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Unfortunately, this year has seen a large increase in the amount of anti-transgender legislation introduced across the country. Thirty-three states have introduced over 100 bills aimed at limiting the rights of transgender people and many specifically target minors. This is especially alarming as trans youth are already susceptible to high rates of suicide and depression.

 

Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee have all passed laws banning trans athletes from participating in sports accordant to their gender identity. A similar law passed in Idaho was struck down in federal court in 2020, but 31 other states have still introduced such legislation on trans athletes. 

 

These types of laws are a response to the cry that trans women supposedly have an unfair advantage when competing against cis-gendered women. The thing is, this situation is not a widespread problem and is extremely rare. The Associated Press called 24 state legislators who sponsored these bills and asked for instances where the participation of a trans athlete in the sport created conflict. Few of these legislatures were able to cite any instance at all. 

 

What’s worse is that to enforce such laws, school officials would need to ‘verify’ a student’s gender by having them expose their bodies to school officials. It should go without saying that this is a gross power to give to school officials and undoubtedly traumatizing. These kinds of laws will lead to a negative impact on the mental and emotional health of trans youth and would put them at a higher risk of being sexually abused by school officials.

 

On April 6th, Arkansas became the first state to outlaw providing gender-affirming treatment to minors. Twenty-two other states are looking to follow suit, having introduced similar legislation that prohibits or impedes providing gender-affirming treatment to minors.

 

These laws are often framed as protecting children, hiding a civil rights violation under legislation names like the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” in Alabama. In reality, this type of legislation only limits the rights of trans people to express their gender identity. 

 

On the subject, Kerith Conron the research director at UCLA Law Williams Institute told CNN that, “These laws are not grounded in science or majority medical opinion and have strong implications for the survival of trans youth in these states … and for long-term quality of life for those who make it through adolescence.” 

 

If you’re interested in what the science actually supports, various studies from several universities including the Williams Institute and Cornell University have found that access to gender-affirming treatment was associated with lower odds of long-term and consistent suicidal thoughts among trans adults.

 

It seems that this conservative push for anti-trans legislation is based on nothing but fear. Fear of people being trans. These laws are framed as solutions to problems that don’t exist, but effectively are the conservative solution for the ‘trans problem.’ Under this legislation, trans and cis-gendered people have inherently unequal rights. America is supposedly the home of equality, but none of us are equal until all of us are.

 

If this legislation seems oppressive and discriminatory, that’s because it is. So I would urge you to research if any anti-trans legislation has been introduced in your state and if so, to contact your state representatives.

Amy Storti

Wells '21

Wells College Class of 2021 English Literature Major
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