On the eve of Trans Day of Visibility, a flurry of local anti-trans bills in the United States
Transgender rights are in the spotlight, on the eve of International Trans Day of Visibility (#IDToV)

Last month we highlighted how the public discussion around the Equality Act at the Federal level would lead to a renewed interest by local politicians in pushing copycat anti-trans bills in their legislatures.

Transgender rights are in the spotlight, on the eve of International Trans Day of Visibility (#IDToV), as Arkansas and Tennessee became the latest states to pass anti-trans legislation. Twenty-eight states are considering passing a grand total of 82 similar anti-trans bills, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Campaign. Here are links to the ACLU’s website and the TransEquality website listing the current bills and where they stand with Alabama, Florida and Georgia being next in line debating anti-trans bills in their state legislatures.

Most of these bills deal with transgender youth and whether their parents should have the right to decide with their physician to start hormonal treatments. Others would ban the participation of transgender people in Sports.

The bill in Alabama as an example, SB 10, was presented by Senator Shay Shelnutt under the name “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, prohibits gender change therapy for minors, prohibits withholding of certain related information from parents”. The bill prohibits “the prescription or issuance of medication, upon or to a minor child, that is intended to alter the appearance of the minor child’s gender or delay puberty”. On March 2nd, the Senate voted it with 23 yeah against 4 nays showing high levels of political support.

These bills tend to be promoted by obscure politicians, like Senator Shelnutt, who see an opportunity to make national headlines and ramp up both visibility and campaign contributions. Senator Shelnutt made it to SNL last year by proposing a law that would make all abortions illegal.

During this year’s Out Leadership’s Europe Summit, I asked representatives of TGEU (Transgender Europe) and TransNewYork their thoughts on young people transitioning. They both cited strong evidence indicates transgender adolescents exhibit elevated rates of suicidal ideation and attempt compared with cisgender adolescents. Indeed, several studies show an average of 47% suicide ideation among transgender youth with around 26% having made an attempt. (e.g., IOM, 2011; Marshal et al., 2011, Mustanski, Garofalo & Emersen, 2010; Clement-Nolle et al., 2006; Grossman & D’Augelli, 2007; Olson, 2015; Reisner and colleagues (2015)). Without medical help, trans adolescents could find themselves at risk of losing their lives.

They also indicated that these bills increase the stigmatization of already vulnerable children and interfere with medical professionals. Indeed, counseling and treatment of transgender youth is already challenging for mental health practitioners not to add the risk of criminal charges being pressed against them. Finally, the bills tend to ignore the fact that transitioning for young people is a gradual decision process within a multidisciplinary stepwise treatment approach. Fearmongers try to make transitions appear as rash decisions supported by off-the-shelf medications.

So called “Sport Bills” banning transgender youth from participating in sports go even further in fearmongering as they bring a fringe topic to the forefront of the debate hiding the essential question which is the wellbeing of trans youth. The idea that thousands of biological males are waiting in the shadows to transition only to be able to win the local high school swimming competition is ludicrous.

The “anti-gender” movement in Europe has also been making headlines, including through comments by mainstream British figures, for several years with a similar focus on the risks of extending transgender rights to children and access to bathrooms.

Out Leadership joined the Human Rights campaign and Freedom For All Americans in sending a strong signal that State legislatures which use transgender rights for political gains are at risk of losing business (see Business Statement on anti-LGBT Legislation). Companies will have the opportunity to reiterate this point by celebrating trans people in their ITDoV’s social media posts tomorrow.

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