We Must 'Show Up In Force' Against Anti-Trans Legislation

We Must 'Show Up In Force' Against Anti-Trans Legislation

by Eliel Cruz

In only the first few months of 2023, there have been more than 400 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced by Republicans across the United States, a vast majority of it targeting trans young people. The alarming legislation varies from trans adolescents' access to affirming medical care, which comprises the bulk of the current legislative battle, to pieces of legislation that would bar trans adults from public bathrooms and even a bill in Florida that could potentially remove children from the care of transgender parents.

“This year is absolutely the worst in volume and scope of the anti-trans bills we are seeing,” Chase Strangio, Deputy Director for Transgender Justice with the ACLU's LGBT & HIV Project, tells PAPER. The states with some of the most extreme pieces of legislation include Oklahoma, Arkansas and Florida. Concerningly, the ACLU has tracked early efforts to codify anti-trans discrimination on the federal level.

“There are bills that would ban medical care for trans adolescents pending in more than half the states in the country and many are expected to pass. And we have started to see these bills being introduced in Congress as well, with the House having the first mark-up of a federal ban on trans girls participating in sports — a bill that would amend anti-trans discrimination into the Civil Rights Act itself,” Strangio says.

The sheer amount of legislation is coupled with and supported by a media strategy that has been in the works for over a decade, adds Imara Jones, founder of TransLash Media.

“We got to this point by a very deliberate plan by the Christian nationalist movement to bring us to the point,” Jones says. “They knew after marriage equality that the next fight was going to be over trans people and trans issues. And I think they realized that far before our community — LGBTQ community at large — and even trans people did.”

Indeed, according to a recent report by the Movement Advancement Project, there has been a rapid increase in anti-LGBTQ bills passed just in the last two years, with 2023 having more pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation than 2012, 2013, and 2014 combined.

“The only way we could describe it is as a machine,” Jones says of her podcast’s title — The Anti-Trans Hate Machinewhich is soon to debut its second season documenting the national movement against trans people. “Because this has been part of a concerted effort, there has been an entire infrastructure they have built to prepare these conversations.”

A recent report by Mother Jones revealed one such network of anti-trans activists, including elected officials, doctors, and lawyers who worked to pass legislation that targets and discriminates against trans people. The leaked emails between the anti-trans activists show coordination in messaging and bill language, proving the trend of harmful bills is anything but organic.

“One of the things that they have built is a corresponding disinformation media infrastructure to drive this as an issue,” Jones says of the influence of the right’s national media narrative of trans people. “One creating the conversation and the other responding to it by pushing these bills.”

In recent years, with the growth of the visibility of notable trans people in public office, entertainment, music and more, harmful narratives have also been pushed about transness. Last month, trans journalists and LGBTQ advocacy groups, the latter led by GLAAD, took The New York Times to task for biased reporting on trans young people and its real-life impacts.

“Right now we need people to show up in force to stop the escalating legal and cultural attacks on trans people. Regardless of where people live, they should be active to disrupt the harmful and false rhetoric about trans people, our bodies and our health care,” Strangio says. “The legislative attacks are fueled and legitimized by public debate over trans lives that takes place in our media, in our cultural projects and in our homes, schools and communities. Challenging and disrupting the misinformation is critical to changing the legal and political landscapes.”

The anti-trans activists are clear about their malicious intent. At the recent conservative conference CPAV, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles told the crowd the goal was to eradicate “transgenderism,” as reported by Rolling Stone.

“For the good of society... transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level,” Knowles said.

As fascist rhetoric increases, many trans people are organizing themselves to fight back. In the spring of 2021, Alexander Petrovnia put out a call for volunteers to help track anti-trans legislation across the country and provide avenues for concerned citizens to contact their representatives.

“To be frank with you, we were filling a gap. There was very little in the way of national political advocacy for the transgender community, and we saw the need and decided to jump in headfirst,” says Holly Parsons, treasurer of Trans Formations Project, a volunteer-run political action group.

Trans Formations Projects is making it easy for individuals in and out of impacted states to plug in, take action and raise the alarm on the level of attacks.

“Write your legislators, find out when these bills are going up before committee hearings and show up, make your voices heard. Be a pain in the ass,” Parsons tells PAPER. “Most state legislatures only hear a very narrow range of voices, they only receive a small amount of input. If everyone who supports trans rights, if everyone who knows and loves a trans person makes their voice heard loud and clear, then there is very little doubt in my mind that these bullies in state legislatures will back down.”

Photo via Getty