Participants in the 2019 Los Angeles Pride Parade march in front of numerous corporate floats. (Venegas / LA Times)

Opinion

Opinion: Bills that target trans and queer youth don’t just set back equality, they befall democracy

We all must remain dedicated to making the country — and the world — a safer place for all youth.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/bookpapaya/" target="_self">Maya Henry</a>

Maya Henry

May 24, 2022
In the first four months of 2022 alone, a record-breaking number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the United States. Of the 670 bills introduced since 2018, 238 were proposed from January to March 2022.

The bills aim to limit every aspect of trans and queer identity and existence, especially when it comes to young trans and queer people and students. The bills target trans athletes’ ability to compete in gendered sports, what teachers are able to discuss regarding sexuality and gender identity in the classroom, and the legality of gender-affirming surgery and healthcare.

Put plain and simple, these bills persecute the fundamental human rights of trans and queer people and pose a constant and dangerous threat to trans and queer communities across the country. Across the nation, in both states where such detrimental bills have passed and in those that haven’t trans and queer youth are living in states of fear, anger, determination and every emotion in between.

“I feel like the bills keep getting closer to California. I’m just worried about when us being in California won’t be enough to protect our rights,” a California GSA club member LN said. 

In other states where such anti-queer bills aren’t just threats but reality, trans and queer youth are feeling intensified versions of what LN shared. Illinois-based youth and Gender Justice Leadership Program member Ash Kranti shared that living in a state where bill HB4082, a bill that aims to severely limit the rights of trans-student-athletes, is currently being processed, is highly detrimental to nearly every aspect of xyr being.

“It’s emotionally exhausting… You don’t want to get up. You don’t want to do things. You can’t show up at school. You can’t show up at work. You can’t show up anywhere,” Kranti said. “It’s exhausting. So when folks pass bills like this, it hurts.” 

Perhaps no words can accurately describe what it feels like to be despised in the “land of the free” for parts of yourself you simply cannot change. But, what both LN and Kranti and hundreds of other trans and queer youth who have spoken up and out about these bills have highlighted is how no matter where youth live, these bills are harmful. 

Already, trans and queer youth are facing a mental health crisis. Trans and queer teens are six times more likely to suffer from depression or depression-like symptoms than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts, two times more likely to consider suicide and more than four times as likely to attempt committing suicide before they turn 21 as non-queer youth their same age.

This mental health crisis stems from numerous issues: discrimination, trans and queer exclusive education, abuse and lack of adequate resources, to name a few of many. All of these factors are worsened when anti-queer and anti-trans bills are drafted and passed.  

Trans and queer youth, however, refuse to take these infringements on existence lying down.

From staging school walkouts in Florida after the passing of the Don’t Say Gay Bill to youth leaders working with their GSAs to inform classmates about the horrific bills being voted on, youth across the U.S. are working to make their voices heard.

No matter what happens in legislatures throughout the country, one thing remains crystal clear: trans and queer youth will continue to live and fight for their rights, no matter the ways that politicians continue to weaponize and threaten trans and queer existence. 

To stay updated on national strategies to fight against such bills, check the GSA Network Devising Freedom strategy page regularly. Allies, especially needed in times like these, can continue to support the trans and queer youth in their lives right now by offering a supportive and safe space, donating time or money to local organizations, and continuing to educate themselves and others.

Lobbying against these bills, too, is an effective way to show support for trans and queer communities. Regardless of how allies show up for trans and queer youth, we all must remain dedicated to making the country — and the world — a safer place for all youth, who deserve to have the same opportunities and fundamental rights to liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness that their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts do. 

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