On March 4th 2023, right-wing political commentator Michael Knowles spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC. He said that ‘transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely. The whole preposterous ideology’ adding that this would be ‘for the good of society.’ Whilst the crowd of conservatives cheered on, the trans people hearing the news were left stunned and afraid. Knowles’ remark has been criticised for demonising trans people and using historically fascistic language that suggests the need for a mass genocide of trans people. This kind of speech is only a small part of the anti-trans hate that has been seen since the start of this year.
A current total of 120 anti-trans bills have already been filed in 22 US states this year. Among these are suggested legislation that prevents transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports teams, restrictions in gender-affirming healthcare for minors, and the banning of drag show performances. A kind of moral panic akin to that of the 1950s Lavender Scare has emerged in the US government over the past few years. Trans and non-binary people are facing institutionalised prejudice as a result of these dangerous new laws.
Despite the many areas of the queer community that are under attack, the biggest debate currently surrounds the bans on drag shows in the US. Since the beginning of this year, 32 bills have been passed that prohibit ‘adult cabaret performances’ on public property or in places where children are present. The truth of the matter is that the majority of drag performances are usually hosted in venues like bars and clubs which cannot be accessed by children. There are, however, ‘Drag Queen Story Hours’ in public libraries. Despite the fact that these drag performers read age-appropriate storybooks to children in public settings where their parents are present, this program has been criticised for being unsafe and sexually inappropriate. As drag is an art form shared by queer people which focuses on the expression and subversion of gender performance, the rise in anti-drag legislation is yet another device for the oppression of LGBTQIA+ people.
School districts will not be able to adopt confidentiality policies which would have protected queer youths from coming out before they were safe and ready to do so
On March 16th 2023, lawmakers in Kentucky passed an expanded anti-trans bill which, as well as denying the use of preferred names and pronouns in schools and allowing students to opt out of lessons discussing LGBT+ matters, now includes a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youths. Such healthcare would include hormone therapy or puberty blockers, and gender affirmation surgery. Known as Senate Bill 150, the law also states that doctors in Kentucky must end transition processes for children receiving hormone therapy. In schools, trans students will not be permitted to use toilets or locker rooms that align with their gender identities and school districts will not be able to adopt confidentiality policies which would have protected queer youths from coming out before they were safe and ready to do so.
The idea that young trans people in Kentucky who have gone through the long, arduous and expensive process of securing gender-affirming healthcare will be forced to ‘detransition’ has been criticised as a disregard of human rights. In the UK, the process of transition is no less complicated and dehumanising. The NHS discourages the use of puberty blockers and ensures that strict protocol is met before adolescents may receive hormone therapy. Trans people must receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria after seeing a team of psychiatrists, therapists and clinicians for up to two years before they can apply for gender-affirming healthcare. The waiting lists for NHS Gender Identity Clinics, hormone therapy and surgery can often leave patients waiting for many months before being seen.
This kind of long, contradictory process can be exhausting for trans people in the UK
In order to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) in the UK, you must be aged 18+, diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and you must have been ‘living in your affirmed gender for at least two years.’ Gov.uk also states that you can apply for a GRC if you have not received a gender dysphoria diagnosis, but you have had gender affirmation surgery. However, this cannot be obtained without a gender dysphoria diagnosis. This kind of long, contradictory process can be exhausting for trans people in the UK. Last year, the Scottish Parliament put forward a bill to make the process of obtaining a GRC easier and more tailored to the specific needs of trans individuals and in December 2022, Scotland voted in favour of the bill. However, the UK government enacted a Section 35 order to block this bill from becoming law. Following the resignation last month of Nichola Sturgeon, a strong advocate of LGBTQIA+ rights, the rights of trans people in Scotland are in a precarious position.
The rights of trans people were also up for debate following the tragic death of Brianna Ghey on February 11th 2023, whose murder was not considered a hate crime. A petition calling for changes to the Gender Recognition Act was launched after her death. The petition, which would alter the act to allow a trans person to receive a posthumous GRC, with their gender on their death certificate, reached over 13,000 signatures. However, the UK government has rejected any possibility of changing the GRC. In fact, there has also been a petition to ‘Remove LGBT Content from the Relationships Education Curriculum’ in primary schools which has reached over 200,000 signatures and will therefore be considered by UK Parliament for debate.
This is a difficult time for trans people, and their lives and rights have been put at risk by the governments that claimed to protect them. If you feel that you need support or want to find out more about what you can do to help, please consider the resources below.
UK Helplines for the LGBTQIA+ community:
Switchboard LGBT+: 03001232523
LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline: 08009995428
Conversion Therapy Helpline: 08001303335
LGBT+ Hate Crime Help Line: 02077042040
LGBT Foundation: 03453303030
Nottingham Crisis Line: 03003000065
Charities and petitions:
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