Anti-Trans Legislative Onslaught

by | Nov 1, 2023 | 0 comments

  • One of multiple overflow rooms filled with people who came to voice oppostiion to Assembly Bill 465.
  • Fair Wisconsin delivering stacks of written testimony against the proposed legistation.

Since 2021, anti-trans legislation has spread across this country like a wildfire. While a few state legislatures passed, or tried to pass, bills limiting bathroom usage in the years prior to 2021, anti-trans legislation was very uncommon, and usually unpopular. Unfortunately, 2021, 2022, and now 2023 have all been record-breaking years for bills specifically targeting trans people. Trans youth, in particular, have been the main target of these hateful bills, but as these gain traction, some states, like Oklahoma, are starting to reveal legislation that would limit access to gender affirming health care for trans adults. The party waving the dual banners of personal freedom and parental choice above all else seeks to limit both the personal freedom of trans individuals of all ages, and the parents of kids who identify as trans or non-binary who want to give their children access to often lifesaving gender-affirming medical care.

According to the site translegislation.com (a site that tracks both trends and individual bills) 2021 saw the beginning of the disturbing trend of bills introduced, saying that “the U.S. appeared to be reaching an inflection point, as 144 bills were introduced in 37 states.” Eighteen of those passed, including a law in Arkansas that passed despite a veto from their Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who wrote in an opinion article addressing the veto, “H.B. 1570 puts the state as the definitive oracle of medical care, overriding parents, patients and health-care experts. While in some instances the state must act to protect life, the state should not presume to jump into the middle of every medical, human and ethical issue. This would be—and is—a vast government overreach.”

CSW - Big Share
Ballet - Love - 300x300
Division of the arts
Ballet - Timeless - 300x300

And 2022 saw the beginning of the hysteria around girls’ sports, as well as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bills. We also saw states carving out “exemptions for discrimination on religious grounds and declared emergency changes to state law to deny non-binary birth certificates,” which, to a group of people already targeted and limited in their access to care, was terrifying. Translegislation.com continues that 2023 was the year that we saw a continuation of trends from the past few years: blocking trans kids and teachers from being visible in schools, and denying state recognition through birth certificates. Attacks on gender affirming health care, mainly for minors, but also increasingly for adults, skyrocketed, too, with 2023’s current tally of 178 nationwide bills, which is more than the previous five years combined. This year we also saw the rise in anti-drag legislation, as conservatives labeled them “groomers” and sought to prohibit them from performing in public spaces.

A September 19 article in The Guardian that chronicled the “subtle and sinister” targeting of drag queens and trans people laid out the reasoning for these extreme bills rising up as a way for the GOP to switch tactics away from marriage equality—which has largely been abandoned as a rallying cry for the right since the full legalization of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry in 2015—onto trans people. The switch in targets highlights how the GOP is trying to rally people around the prosecution of a small and often misunderstood group of people who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in health care, sports, public spaces, and job placement. Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLADD, told The Guardian, “This makes drag an obvious target for those who inaccurately conflate being transgender to being a drag performer. These baseless drag bans attempt to erase, shame, or otherwise make it harder for LGBTQ people, and especially transgender people, to be themselves and to celebrate their communities and art forms.”

Local Issues 

Unfortunately, Wisconsin gained national attention in the fall of 2023 as members of the state legislature, using the bills drafted in other states as templates, passed legislation that would limited trans students’ access to girls’ and women’s sports—as well as a bill to outlaw gender-affirming medical care for all minors—and would threaten the licensure of medical professionals who provide that care. Using tactics such as announcing public hearings on short notice (in what appeared to be an attempt to limit the ability of those who oppose the bills to attend) and scheduling those hearings to be at the same time as each other (diluting the effect of those who were able to attend), the conservative co-authors and their supporters hoped to get these bills passed as quickly as possible. All three bills easily passed in the disproportionately conservative Assembly, and Assembly Bill 465, known as the “health care ban” bill passed the also conservative Senate on October 17.

