Anti-Transgender Legislation Targeting Youth

Thatcher Fox Richard, Contributing Writer

According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than one hundred anti-transgender bills have been introduced in thirty-three states this year (2021), specifically targeting healthcare and youth sports. This is the highest number recorded by the organization in the fifteen years they have collected information. It is no coincidence that the states in which these bills are being proposed and passed have Republican controlled state legislatures. The bills come from a worry that if people assigned male at birth compete in women’s sports they will maintain an unfair advantage. They come from a place of blatantly ignorant conservatism.

Michael Phelps, one of the most decorated athletes in Olympic history, has a larger wingspan than the average person and is double jointed, both of which give him a significant physiological advantage over any of his competitors. If conservative republicans are so worried about the biological advantages of competitive athletics, why has there been so little discourse over the advantages cis people possess to inherently put them ahead in sports? America’s current hyperpolarized political climate is one possible reason.

It is no secret the Republican party is transphobic. The last four years of Trump’s presidency saw transgender military bans and the removal of White House transgender protections and resources, making their discrimination abundantly clear. However, in the 2020 presidential election, the Democrats managed to gain control of the House and Senate, as well as reclaiming the Presidency itself. This leaves the Republicans with very little in the way of federal power. Not only has the Republican party been a little too interested in the lives of transgender individuals over the last decade, but now that they do not control any part of congress, targeting trans rights in local and state governments is the easiest way for them to further their harmful agenda.. Very few protections exist under federal law for transgender individuals, and there have not been enough Supreme Court cases to set a precedent that would include them under Title IX protections. In fact, the argument has been made that Title IX should actually exclude trans people from sports so as to not create an “unfair playing field” for cis men and women. This makes it much easier for state and local legislature to target trans rights, particularly those of trans youth.

Organizations such as the NCAA and International Olympic Committee have already put protections in place for their sports teams to include trans individuals, however this still does not protect our youth. In April, the Florida House passed a bill banning transgender girls from participating in school sports. The bill was passed almost completely on party lines with only one Democrat voting with the Republican majority. The bill also gives the right for schools to demand mandatory genital inspections by a doctor for female students who are suspected of being transgender. Pediatrician Jessica Duvall told Forbes Magazine that “this bill asks doctors to perform procedures way outside the standards of care.” Inspections like these are invasive and incredibly dehumanizing, especially for middle and high school students.

There is no reason for any kind of legislation to be passed that forces children to show adults their genitals. Many other conservative states exhibiting blatant transphobic legislation are treading a very thin line between their perception of gender equality and the sexual harassment of children. Florida’s bill is one of the most radical ones that have been presented, and has completely crossed the line into allowing adults to sexually harass children.

Since Biden’s inauguration, he has issued an executive order saying that “all persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.” The order extensively addresses various protections and laws which Biden states should and will cover the rights of transgender individuals, inclusive of those in public school systems as well. While this is not a solution, it is a step in the right direction. Since the executive order is so specific towards the protection of trans people, passing bills like the one being voted on in Florida will be significantly harder, posing a long uphill battle in the judiciary.

Biden’s order is by no means the solution. It is a band-aid on a much larger underlying bigotry that plagues this country. It is a step in the right direction to educate and silence hateful bigots who found a louder voice during the Trump era. The last decade has been a time in which trans people have been given enough protections to fight for their rights, but not enough protections to be able to consistently hold onto those rights. Listen and learn from your trans peers on the ways help is needed. Now more than ever the trans community needs your support.