Universal Mentors Association

What Is Your Reaction to the Recent Wave of Legislation That Seeks to Regulate the Lives of Transgender Youths?


In her piece, published Jan. 25, she reported that there were more than 150 anti-transgender bills proposed in at least 25 state legislatures. By mid-April, that number had increased to over 400 bills in at least 45 states. At least 29 of those bills have become law.

Do those numbers surprise you? Have you recently noticed more people talking about transgender issues, whether on the news or in your own family, friend groups, sports leagues or schools? Have you heard of any laws related to transgender rights that have been proposed or passed in your own state or around the country?

In “G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push a Growing Wave of Anti-Transgender Bills,” Ms. Astor describes some of these bills:

The flood of legislation is part of a long-term campaign by national groups that see transgender rights as an issue on which they can harness voter anger — as with the campaigns against remote learning and critical race theory that reshaped many school boards and lifted Republicans in Virginia’s elections in 2021 — though the midterm elections provided little evidence of it.

“This is a political winner,” said Terry Schilling, the president of the conservative American Principles Project, arguing that more voters would have been swayed had many Republicans not “shied away” from the subject.

The potential consequences for transgender people, for whom harassment and threats have become common and suicide rates are high, are profound. Many express a sense that the power of their government is being turned against them as they try to live their lives.

“We have shifted this conversation so incredibly far in the direction of restrictions on trans people’s autonomy and rights in a way that was completely unfathomable to many of us even just three or four years ago,” said Chase Strangio, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Legislation in Oklahoma and South Carolina would make it a felony to provide hormonal or surgical transition treatment to transgender people younger than 26 — an uncharted incursion into adults’ health care. Other bills in both states, and in Kansas and Mississippi, would ban such care up to age 21. And bills in more than a dozen states would ban it for minors, which Arkansas was the first to do in 2021, against the consensus of major medical organizations.

A bill in Mississippi — declaring that “separate is not inherently unequal,” an allusion to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 ruling in which the Supreme Court upheld segregation — would define sex as immutably set at birth, denying transgender identities under state law. A measure in West Virginia would define “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display” as obscene, potentially outlawing transgender people’s presence around children.

The article continues:

Conservative activists have emphasized parental control and child protection, calling transition care harmful, an assertion rejected by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups. Transgender people have higher rates of depression and suicide, and research shows that transition care — which can involve puberty blockers, hormones or surgery, though minors rarely receive surgery — can improve mental health.

Some activists and politicians also say exposing young people to transgender identities, whether through a book reading by a drag performer or a classroom discussion, “sexualizes” them — an echo of anti-gay campaigns dating to the 1970s, which cast gay people as preying on children.

But the bills arriving in legislatures show a movement expanding beyond what it pitched itself as.

The 25-year-olds who would be unable to receive transition care in Oklahoma and South Carolina are not, after all, children. An Arizona bill would ban drag shows on Sunday mornings whether or not minors were around. (The lawmakers who introduced those bills did not respond to requests for comment.)

Students, read the entire article and then tell us:

  • What is your reaction to the growing wave of legislation that seeks to regulate the lives of transgender youths across the United States? Did any particular passage in the article catch your attention?

  • How have these issues surfaced in the places you spend time, whether at school, among your friends, at home or elsewhere in your community? What effect, if any, have they had on you?

  • What arguments have you heard in favor of or against these bills? Do you agree with any of those arguments?

  • Many of these bills focus on young people, including determining what sports teams they can play on, what medical care they can receive, and what can be said about gender and sexuality in schools. What message do these laws send to teenagers? What do you wish lawmakers knew about how this legislation could affect you or others your age?

  • Is it important to have laws determining the medical care transgender youth receive or the sports teams young people can play on? Or should those decisions be left to others — such as families, schools, doctors or young people themselves? Why do you think the way you do?

  • Why do you think this flood of legislation is happening right now? What do you think it says about the United States today? What questions do you have?


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