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Republicans declare war on transgender people in state legislatures all over the US

Protestors holding up signs. Prominently featured is a sign that says "Trans rights are human rights."
October 23, 2018 - Hundreds gather in Love Park in Philadelphia in response to the Trump administration's memo that would have legally erased transgender identity. Photo: Shutterstock

Republican lawmakers have filed a bevy of bills restricting transgender rights all over the country in the last two months.

The organization Freedom for All Americans is tracking anti-transgender legislation at the state level, where numerous bills have been filed this month and in December.

Related: Proposed Illinois law would make it illegal for doctors to treat transgender youth

Many of the bills are intended to stop gender-affirming health care for minors. Bills have been introduced in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas that would restrict young transgender people’s access to health care.

Some of the bills, like Florida’s and South Dakota’s, would make it a felony to provide puberty blockers to minors, even though puberty usually occurs when a person is under the age of 18.

State Rep. Brad Daw (R) will soon introduce similar legislation in Utah, and he said that the purpose of his bill is to prevent transgender minors from “changing their lives permanently.”

“When you’re doing this to teens, you are changing their lives permanently,“ he said. “It’s a hard bill to run. I don’t relish it, but I see the necessity of it.”

Transgender activist Sue Robbins, though, said that the entire point of puberty blockers is to buy kids time so that their bodies don’t undergo permanent changes that could make it harder for them to transition later.

“We’re taking away the choices of parents and individuals,“ she told KUTV. “Transgender healthcare is an affirming action that puts our youth in a better place.”

Other states, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Washington, are attacking transgender students’ ability to compete in sports, requiring them – or just trans girls, like in Washington’s bill – to compete with the gender indicated on their birth certificates or with their sex assigned at birth.

Georgia Rep. Philip Singleton (R) introduced the Student Athlete Protection Act, which would ban “biological males” from participating in individual girls’ sports and “biological females” from participating in individual boys’ sports. The text of the bill does not define what a “biological” male or female is.

“The intent of my bill is to make sure every student has the opportunity to compete fairly,” Singleton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We’re seeing a lot of things happening in states across the country and a big part of my campaign promise was to preserve the character of my community,” he added.

Karis Agnew of the Missouri-based LGBTQ organization PROMO – who is fighting similar legislation in her state – said that forcing trans students to misgender themselves effectively bans them from competing.

“If you ban transgender people from being able to participate in sports that match their gender identity, then you ban them from sports altogether,” she told KY3.

Republicans in several states are focusing on bathrooms and other gender-segregated facilities. A bill in Kentucky would ban transgender people from using the appropriate facilities in schools. One in Massachusetts would only allow people to access bathrooms and similar facilities associated with “an individual’s anatomical sex.”

Tennessee and Washington Republicans introduced bills that could make it “indecent exposure” for a transgender person to use the bathroom or other facilities associated with their gender identity instead of their sex assigned at birth.

Arizona Rep. John Fillmore (R) introduced a bill that would ban school officials and teachers from using the correct pronouns for transgender students.

And a bill in Pennsylvania would restrict prisoners’ access to gender-affirming health care.

Not all of the bills are expected to pass, and many were introduced in states where Democrats control at least one legislative chamber or have a Democratic governor.

Chase Strangio of the ACLU told the Daily Beast that the bills could have been introduced to stave off primary challenges this year. But the harm is already done.

“Even when bills like these are defeated, the proposals themselves are harmful and send a message that trans people are an appropriate target of government discrimination,” he said. “They lead to our rights and bodies being debated in the public domain in ways that compromise our health and sense of worth and basic dignity.”

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