Assembly Bill 377 stipulates that sports in K–12 schools, including public, private, and independent charter schools, should be divided by sex determined at birth, and that all sports designations have to fall into one of three categories, based on the sex of the participating pupils, males, females, or both male and female. It specifically prohibits those who were assigned male at birth from “participating on an athletic team or in an athletic sport designated for females.” It also allows both individual students and educational institutions to “bring action against” the school, governmental agency, athletic association, etc. if they feel that they have been deprived of the ability to participate in and win because of what they would consider to be a violation of this law. Senate Bill 377 is by and large the same, but for colleges and universities in the state.

Ballet - Love - 300x300
Ballet - Timeless - 300x300
CSW - Big Share
Division of the arts

The main argument for the bills, according to the Republican lawmakers who publicly support the bans, is that “transgender girls are stronger and faster and could injure and take scholarships from the athletes they’d be competing with unless restrictions are passed,” according to the Associated Press. They quoted Rep. Janel Brandtjen as saying, “We want to make sure women’s sports have a chance in hell to be able to compete after all the training, all the workouts, all the sacrifice.” Rep. Barbara Dittrich, the chief sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, admitted that she only knows of six K–12 transgender athletes in Wisconsin.

With only six people in the state that would suffer restrictions because of these bills, it does beg the question of why lawmakers are spending the time and resources to push these bills forward. In a move that mirrors similarly unnecessary and discriminatory bills in many other states, this move appears to be entirely to rile up the conservative base, who have now identified trans and gender nonconforming people as their current boogeyman, as the 2024 election year draws nearer.

Progressive opponents to the sports bans call these bills a harmful singling out of a very small population of students, and can lead to bullying and the student’s inability to participate in any sports. In a group of people already isolated and at risk for poor mental health, this singling out is dangerous.

The Guise of Protection 

While the above bills garnered lots of criticism and debate, the large majority of the coverage on the current trio of bills making their way to Governor Evers’s desk has been focused on Assembly Bill 465, which seeks to prohibit minor trans kids from accessing gender-affirming medical care. Introduced by Rep. Allen, a Republican representing district 97, the bill “prohibits health care providers from engaging in, causing the engagement in, or making referrals for, certain medical intervention practices upon an individual under 18 years of age if done for the purpose of changing the minor’s body to correspond to a sex that is discordant with the minor’s biological sex.” It continues with a requirement that any medical professional who has violated this bill be subject to the revocation of their medical license or certificate.

In the packed public hearing on this bill, Allen claimed, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that the science on allowing minors to access gender-affirming medical care, like puberty blockers, is not yet settled, and that those who give these treatments are “experimenting on children.” He continued by clarifying that this bill would not affect adults from accessing similar medical care, and would not stop minors from socially transitioning. Other supporters accused medical professionals of pressuring kids and parents into irreversible medical intervention, using the threat of suicide to get parents to acquiesce to procedures they would not otherwise allow.

Ballet - Timeless - 300x300
Ballet - Love - 300x300
Division of the arts
CSW - Big Share

The opposition to Assembly Bill 465 refutes all of those claims, citing the Trevor Project’s statistics on mental health, suicide, and suicidal ideation of LGBTQ youth, and trans youth in particular, to show that “transgender and nonbinary youth were 2 to 2.5 times as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender LGBQ peers.” On their website outlining the findings of various studies, the Trevor Project continues,“Gender-affirming medical care, such as hormone therapy, is associated with positive mental health outcomes including showing promise for reducing suicide risk. A 2021 peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project’s researchers, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that gender-affirming hormone therapy is significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and nonbinary youth.”

PBS.org sites that in Wisconsin, only two groups have registered their support: A Catholic conference and the conservative Wisconsin Family Action, while two dozen groups have registered against the ban, “including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and other health care providers, the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, and the Wisconsin School Social Workers Association.” Brian Michael, COO of Mental Health America of Wisconsin, stated during the well-attended public hearing that most trans people know that they are trans when they are a teenager, and that this bill and those that are similar would dissuade trans kids from coming out. He continued that 8/10 of adults who live as a gender that is different from the one assigned at birth have a greater quality of life, and that the bills are “legislating based on fear.” He also noted that while these bills are unlikely to become bills, suicide and mental health hotlines see a big jump in calls when they are even introduced.

