According to a new legislative database compiled by the Progressive Caucus Action Fund, a grassroots group that opposes the bills, state lawmakers across the country have introduced at least 171 pieces of legislation this year aimed at the rights of transgender people
At least 19 of the bills have already become law, with 13 specifically targeting trans people and six others having a broader impact on LGBTQ rights
“We’re only six months into 2021, and it’s already been a devastating year for transgender people’s protection,” said Ricardo Pacheco, a researcher at the Progressive Caucus Action Fund who compiled the database, “with the expectation that quite a few more of these will pass in the coming months.”
Republican lawmakers have introduced the vast majority of the bills, both in states
hold majorities and in states where Democrats hold majorities. Ten states, all with Republican legislative majorities and governors, have enacted new anti-trans laws this year, while four other bills have passed through GOP
legislatures but been vetoed by governors.
The push for anti-trans laws has intensified as part of a broader Republican culture war against women
people's, immigrants', and LGBTQ people's basic and individual rights. Right-wing lawmakers believe they can weaponize trans rights — and people's very right to exist as trans — as a wedge issue, which has exhausted activists and had demonstrably negative mental health
effects on members of the trans community.
“There’s just a lot of helpless feelings,” Woods told Stardia. “People in our community are really looking for support and solidarity, and for representation
in government... And the fact that legislation is actively trying to essentially erase trans kids from being able to get support, and really criminalize existing... The morale is extremely low, even though the bar has been low for a long time.”
“We see all of this debate and discussion about what being trans means for sports
and what being trans means for health care
,” they said, “and most of us are just sick of the debate because this is really a question of rights.”
The aggressive nature
of the GOP’s effort to restrict trans rights is on full display in the database, as are the ways in which that effort has changed. The so-called “bathroom bills” that were once popular as Republicans attempted to prevent trans people from using restrooms and public facilities that corresponded with their gender identity
have largely given way to other types of legislation.
Republicans are primarily targeting trans students' ability to participate in scholastic sports that correspond with their gender identity this year, with a push that has primarily targeted trans girls and women in high school
and college. According to the database, lawmakers have introduced 76 bills aimed at limiting trans people's participation in sports, accounting for roughly 45% of all anti-trans legislation
It is clear that anti-trans bills centered on sports simply want trans people to avoid participating in sports.
Hometown Action in Alabama
coordinator Ruadhán Woods
, and West Virginia
are among the states with Republican legislatures that have enacted such legislation. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) both vetoed similar bills after they were passed by GOP legislatures, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) also vetoed a bill prohibiting trans youth
from participating in school sports that match their gender.
Republicans have touted the laws as a way to protect women's sports and Title IX, the federal law meant to guarantee equal access to education
and sports participation for women. They have adopted the mantle despite the fact that many conservatives
have long beeneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
For years, activists, education experts, and health professionals have pointed to evidence that increased sports participation could improve trans youth's mental health, self-esteem, and other health and educational outcomes; however, no amount of pushback, data, or discussion about trans athletes or their basic right to participate in sports has swayed Republicans.
“It’s clear that the anti-trans bills centered on sports simply want sports to be something that trans people don’t participate in,” Woods said from Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey
(R) signed one such bill into law in April
Legislation aimed at improving transgender people's access to health care and treatment accounts for the second-highest proportion of bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, with Republican lawmakers introducing 51 such bills this year, according to the database.
Three have become law, including two in Arkansas, where one new law allows doctors and medical professionals to refuse health care treatment to trans and LGBTQ youth if doing so would violate the professionals' religious beliefs. Another bill signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allows medical professionals to refuse to provide gender affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers, to adolescent
Health care organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have condemned the laws, claiming that they will deny children
essential medical care and force the government into discussions that should take place “between clinicians, patients, and families about what is best.”
