Transgender youth need our support now

Camilla Tarpey-Schwed, Columnist

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order announcing that every individual, regardless of their gender identity, should be treated fairly and have equal access to resources and public accommodations. Despite this order, transgender individuals are being vigorously targeted, and the recent increase in state-sponsored anti-transgender bills seeks to diminish their basic human rights. 

If passed, these bills would take away transgender people’s rights to use restrooms, participate in school sports and receive gender-affirming healthcare that is consistent with their gender identity. While misinformed transphobic individuals believe that such prohibitions “preserve” cisgender women’s rights, and ironically ‘protect’ transgender women, in reality, they only limit transgender folks’ rights and render them even more vulnerable. 

These bills are misguided because they suggest that affording equal rights and protections to transgender folks will somehow diminish other groups’ rights. However, equality should be afforded to everyone, and there is no need to pick and choose which groups should receive equal treatment and which should not.

Illustration by Madi Welch.

Some proponents of these bills suggest that they are necessary to “protect” cisgender athletes. Mississippi’s governor recently stated that their anti-transgender sports bill, which would prevent transgender girls and women from participating in school sports, is “important” because it seeks to “promote fairness in women’s sports.” 

The governor argues that an unfair advantage is created when transgender girls and women are allowed to participate in sports alongside cisgender girls and women, but the evidence doesn’t support this, and such prohibitions do great harm to the transgender community. 

A recent ACLU article exposes this myth and explains that trans women athletes do not have an unfair advantage, while cisgender women have consistently performed as well or better than transgender competitors. Inequality is only created when transgender girls and women are prohibited from participating in sports altogether. 

The language in these bills is problematic; it implies that transgender women are not “real” women because their gender may not match their sex assignment. Gender does not equate to sex, and transgender girls and women ARE girls and women, so they should be treated that way. To do otherwise denies them the basic human dignity that they deserve.

Transphobic bills, such as bills that prohibit transgender folks from receiving gender-affirming healthcare, often falsely and patronizingly state that they seek to “protect” vulnerable transgender people who are “unable” to make proper healthcare decisions for themselves. These bills do the exact opposite of what they state; they do not protect trans folks—they make them increasingly vulnerable and eliminate options that give them dignity. 

The Alabama state bill, titled “The Vulnerable Child Compassion & Protection Act,” is an example of this. The bill makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming healthcare to transgender people and requires school staff to disclose a transgender or questioning identity to a guardian. Forcibly outing transgender youth does not “protect” them and can subject them to rejection and mental or physical abuse. It cannot possibly be “compassionate” to deny trans people the healthcare they need.

These bills and the discourse surrounding them have serious impacts on the mental health of transgender youth. According to The Trevor Project, 86 percent of LGBTQ youth said that recent politics have negatively impacted their well-being; more than 50 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth have considered suicide. These statistics are startling and they must be treated with seriousness. 

These statistics are evidence that these bills do not protect trans youth; instead, these bills deny them the compassion and understanding they deserve. Whether or not these horrific anti-transgender state bills get passed, their existence is evidence that transgender folks are under attack, and that they need our support now.