In 2015, the Human Rights Campaign began tracking anti-LGBTQ legislation in the United States. That year, nineteen bills were introduced: sixteen bathroom and youth sports bans plus three uncategorized bills. By 2020, that number jumped to sixty-six:
- twenty-five bathroom and youth sports bans,
- twenty-four bans or restrictions on transgender healthcare, and
- seventeen uncategorized bills.
As of 12 April 2021, roughly one-third of the way through the year, 117 bills were introduced in thirty-three states. There are fifty-eight bills on bathroom and youth sports bans, twenty-nine bans or restrictions on transgender health, plus an additional six uncategorized bills. Unfortunately, this already unprecedented number of bills seems destined to grow. (Krishnakumar)
By 9 April 2021, the Governors of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi signed sports ban bills into law. Arkansas has passed legislation that will soon be put into effect banning gender-affirming care for minors. As of that time, no states had passed anti-trans legislation that targeted ID restrictions, education restrictions, or civil rights protections. (Krishnakumar)
Targeting Healthcare for Transgender Youth
The legislation currently being put forward to block transgender youth from medical care is framed as protecting children. However, studies like those done by Cornell University, Williams Institute, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that gender-affirming care reduces the risk of depression and anxiety. A recent study by Pediatrics found that access to pubertal suppression treatment was associated with lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation among transgender adults (Turban). Furthermore, the Endocrine Society, Child Mind Institute, and American Psychological Association have established that the medical best practice guidelines are that states provide gender-affirming care for trans youth. (Krishnakumar). At this point, state bans have jeopardized roughly 45,100 trans youths’s access to healthcare. (Conron).
The frequently cited rationale for transgender sports bans is that these bill are a proactive measure needed to protect girls from the unfair advantage that trans girls may have on the field. This is also misguided. In 2011 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) published policies for including trans athletes. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) came to a consensus of having trans athletes in 2015. However, these policies may change after the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
These Bills Are Not Supported By The Majority of Americans
The number of anti-trans legislative efforts being put forward is unprecedented. Trans advocate Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Deputy Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, commented, “These are organized anti-transgender forces, people who are ideologically anti-transgender, who are trying to push this everywhere that they can…it’s coordinated, it’s deliberate, and it is all about using trans people and especially trans youth as a political football.”(López)
Constituents are not requesting these bills. Even among Trump voters, they are highly unpopular, especially since these bills are often taking precedent over COVID response and economic relief. A poll conducted in 10 swing states by the Human Rights Campaign and Hart Research in March 2021 found that:
- 69% of respondents believed that transgender youth should have access to medication that delays puberty if they have advice from their doctors and consent from their parents. (Human Rights Campaign)
- 66% of American adults including 70% of Republicans oppose legislation that prohibits trans related healthcare for minors (Loffman)
- 67% of American adults, including 66% of Republicans oppose legislation banning youth from joining sports teams that match their identity. (Loffman)
- At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the ten swing states said, “transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.”(Human Rights Campaign)
- At least 87% of respondents across each of the ten swing states said transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support.(Human Rights Campaign)
- When respondents were asked how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue. (Human Rights Campaign)
Corporate support for the civil rights of LGBTQ people is also high. By the end of April 2021, more than four hundred companies, including Tesla, Pfizer, Delta Airlines, and Amazon, signed on to support civil rights legislation for LGBTQ people. More than 85 companies, including Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Pfizer, and Union Pacific, signed a statement drafted by the HRC that read, “As we make complex decisions about where to invest and grow, [anti-trans legislation] can influence our decisions.” (Crary)
When the ‘bathroom bills’ were passed in 2016, the legislators assured their constituents that there would be no financial impact. They were wrong. The backlash against these bills was huge. North Carolina suffered financial losses that ranged from canceled plans for a PayPal facility estimated to bring in $2.66 billion to the state’s economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert. Adidas, CoStar, Lionsgate Television Productions, Voxpro, and Deutsche Bank also chose to abandon plans for bringing business to North Carolina. The state lost 2,900 jobs when these companies pulled out. The NAACP also joined in and initiated a national economic boycott. (“Bathroom Bill” to Cost North Carolina $3.76 Billion, 2017)
North Carolina lost hundreds of millions more because the NCAA refused to let North Carolina host any of their various sports championships until the law was appealed. The NCAA excluded North Carolina from championship game host eligibility for the 2017 – 2021 seasons. The NBA moved the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, NC and the Lutheran Financial Managers Convention moved out of Fayetteville. In addition, Pearl Jam and Cirque Du Soleil canceled their scheduled appearances at Raleigh’s PNC Arena .(“Bathroom Bill” to Cost North Carolina $3.76 Billion, 2017)
Over two dozen cities and states joined the economic boycott. From Honolulu to Vermont, cities and states banned taxpayer-funded visits to North Carolina. Investment firms found many of their clients requesting that their holdings exclude bonds issued by North Carolina state or municipal governments. The economic impact of the selling off millions of dollars of municipal bonds is immeasurable. (“Bathroom Bill” to Cost North Carolina $3.76 Billion, 2017)
These are only some of the economic penalties that the state of North Carolina experienced after passing their anti-trans bathroom bill. By the end of 2017, NC lost more than $525 million. By the end of 2028, the state will have missed out on more than $3.76 billion in lost business. (“Bathroom Bill” to Cost North Carolina $3.76 Billion, 2017)
However, the same fervor has not been seen during the anti-trans legislative push in 2020-2021. Many leaders in the LGBTQ community, including Heng-Lehtinen, are surprised by the lack of backlash. Heng-Lehtinen hopes a more significant backlash will happen as more people learn about legislation being approved.” A lot of Americans are still getting to know trans people, and they’re learning about these issues for the first time,” he said. “Over time, they get to know their trans neighbors, they get outraged by these bans, and corporations respond … It’s just a matter of time.” (Crary)
How You Can Help
The Freedom for All American’s website has an easy-to-use legislation tracker, making it easier to follow anti-trans legislation in each state.