“Trans kids are not considering suicide because of who they are, but who we are,” added Rep. Clancy, a Democrat, in his testimony that included personal experience of his son. In that same hearing, a 12-year-old trans boy, with the support of his parents, shared his experience of being shut down emotionally, and considering suicide, until he came out to his parents and accessed gender-affirming care. “You shouldn’t make laws without hearing from the people who are directly impacted,” he concluded.

Disparate Impacts 

Kaleb Her of Freedom, Inc., a local advocacy group for people of color in Madison, spoke out against the bills in a comment to Our Lives, “Black and HMoob people have a huge health disparity rate. We struggle with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and war trauma. Instead of addressing these health disparities, the state is trying to put a medical ban on gender-affirming care. These health disparities are results of the state not investing in the well-being of Black and HMoob people. Bills like AB 465, AB 377, AB 378, and the rest of the 500+ anti-trans bills in the nation are part of an effort to further marginalize our people and institutionalize hatred towards trans people.” They continued, “I’ve been providing advocacy to Black and Southeast Asian LGBTQI+ folks in Dane County for years now, and when working with specifically trans folks, there were many barriers and hardships. Some of the biggest trends I saw were folks not being able to find stable housing, financial stability, and even getting their basic needs met. It is contradictory that our elected officials who are responsible for addressing health and education needs, are putting a ban on trans athletes and medical care when we have such high health disparity rates and are continuously heavily surveilled, policed, and pushed out not only in public spaces but even our own homes.”

Ballet - Love - 300x300
Ballet - Timeless - 300x300
Division of the arts
CSW - Big Share

For his part, Governor Evers has come out publicly and strongly against these bills, saying that “not one of them will become law in this state.” Evers has been a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights in Wisconsin since his election, and is the first Governor of the state to fly a pride flag over the state capitol during June, and in 2023 flew the progress pride flag. In a speech during the 2023 flag raising ceremony, he beseeched lawmakers across the country to stop passing harmful bills, stating that their actions matter. “Evers has pledged to ‘veto any bill that makes Wisconsin a less welcoming, less inclusive, and less safe place’ for LGBTQ+ people,” according to Advocate.com.

As noted earlier, these bills specifically target kids, youth, and young adults in college, but the GOP has no intention, despite their denial, of stopping there. Leaked emails from other representatives in other states where similar, almost identical bills are being introduced—and many are becoming laws—show a roadmap to use these wins as stepping stones to discriminate against trans people as a whole. As of this writing, Republican lawmakers have introduced new anti-trans legislation for the third week in a row, this time targeting trans incarcerated individuals. Keep an eye on what is going through the legislature, and watch out for that gradual encroachment that they will certainly try over the coming years to silence and outlaw trans and non-binary people from existing. We can’t let that happen.

Article Tags

Ballet - Timeless - Banner
MGHA tournament
Advert 77
Humane Society - Toto Gala

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ballet - Timeless - Banner
MGHA tournament
Advert 77
Humane Society - Toto Gala

Latest News

Project celebrates the legacy of the Gay Rights State

Project celebrates the legacy of the Gay Rights State

Madison, WI - Did you know? Sunday, February 25th is the 42nd anniversary of Wisconsin becoming the first Gay Rights State in the nation. On February 25, 1982, Governor Lee Dreyfus passed Assembly Bill 70 into law, banning discrimination against gays and lesbians in...

For Life

For Life

Clarence P. Cameron reflects on his life and amazing 63-year relationship with Robert (Bob) Lockhart as Bob transitions toward his final days.

Love List 2024: Lynn Mayer & Gigi Vail

Love List 2024: Lynn Mayer & Gigi Vail

2024 Love List Andrew Carlson & Riku Nozaki, Madison, 7 years Andrea & Genia Stevens, Beloit, 15 years Melanie Jones (she/her) & Christen Lester-Jones (she/her), Madison, 11.5 years Nick & Reegan Jensen-Shafer, La Crosse, 17 years Lynn Mayer & Gigi...

Latest News

VIEW ALL LATEST NEWS

Division of the arts
CSW - Big Share
Ballet - Timeless - 300x300
Ballet - Love - 300x300

Events

SUBMIT AN EVENT

VIEW ALL EVENTS

Jobs

SUBMIT A JOB POSTING

VIEW ALL JOBS

Popular Tags

Pin It on Pinterest