New Year Brings Fresh Spate of Anti-Trans Bills from State GOP Lawmakers

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Sunday January 9, 2022
Originally published on January 8, 2022

2021 set a record for anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation. Only a week into 2022, GOP lawmakers have renewed the attacks on their favorite new targets: Transgender children. NBC News reports that Republicans in seven states have introduced at least nine new bills targeting trans youth.

"Republican lawmakers in Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and South Dakota introduced at least nine measures that target trans and nonbinary youths," NBC News relayed, before detailing that the "majority of this week's measures mirror the two types of legislation that dominated last year's record number of anti-trans bills: Measures that block trans kids from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity, and those that restrict their access to gender-affirming care."

Calling the frenzy of punitive legislation "a hostile and dangerous trend," Gillian Branstetter of the National Women's Law Center suggested that GOP lawmakers are just getting warmed up. "Unfortunately, I think we're getting ready to watch a race to the bottom among legislators who are in a competition to see who can do the most harm to trans kids," Branstetter told the news outlet.

"Last year, bills prohibiting health care for trans youth were introduced in more than 20 states, with two states — Arkansas and Tennessee — signing them into law," NBC News recalled.

GOP lawmakers use the rationale that they seek to "prevent young people from making medical decisions they might later regret" when denying them care that pediatricians say is appropriate and necessary.

Contrary to misinformation about trans children, minors do not undergo gender-affirming surgery; Politifact debunked that claim with the observation that "gender reassignment surgery, is only available to those 18 and older in the United States."

Meantime, puberty blockers — a much more common treatment for trans youths — are not an "experimental treatment," as disinformation suggests, but rather are a proven and safe treatment that can be discontinued at any time without harm.

Similar confusion and mischaracterizations are rife in the debate around transgender youth competing in athletics, with claims about "biological gender" being used by advocates promoting laws forbidding participation by trans youth on teams that match their gender identity.

"If competitive sports are made to be fair, there is a place for everyone to compete according to the biology they were born with," one such Republican lawmaker — South Dakota state Rep. Rhonda Milstead — told NBC News.

"Conversely, major sports organizations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and International Olympic Committee, allow transgender and nonbinary athletes to compete on teams that correspond to their gender identity under certain conditions," NBC News noted.

Other lawmakers seek a legal imposition of assumptions that reduce gender to a matter of external genitalia while sidelining the lived experience of those who say their physiology is at odds with who they know themselves to be.

Another South Dakota lawmaker, state Rep. Fred Deutsch, stated that a bill he introduced to bar transgender youth "from using multi-occupancy shower rooms, restrooms or locker rooms" was a matter of "maintain[ing] a definition of sex that actually reflects reality."

Like the controversial Texas anti-abortion law that empowers literally anyone — even people not residing in the state — to sue abortion providers, as well as anyone who assists women in getting abortions, Deutsch's bill financially incentivizes ordinary citizens to act as enforcers, giving students the right to sue schools and teachers if trans students "use single-sex bathrooms that align with their gender identity," or similarly access locker rooms and shower facilities, NBC News noted.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.