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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Trans Youth and Adults are Under Attack: Help Needed to Stop Bullies in State Legislatures Now

Our community is under attack.

2015 was a year of big wins for trans people—but as trans people have gained visibility and acceptance, our opponents have been revving up some of the biggest, loudest and ugliest assaults we’ve seen. They’re attacking us in schools, in the courts, in the media—and, increasingly, in state legislatures. Nearly a dozen states have introduced bills that target trans people, either adults or students, and threaten to roll back the progress we’ve all fought for.

Anti-trans bills have appeared in various forms in nearly a dozen states, from bills that take away trans people’s ability to correct their birth certificates to bills that would force them to report any transition-related surgeries they’ve had on their marriage licenses. The most common kinds we’re seeing are so-called “bathroom bills”: bills that make it a crime for trans people to use restrooms that match their gender. In Indiana, for example, if the bill passes, it would mean that using a bathroom that doesn’t match up with one’s chromosomes could cost $5000 in fines and up to a year in jail. Many of these bills would fine business owners and schools that don’t monitor trans people’s restroom use, and would give members of the public the incentive to accost trans people—or anyone whose appearance doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes—by letting anyone who sees a trans person simply going into a restroom collect civil damages, a cash bounty for anti-trans vigilantism. What is often lost in the debate is that for many trans people, not being able to use restrooms without fear of being arrested or attacked makes going to work, attending school and even just leaving the house a distressing, even impossible, ordeal.

To make matters worse, many of these bills specifically target young trans people. They’d punish trans students for using the facilities that match their gender—a right that is protected under federal sex discrimination law. Some of the bills would force trans kids to use restrooms meant for the wrong gender or segregate them into isolated single-user restrooms, putting them in the appalling position of having to choose between daily humiliation and avoiding restroom use at all, even when that means having to miss school altogether.

Our opponents don’t have facts to back them up—states, cities and schools all over the country have been letting trans people use the right restrooms without any problems—so they’re relying on fear mongering to push their agenda. They’re telling the public that giving trans people equal rights opens up restrooms to predators and puts trans people’s needs over the safety and comfort of others. They’re preying on anyone who will listen with imaginary threats that have no basis in reality.

The reality is that these bills aren’t about fighting an actual threat to safety or privacy. They’re about criminalizing trans people of all ages just for living as who they are and denying them to right to be treated with the same respect as everyone else. They’re about putting the government’s stamp of approval on segregating and harassing trans people and on excluding them from public life. And they all send an implicit message from the state that discrimination and violence against trans people is okay. For students and adults alike, the legislators introducing and voting for these bills are grown-up bullies.

What that means is that trans people and allies need to gear up for some of our biggest public battles yet. This is a fight over the dignity of trans people and the right to live without fear and violence. It’s a fight to set the tone for the national conversation about who trans people are and why trans equality is so important. And, although it won’t be easy, it’s a fight we know we can win.

Trans people and our friends and families—especially parents of trans kids—need to take immediate action to stop these bills and put an end to the anti-trans epidemic before it sweeps through more states. Please stand with us to tell state legislators that discrimination against trans people won’t be tolerated.

NCTE has just developed an Action Center that we will keep updated throughout the state legislative session. We break down by state what you can do now. And, if there is no bill in your state, take a look at our national action alerts. If you are a school counselor or school official in any state and are willing to publicly speak about the benefits of trans-friendly bathroom policies, get in contact with us by emailing us here.

Things are heating up and bills are about to move soon in South Dakota, Washington State, Virginia, and many other states. Go to the Action Center to fight for trans people now. 

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