Statehouses and AGs continue attacks on trans Americans

Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas.
Kansas high school students, family members and advocates rally for transgender rights, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas.
AP Photo/John Hanna

Transgender Americans are fighting against another blitz of anti-trans policies in several states early this year after confronting more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills in statehouses across the nation last year, with many of them targeting trans rights.

Just weeks into the new year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have tracked hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills already introduced this year. State Legislatures are typically busy in the first half of the year because that is when they are in session. Red states, as expected, are among those leading the charge against LGBTQ rights.

The first month of the year concluded with the State of Utah banning transgender individuals from using bathrooms at schools and government-owned facilities, while Ohio passed legislation imposing restrictions on trans student-athletes and gender-affirming care for youth — and even went as far as overriding Gov. Mike DeWine’s vetos to shove the bills into law.

Ohio’s whirlwind fight over trans rights continued this month when DeWine’s administration sought to restrict gender-affirming care for adults, only to change course with an alternative effort to require youth to have at least six months of mental health counseling before receiving gender-affirming treatment, according to the Associated Press.

While statehouses are leading the charge against trans rights, several attorneys general and governors — not just in Ohio — are utilizing their state-based power to advance transphobic policies. In Florida, for example, a directive from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles stipulated that individuals would no longer be allowed to change their gender marker on driver licenses, prompting widespread die-in protests at Florida DMV locations.

And in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton — a longtime foe of LGBTQ rights — asked a clinic in Georgia last month for the medical records of Texas minors who received gender-affirming care in that state, according to the Texas Tribune. In Kansas, Attorney General Kris Kobach delivered letters to select school districts saying they must tell parents when children are trans or non-binary — regardless of whether or not they are out at home. 

Texas, like Florida, has faced widespread national attention in recent years for resorting to drastic measures to attack transgender individuals. Florida is perhaps most notorious for its “Dont Say Gay or Trans” law that was later replicated in other states, while Texas sparked outrage in 2022 when Governor Greg Abbott set out to investigate families of trans youth, only to get reined in by a Texas judge.

The situation in Texas has become so concerning that the ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, GLAAD, and HRC, in conjunction with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, wrote a Joint Allegation Letter to 17 independent experts and working groups at the United Nations to bring attention and urgency to the crisis in Texas.

Several other states have proposed anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals that could become law later this year and there could be more bills on the horizon. The cumulative effect of the years-long campaign to curtail trans rights has resulted in 23 US states enacting laws or policies intended to restrict gender-affirming care for youth, according to KFF, an independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism. Bills seeking to ban trans kids from playing sports in accordance with their gender identity have passed in 25 states, according to the Movement Advancement Project.