The ACLU provides current information on LGBTQ rights and how to get involved. It also tracks legislation affecting LGBTQ rights in each state.
Take Action Against Anti-Trans Legislation is a new site that keeps track of the bills that are about to be signed into law. Take Action Against Anti-Trans Legislation provides the bill’s details and the information of the government official to contact to express opposition. It also includes script templates for contacting officials by phone and email.
GLMA and NCTE have created an Anti-Trans Medical Ban Sign-on Letter and Statement. They are collecting signatures from health care providers (including mental/behavioral health providers and students across medicine and psych fields).
The American Psychological Association has also developed an excellent website for helping professionals engage in public policy advocacy around LGBTQ+ issues. They have tips for contacting representatives, writing op-eds, and more, including evidence-based talking points for a range of issues, including the healthcare and sports bans.
Krishnakumar, P. (2021, 27 April). This record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation would affect minors the most. CNN Politics. https://www.cnn.com/2021/04/15/politics/anti-transgender-legislation-2021/index.html
Crary, D. (2021, 27 April). No major backlash for states passing anti-transgender laws. PBS NewsHour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/no-major-backlash-for-states-passing-anti-transgender-laws
Conron, K., O’Neill, K., Vasque, L. (2021). Prohibiting Gender-Affirming Medical Care for Youth. Williams Institute. Retrieved 4 May, 2021, from https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/bans-trans-youth-health-care/
Turban, J. L., King, D., Carswell, J. M., & Keuroghlian, A. S. (2020). Pubertal Suppression for Transgender Youth and Risk of Suicidal Ideation. Pediatrics. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-1725
Korioth, T. (2021, 29 April). Pediatricians say state bills would harm transgender youths. AAP News. https://www.aappublications.org/news/2021/03/09/transgender-legislation-030921
López, C. (2021, 7 April). Every anti-trans bill US lawmakers introduced this year, from banning medication to jail time for doctors. Insider. Retrieved 2 May, 2021, from https://www.insider.com/over-half-of-us-states-tried-passing-anti-trans-bills-2021-3
International Olympic Committee (2015 November). IOC Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism. Retrieved 2 May, 2021, from: https://stillmed.olympic.org/Documents/Commissions_PDFfiles/Medical_commission/2015-11_ioc_consensus_meeting_on_sex_reassignment_and_hyperandrogenism-en.pdf
National Collegiate Athletic Association (2011). NACC Inclusion of Transgender-Student Athletes. Retrieved 2 May, 2021, from: https://ncaaorg.s3.amazonaws.com/inclusion/lgbtq/INC_TransgenderHandbook.pdf
Human Rights Campaign. (2021). American’s Views on the Equality Act. Hart Research Associates. Retrieved 2 May, 2021, from: https://hrc-prod-requests.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/ME-14049-HRC-Equality-Act-3-16-2021.pdf?mtime=20210316175245&focal=none
2021 Becomes Record Year For Anti-Trans Legislation. (2021, 13 March). HRC. Retrieved 2 May, 2021, from https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/breaking-2021-becomes-record-year-for-anti-transgender-legislation
“Bathroom bill” to cost North Carolina $3.76 billion. (2017, 27 March). CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/27/bathroom-bill-to-cost-north-carolina-376-billion.html
Loffman, M. New poll shows Americans overwhelmingly oppose anti-transgender laws. (2021, April 16). PBS NewsHour. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/new-poll-shows-americans-overwhelmingly-oppose-anti-transgender-laws