Tropical Leaves

How Republican Lawmakers’ transgender restriction bills demonstrate the betrayal of their own values

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By Sanjeev Naiek

In the first few months of 2021, following the confusing mess surrounding the US presidential election and electoral college certification, a disturbing trend emerged in state legislatures around the country. Laws targeting transgender peoples’ participation in critical parts of their lives have been introduced in over 33 states. Over 250 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced into legislatures around the United States this year, 124 of which can be classified as anti-transgender. These bills range from violations as egregious as preventing transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming healthcare or as petty as preventing IDs from reflecting gender identity. Some even restrict the ability for teachers to discuss gender identity or LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms. Regardless of whether or not these bills pass, the fact that such a large number were even introduced is alarming and speaks to a growing pushback against transgender people and their access to services.

A deep dive into the bills begins to reveal the severity of this legislative wave. The bills split into a few identifiable categories. The American Civil Liberties Union categorizes them as follows: bills restricting healthcare for transgender youth, bills concerning restroom facilities, bills concerning youth in athletics, ID restriction laws, and other generally anti-transgender bills. Restricting healthcare for transgender children is meant to be a method to prevent children from making what certain politicians refer to as “reckless decisions at an early age.”

Many politicians seem to believe that any child can enter a healthcare center and immediately be administered life-altering hormones to begin gender-affirming care. In actuality, there are strict standards endorsed by the Pediatric Endocrine Society to ensure that a balance of transitioning without immediate permanent changes can be achieved. If a child demonstrates interest in transitioning, they must demonstrate “insistent, consistent, and persistent,” interest for over six months, including a social transition. Only after this can even the most basic of puberty-blocking medicines be taken, in order to prevent dysphoria causing developments. Only after a significant period of time and evaluations can these teenagers even consider taking hormones - yet another process with clear standards in place.

These transitions are not some sort of preference that can be acquired and forgotten easily. They are integral to ensuring that children do not grow up with dysphoria and severe mental health issues. Studies have shown that access to these healthcare services can reduce suicidal tendencies and thoughts in transgender people by 15%. Preventing people from transitioning medically is certainly cruel, but these bills also propose social ostracization. Disallowing people from using the bathrooms or preventing them from having their gender identity on their ID card only stymies their transition. Restricting the ability for teachers to teach about LGBTQ+ and transgender topics in classrooms only serves to stop children from understanding and being accepting of their transgender peers. The education of children should not be restricted by the beliefs of lawmakers. Transgender people exist, and thus, teachers should teach children ageappropriate understandings. While I am not a medical expert, and there are conflicting viewpoints on trans youth athletes, it is clear that excluding them from participating in the gendered events they identify with would be a detriment to their transition.

If these laws are so cruel, who is introducing them? What party would do such a thing? The Democratic Party’s views are fairly clear in defense of transgender rights. President Joe Biden, the current face of the party supports the Equality Act, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. On the first day of his presidency, Joe Biden signed into law an executive order that would protect transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. More specifically, his executive order began enforcing a previous supreme court ruling that occurred under the Trump administration that was unenforced and neglected.

This neglect by President Trump is an example of politicians on the right exemplifying their lack of support for the rights of transgender people. Almost every single one of the anti-transgender bills introduced in legislatures around the country was written by, supported, and (if voted on) voted for by Republicans.

For years, Republicans have branded themselves in opposition to the ‘socialist big government’ Democrats by cutting taxes, increasing business autonomy, and deregulation. These policies designed to make the government smaller and rely on the individual to support themselves are part of the supposed core beliefs of those on the right. However, these bills that have been introduced are anything but pro-small government. Putting the government in charge of decisions like these instead of relying on years of existing medical science is certainly an expansion of government. Many bills go even further than bans, such as some proposed in Florida (HB 1475) that call for full “inspections” of the bodies of athletes in the cases where a girl's gender is challenged. Aside from being an egregious violation of the bodies of athletes, it also demonstrates the antithesis of conservative values.

This opposition to transgender people exists purely for the purposes of discrimination. If, in the medical opinion of doctors, a child is in need of medical care, then the government should not be interfering - read: regulating - this interaction. At the end of the day, this type of politics only serves to doom the Republican Party. Around one in six Generation Z adults are LGBTQ+ and acceptance rates of LGBTQ+ adults among Gen Z are the highest among any voting group. These policies will only alienate the Republican party and cause them to be voted out. The question then remains: how much lasting damage to the mental and physical health of transgender people will be caused by these bills before the Republican Party is voted out?