Similarly restrictive bills failed to pass in other states, including Alabama, where Hometown Action and other groups rallied against it, and Tennessee, where a new law initially prohibited medical professionals from providing hormone treatments to “pre-pubertal” minors, but was later amended. This year’s rash of sports-related bills, on the other hand, follows Idaho
’s passage of the first such law in 2020, so
Tennessee Republicans have passed at least two bills that are similar to the “bathroom bills” that many Republican states have sought in recent years: one requires businesses with multi-person bathrooms or locker rooms to post signs if they allow trans people to use bathrooms of their choice; and another allows students and teachers to refuse to use such facilities at school if trans people are allowed to use the facilities.
Tennessee, which passed a law prohibiting transgender children from participating in sports, also passed a broader anti-LGBTQ law that requires schools
to notify parents ahead of any classroom discussion about gender identity or sexual orientation, and allows parents to opt their children out of any such class.
The Progressive Caucus Action Fund's database includes the latter law, as well as others passed in Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota that more broadly restrict LGBTQ rights on religious freedom or free speech
Republicans approved a new law that prohibits mandatory diversity
training "regarding gender identity, sexual orientation, race stereotyping, and other discrimination."
Most state legislative sessions have concluded, and more Republican proposals have failed than passed, even in red states such as Arizona
, South Carolina
, and Texas
; however, more anti-trans legislation may still pass in Ohio
and other states where lawmakers are still in session.
The legislative assault
has already had a negative impact on trans youth. According to Woods, a common view among trans people is that they are not surprised by efforts to target their rights in Alabama and nationwide “because nobody cares about our community anyway, so we just have to care for each other.”
“That’s a very sad and tragic thing for most young people to have already embraced or come to understand,” Woods said, adding, “So for me, it’s really fighting for community members to be able to be represented and for our rights to be protected and upheld.”
Some of the new laws may be thwarted by legal challenges. Last year, a federal court ruled that an Idaho law prohibiting trans women and girls from participating in sports that correspond to their gender identities was unconstitutional; the ruling is currently being appealed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
and LGBTQ rights groups are also pushing Senate Democrats
to pass the Equality Act
, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public facilities, education, employment, and other areas, as well as help prevent discrimination.
The Equality Act was passed by Democrats in the House of Representatives
in February, but its chances in the Senate, where it must overcome Republican opposition and the legislative filibuster
, are bleak.
“That is where the next push needs to be,” Pacheco said, “not just reacting to what states are doing, but being proactive and preemptive by passing the Equality Act to ensure that LGBT youth and trans youth in our communities have those protections.”
However, the nature of trans rights attacks, according to Woods, shows that a single piece of federal legislation will not suffice.
However, the nature of trans rights attacks, according to Woods, shows that a single piece of federal legislation will not suffice..Efforts to limit those rights are likely to continue, and there is no silver bullet argument or piece of legislation that can completely stop them when “the majority of people who are making these decisions are doing a really intentional job of not listening to the voices of the people who are most affected,” according to Woods.
However, the nature of trans rights attacks, according to Woods, shows that a single piece of federal legislation will not suffice..Efforts to limit those rights are likely to continue, and there is no silver bullet argument or piece of legislation that can completely stop them when “the majority of people who are making these decisions are doing a really intentional job of not listening to the voices of the people who are most affected,” according to Woods..Even if the Equality Act is passed, there will be "a lot of work
to do" to create the cultural, social, and political shifts required to fully protect trans people nationwide, as well as persuade lawmakers and the public to view trans rights through the lens of basic human rights
However, the nature of trans rights attacks, according to Woods, shows that a single piece of federal legislation will not suffice..Efforts to limit those rights are likely to continue, and there is no silver bullet argument or piece of legislation that can completely stop them when “the majority of people who are making these decisions are doing a really intentional job of not listening to the voices of the people who are most affected,” according to Woods..Even if the Equality Act is passed, there will be "a lot of work to do" to create the cultural, social, and political shifts required to fully protect trans people nationwide, as well as persuade lawmakers and the public to view trans rights through the lens of basic human rights..
“We have people actively working against our community’s existence,” they said, adding that “this is going to take some time, and there is a lot of work left to do for people who insist on putting trans identity and rights in the spotlight.”