s clear by now that the harm is sort of the point. If cogent policy were the goal, the bills would be based on facts rather than fundamental misrepresentations of the very things they seek to abolish. In Mississippi, lawmakers are particularly focused on restricting transgender health care, either by banning procedures altogether or by punishing doctors who perform them. A dozen bills address that issue, including the so-called “Regulate Experimental Adolescent Procedures Act,” which would prohibit doctors from prescribing hormone therapy or performing gender-affirming surgery on minors. Providers who violate the policy would lose their license and tort claim protections, leaving them open to civil lawsuits for 30 years.
It’s an extreme policy that twists the facts to justify its own provisions. To begin with, gender-affirming care is not “experimental” — it’s mainstream care endorsed by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, in part because it’s been shown to save lives. And even if it was a rogue course of treatment, gender-conforming surgery is not performed on minors in Mississippi. It’s a set of solutions for problems that don’t exist, written in offensive language that distorts reality to fit a very specific political agenda, advocates said.
“It’s fluffed up in a way to make it seem like they’re working hard to protect our children, and it’s the exact opposite,” said Jensen Luke Matar, the director of the nonprofit Trans Program. “They’re playing chess, and they’re using the most vulnerable population as their pawns.”
Checkmate: Arkansas bill restricting school bathroom use heads to House for approval … Bill to prohibit LGBTQ+ “panic defense” tabled in Arkansas Senate committee … (Florida) DeSantis is appointing new medical board members while slamming gender-affirming care for youth … (North Carolina) In appeals court case, a political fight over transgender identity and health care … (South Dakota) Ban on youth transgender care passes committee after impassioned debate
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
Firefighters in Georgia forgot to turn off the stove when they left the fire station to fight a fire, forcing them to fight their own fire when they got back to the fire station.
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