Victories around marriage and other rights for the LGBTQ+ community over the past couple of decades have led to a severe backlash, especially with the rise of Trumpism. One way backlash has manifested is in a wave of anti-trans legislation in states across the U.S. That legislation has taken several forms, with different states adopting measures that directly or indirectly target trans individuals. Trans youth have become easy targets for the extremist right-wing and its regurgitation of hyperbolized “save the children’’ campaign rhetoric.
As of this past March, there are 30 states in the U.S. that have either passed or are considering laws that limit or outright ban gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers, and Texas is currently debating a bill expected to pass through the state’s right-wing legislature and be signed by its anti-trans governor. These laws not only interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, not to mention the parent-child relationship, and can have severe consequences for the mental and physical well-being of trans youth.
In addition to healthcare bans, twenty-one states and counting, including Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Arizona, and others, have enacted legislation prohibiting trans athletes, particularly women, from participating in sports that align with their gender. Based on misinformation, fear, and stereotypes, these bans deny trans athletes equal opportunities and foster discrimination in educational settings.
Some states, such as North Carolina, with its infamous “bathroom bill,” have attempted to regulate or restrict transgender individuals’ access to restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity (Lambda Legal, 2016). While the North Carolina bill ultimately failed, that wasn’t the end of the issue. Kansas and Arkansas passed bills in April preventing trans people from using the correct bathrooms. Florida joined them just this past Wednesday. These policies not only violate trans people’s privacy and dignity but also create an environment that subjects the trans community to harassment, humiliation, and even physical violence.
Effects of Restrictions on Access to Trans Healthcare
Restrictions on access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans folks, particularly minors, have far-reaching consequences on our mental and physical well-being. For example, denying transgender youth access to gender-affirming treatments can exacerbate feelings of dysphoria, depression, anxiety, and isolation. Conversely, studies have shown that access to appropriate healthcare significantly improves mental health outcomes and reduces suicidal ideation among transgender adolescents.
By prohibiting transgender youth from receiving medically necessary treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy, these laws may force them to undergo irreversible physical changes that don’t align with their gender identity. This misalignment can lead to long-term psychological distress and heightened dysphoria. In addition, laws that restrict access to gender-affirming healthcare interfere with medical professional’s ability to provide the best possible care for their patients. These restrictions may force doctors to choose between adhering to the law and prioritizing the well-being of their trans patients, leading to ethical dilemmas and strained doctor-patient relationships.
Unsurprisingly, anti-trans healthcare legislation disproportionately impacts marginalized people and communities, such as trans-BIPOC, low-income families, and individuals living in rural areas. Indeed, the same is true regarding healthcare in general. Moreover, these laws exacerbate existing disparities in access to healthcare, making it even more difficult for BIPOC trans folks to receive the care they need to thrive.
Denying transgender folks in general and youth in particular appropriate healthcare, these laws contribute to a cycle of marginalization, discrimination, and stigma. These laws not only affect the mental and physical health of those directly impacted but also perpetuates societal prejudice against the trans community as a whole, reinforcing barriers to acceptance and equal rights.
The Push to Limit Trans Participation in Sports
The growing trend of legislation targeting transgender athletes in sports has wide-ranging implications for the individuals affected and the sports community. Not surprisingly, these sports bans are based on misinformation and perpetuate stereotypes about the inherent physical advantages of transgender women athletes. Critics argue that these assumptions disregard the complex interplay of biological and social factors that contribute to athletic performance and unfairly target transgender women without scientific justification.
Such assumptions lean heavily on inherently misogynist notions, primarily that men are naturally superior to women and that women need men to protect them from other men, or in this case, from trans women by cis saviors. Both those notions essentially boil down to the myth that women are helpless and weak and need men to be their guardians, which is only a short hop away from reverting to a time when women were property and had no rights inside or outside the home. So don’t be surprised if the next step in the right-wing christian quest to reassert rigid gender norms is trying to stop girls from playing sports in boys’ leagues.
By prohibiting trans athletes from participating in sports that align with their gender, these laws effectively deny them equal opportunities to compete, learn, and grow. This exclusion has not only negative consequences for trans physical and mental health but also impacts social and educational experiences, particularly for trans students in school sports programs.
Being denied the opportunity to participate in sports can have significant mental health consequences for trans athletes, who may already face heightened anxiety, depression, and dysphoria. Sports can provide essential support networks, opportunities for self-expression, and a sense of belonging, all of which can be crucial for the well-being of trans folks.
These sports bans contribute to an atmosphere of discrimination and hostility towards trans athletes and the trans community, fostering prejudice and further marginalizing us within our communities. This climate of exclusion can also discourage other trans people from participating in sports and coming out, perpetuating a cycle of stigma and invisibility.
All this has broader implications for gender equality in sports as well. As we discussed at the beginning of this section, the push to limit trans people’s participation in sports raises questions about the larger issue of gender equality within the sports world. By focusing on the perceived “unfairness” of transgender women competing in women’s sports, these laws may distract from broader conversations about access, representation, and equity for all female athletes, regardless of their gender identity.
Increase in Laws Limiting Bathroom and Locker Room Access
The rise in legislation restricting trans people’s access to bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender has also become a prevalent issue in recent years, with several far-reaching implications.
One of the most obvious of those implications, and perhaps the most egregious, is the gross violation of privacy. By forcing trans people to use facilities that do not align with our gender, these laws effectively strip the trans community of the right to privacy and dignity. There are only two possible ways to enforce bathroom restrictions. One is to make generalized and stereotyped assumptions about people in bathrooms based on their appearance. The other is to violate people’s privacy by forcing them to prove what’s between their legs. Such violations lead to embarrassment, humiliation, and anxiety, further marginalizing the trans community and perpetuating a hostile, even violent environment.
Increased vulnerability to harassment and assault is another one of the severe implications when it comes to so-called bathroom bill laws. When forced to use facilities that don’t match their gender, it makes trans folks more susceptible to harassment, intimidation, and even physical attack. Lauren Jackson found that out the hard way in August of 2019 when a man in Newport, Oregon brutally beat her for using the women’s bathroom.
Luckily, Oregon is a very progressive state regarding the trans community and has strong protections against anti-trans hate crimes (in addition to having one of, if not the best and most inclusive trans healthcare in the U.S.). Fortunately, the perpetrator, Fred Castanza, was convicted for his violent hate crime. But trans folks to too many states lack such legal protections. But no matter which of the 50 U.S. states, these anti-trans bathroom laws create unsafe spaces for trans folks nationwide and heighten the risk of experiencing violence.
Laws that restrict bathroom and locker room access serve to reinforce harmful stereotypes about transgender people, suggesting that they pose a threat to other people’s safety and privacy. This perpetuation of these stigmas further entrenches societal discrimination against trans people. Moreover, it reinforces the barriers we face to acceptance and understanding. Proponents of these laws often argue they protect public safety and privacy by preventing potential abuse of gender-neutral or trans-inclusive policies. However, numerous studies and reports have shown no empirical evidence to support these claims. On the contrary, such laws contribute to a culture of fear, discrimination, and violence against transgender people.
Bathroom and locker room access restrictions have faced legal challenges for violating trans people’s civil rights and constitutional protections. However, with the current U.S. Supreme Court’s active attack on women’s rights, court challenges may not be a viable avenue for trans rights in the foreseeable future. But there are still other ways to fight back. For example, states that have enacted such laws have faced economic consequences, such as boycotts and loss of business investments. And while boycotts are no substitute for grassroots movement building and direct action, every little bit helps.