Culture / News

Perfect Storm Prepped Country for Anti-Trans Policies, Panelists Say

Policies that criminalize gender non-conforming  youth and their parents are insidious and bound to international and national right-wing populism, panelists said at Roosevelt House’s “The Rise of Anti-Trans Policy in 2022” last week.

Recently, anti-trans policies have been showing up in state legislatures across the country. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida forbids teachers and caretakers from mentioning sexual identity or preference in the presence of children in third grade or lower. In Texas, a new law awaiting enforcement will separate trans kids from their parents, calling support for trans identity child abuse. 

There are three bills in Arizona targeting minors, educational records and intramural sports, according to Freedom for All Americans, an organization that tracks these anti-trans bills, sponsors, status and latest action.

These policies create extreme hardship to trans teens and their families, experts say, because they rely on unreliable information and emotional outrage rather than reason and compassion. 

“A lot of the issues we’re documenting are basic things that people are struggling with every day: being evicted because they’re trans, not having a bathroom to go to at school because they’re trans,” said panelist Ryan Thoreson, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch.

All the panelists noted that they’ve seen an exceptional increase in anti-trans policy this year, due to a number of factors, including the Trump administration, a shift towards greater partisanship and American populism, which all coagulate to empower advocates of anti-trans policy through their rhetoric, judicial decisions and legislation.

“I do think that it’s tied into the assault on critical race theory and the idea that parental rights have become a successful wedge issue in American politics,” said Joanna Wuest, an incoming assistant professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College and a Fund for Reunion-Cotsen postdoctoral fellow in LGBT studies in the Princeton University Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. “I also expect there’s a sense in which, after the Trump administration, law and policy makers feel more emboldened to bring these issues into the courts.” 

Critiques of critical race theory have an influence because it’s part of the same anti-liberal agenda as anti-trans policy. The rhetoric blames liberal notions of identity for increased mental health problems among children. Trump supporters are a part of the wave of anti-trans policy for similar reasons.

Parental rights are the basis for some of these policies because, anti-trans advocates say, it’s the right of parents to control what their children are exposed to to prevent their indoctrination into liberal ideology.

Panelist Zein Murib warned that rights-based thinking leads to dangerous contention.

“This is about preserving a parent’s fundamental right to control their children and I think this is again where rights don’t take us down the right path,” said Murib, an assistant professor of political science and co-director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Fordham University.

Murib said the solutions to trans issues should form around intersectionality, the idea that different combinations of identity beget different experiences. These questions need creative solutions, rather than pitting different rights against each other, Murib said, like having athletes compete by weight class rather than be divided by gender.

However, Wuest contended that leaning too heavily on intersectionality can make pro-trans advocates vulnerable to difficult challenges.

Anti-trans advocates “create this antagonistic version of intersectionality,” she said. “They pit all these intersections against each other, saying there’s no way to accomplish a liberal policy that is actually inclusive.” 

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Hunter College directs students to three resources for LGBTQ concerns: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, The International Lesbian and Gay Association, and DiversityAbroad.com.

 

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