2021 was a record year for anti-LGBTQ legislation, and it seems state legislatures are already trying to beat it in 2022.
Last year was particularly horrific for trans youth, who experienced unprecedented legislative attacks on their right to participate in sports and their access to gender-affirming health care.
And in only the first week of the new year, a whopping seven states introduced similar bills targeting trans young people.
Republicans in New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, and South Dakota have proposed laws restricting health care, bathroom usage, and sports participation for trans and nonbinary youth, according to NBC News.
In Arizona, Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers has proposed Senate Bill 1045 to prohibit medical procedures that affirm the gender identity of trans children. Health professionals who do so would be guilty of a Class 4 felony, with a prison sentence of one to three years.
The bill would also force teachers and schools to out trans and gender non-conforming students to their parents, even at the student’s potential peril.
Another bill in South Dakota, introduced by Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch, would not only restrict trans youth from accessing multi-occupancy bathrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms, but would also allow students who witness trans classmates violating the law to sue their school districts.
“All across the country, including in South Dakota, laws and policies are being changed to redefine sex in a manner that denies the material reality of sex,” Deutsch said. “This bill is designed to ensure that, at least in South Dakota, we maintain a definition of sex that actually reflects reality.”
Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, believes bills like this one–that allow private citizens to punish those who break the law–will become increasingly common.
“One concern that people have moving forward is, ‘How are lawmakers going to try and avoid accountability and judicial review?’” Strangio said. “I think one way is to limit government enforcement of their laws and sort of deputize private individuals to act as government officials to essentially be the people enforcing the law through private lawsuits.”
Gillian Branstetter, media manager for the National Women’s Law Center, also predicts a worrisome year ahead.
“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. It is a hostile and dangerous trend that I’m sure we’ll see continue through the year.”