It’s been a record year for transphobia.
Lawmakers have introduced at least 450 bills that would impact trans people, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Trans Legislation Tracker.
Conservative politicians, religious fundamentalists, and far-right influencers are whipping up a moral panic, framing trans rights as a divisive wedge issue, selling falsehoods about “experimental” medicine and a “radical gender ideology” they say threatens the bedrock of Western thought and values.
Very dramatic, I know.
But the consequences are real, and they’re here.
The Human Rights Campaign estimates about half of trans kids 13-17 have lost or could lose access to gender-affirming care.
On Tuesday, North Dakota became the 14th state to ban gender-affirming care for minors (a list that includes our Western neighbors Idaho, Utah, and Montana). The bills, all signed by a governor or awaiting signature, will be challenged in court.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana over its care ban and plans to do the same in seven other states.
Just last week, lawmakers in Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, and other states heard more than 20 bills restricting gender-affirming care, drag performance, trans participation in sports, and using the bathroom. That’s more legislation than every anti-trans bill introduced nationwide in 2015.
We looked at bills still wending their way through state legislatures. Here’s a few of them:
Note: This list does not include all bills that could affect trans people in the U.S.-or even every bill in each state below. If there is a bill you think we should look at, send me an email.
Senate Bill 254 affects trans children and adults differently. For youth and their families, the bill is a care ban that defines gender-affirming care as “serious physical harm” in the context of custody battles.
Florida could take “temporary emergency jurisdiction” over transgender children in these disputes, a provision that echoes a bitter custody battle in North Texas, where a man alleged his estranged wife, a pediatrician, pushed one of their twin children to socially transition against her will.
Big surprise, this case became a far-right ghost story and caught the attention of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. As a result, the family became the first one Texas ever investigated for child abuse for gender transition. The state found no evidence.
In the case of adults, Florida would require doctors to hand out misinformation pamphlets to their trans patients. These false claims include casting trans medicine as “experimental,” harmful to mind and body, and ineffective–a rhetorical disguise convincing as a pair of Graucho Marx glasses.
It also prohibits the use of public funds for gender-affirming care (that includes Medicaid and state employee health plans) for people of all ages, according to the ACLU of Florida.
The bill passed the state Senate Wednesday, 27-12.
House Bill 1421 would ban youth gender care and criminalize doctors, prohibit someone from changing sex on their birth certificate, and ban all insurance coverage for adult care.
Most people, especially trans adults, are not made of money–so do the math. This policy is a financial barrier to medical care.
The bill, again, allows the state of Florida to intervene in child custody fights if the child is trans.
House Bill 1521 is a criminal bathroom ban for transgender adults, among other things.
If passed, any trans person who willfully entered a restroom aligning with their gender would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
The bill also requires Florida colleges and universities to establish disciplinary procedures for trans students who don’t leave campus locker rooms or bathrooms when asked.
The state of Florida would direct its jails, prisons, and domestic violence centers to house people on the basis of sex at birth. This can be dangerous for transgender people.
Any entity that refuses to comply with the law would be subject to penalties, including the suspension of a license or regulatory disciplinary action.
The state Attorney General would be empowered to bring civil action to enforce these policies.
Senate Bill 1438 would make it a punishable crime to admit minors to drag performances. The state of Florida could also revoke a businesses’ liquor license as punishment.
During a hearing, bill sponsor Sen. Clay Yarborough admitted the ban could also apply to shadowcast performances of the Rocky Horror Picture Show if a complaint were brought forth.
Florida is currently debating SB 1438, a bill banning drag shows. Senator Yarborough, the chief sponsor of the bill admits that the bill would apply to live performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show. pic.twitter.com/klRKy0dFp8— Alejandra Caraballo (@Esqueer_) April 4, 2023
Senate Bill 627 is a youth care ban that includes a provision to hold people criminally liable for services that “aid and abet” youth transition. What does that mean?
Vocal coaching? That’s aiding and abetting. Therapy? That’s aiding and abetting, too.
This language has begun creeping into bills, writes trans activist Erin Reed, who tracks anti-LGBTQ legislation.
It showed up in Indiana’s signed youth care ban, but it is limited to physicians and other providers. Health care workers are prevented from “aiding and abetting” in Iowa’s law.
Mississippi’s signed ban is the most open-ended, saying “a person” may not “aid and abet” youth transition.
As many of these bills concerning transgender people do, South Carolina makes an exception here for intersex children, who are often subjected to treatment from infancy through puberty without their full knowledge or consent. The goal is to align a child with a normative male or female gender presentation.
These unwanted procedures and hormonal treatments can be physically and emotionally damaging for a child, who is often kept in the dark about what is happening to their body or why.
After a successful campaign from intersex activists, Lurie Children’s in Chicago became the first U.S. hospital to apologize for medically unnecessary surgeries on minors in 2020.
Senate Bill 270 originally would have made it a sex crime for a trans adult to use the bathroom of their choice if a child (who wasn’t their own and who was younger than seven) was present.
Opponents of this bill inserted a last-minute amendment that limited SB 270’s scope to those entering restrooms for “conduct with the intent to cause sexual desire in themselves or others.”
That is a good change, but there is still room for abuse of this policy. Police could still arrest a trans person for using the bathroom, but this clause could help them avoid prison.
The “predator myth” is a classic anti-LGBTQ smear (hello, Anita Bryant and her successful 1977 “Save Our Children” campaign in Dade County, Florida to repeal a gay anti-discrimination ordinance). The campaign for North Carolina’s now-repealed 2016 bathroom ban (HB2) hinged on that same argument.
Republican state Sen. John Payton, the sponsor of the bill, told the AP trans people were not the target.
“I think this new language in the bill probably helps guide it more directly toward what we’re trying to accomplish, and that’s bad actors that are in there for sexual gratification to misbehave,” he said.
Lawmakers sent SB 270 to Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders for signature.
Senate Bill 466 allows teachers and other public school employees to misgender their trans students on the basis of protecting free speech.
If Senate Bill 1237 passes, private schools could force trans athletes to compete with students of their birth sex.
Arizona’s Senate Bill 1040 is a bathroom and locker room ban for trans youth in public schools. If passed, schools would be vulnerable to civil suits for up to two years after a transgender child used the bathroom or got dressed after gym.
However, the law does provide some protection for trans kids who are denied reasonable accommodation (such as access to employee bathrooms or a single-occupancy restroom) and could sue a school forcing them to use a public restroom they do not want to use.
It is a strange attempt at common ground, and still socially stigmatizing and isolating for trans youth in Arizona, but it is less severe than many other bills on the table.
Arizona’s Senate Bill 1028 is a misdemeanor drag performance ban on public property (and anywhere else a child could see) punishable by up to six months in prison and a $2,500 fine.
A second violation is a Class 6 felony. In Arizona, that’s on par with the sexual abuse of a minor over the age of 15.
Senate Bill 1698 is a more severe felony drag ban.
Adults could be charged with a Class 4 felony and placement on the sex-offender registry for allowing a child to see or even be in the same building as a “sexually explicit performance.” Opponents have criticized the broadness of the law.
The Arizona Mirror reports Governor Katie Hobbs is likely to veto the bill.
Senate Bill 1026 is another piece of drag legislation that bans the use of all public money for drag performances “targeting minors.” This includes performances at all public institutions. If passed, any state employee who violated this law would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
House Bill 1686 bans youth care, prohibits child health plans from covering gender-affirming treatment, and prevents public money from being used to treat trans children.
If the Texas Attorney General believes a doctor is, has, or is “about to” treat a transgender child, then the state can bring action to “enforce or enjoin” the physician from continuing to do so.
Texas’ current Attorney General, Ken Paxton, called for child abuse investigations of families with trans children. There’s an ongoing legal battle in the state over what the Department of Family and Protective Services is allowed to do.
House Bill 1952 would require the gender on a child’s birth certificate be determined by chromosomes: XY = Male and XX = Female.
That’s not exactly scientific, and it does not account for intersex people.
In other news…
Last week, Kentucky’s Republican-dominated Legislature overrode Governor Andy Beshear’s veto of a bill regulating and restricting trans youth. It bans surgeries, puberty blockers, and hormone treatments for children under 18, allows teachers and students to misgender and deadname trans students, and limits in-school lessons about gender identity or sexual orientation.
People protested the bill from the House gallery, and police ultimately arrested and charged 19 demonstrators with third-degree criminal trespassing.
In Kansas, a bill preventing trans people from changing their name and gender on their driver’s licenses and restricting their access to public bathrooms passed the Legislature by a wide margin. So wide that lawmakers there could override Governor Laura Kelly’s expected veto.
Blue states such as New Jersey, Minnesota, Washington, and Colorado are passing bills to protect gender-affirming care, splitting the country into trans sanctuaries and difficult-to-escape trans hells.