Uphill battle

2023 is shaping up to be an ugly year in the battle for transgender rights and dignity. Already, 11 states have introduced numerous bills attacking transgender and gender-nonconforming healthcare. Interviewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday, advocate Laverne Cox explained how Oklahoma’s bill, in particular, reveals the utter hypocrisy of the haters.

If Oklahoma lawmakers pass their proposed law, gender-affirming care would be banned through the age of 26. Anti-trans politicians like to frame their efforts by painting themselves as noble protectors of children. However, Cox pointed out that this bill that covers individuals well into adulthood, succeeds only in putting those politicians’ ugly motives on display. “It’s always been about scapegoating trans people, stigmatizing us, and criminalizing our existence—making us not exist.”

Unfortunately, this anti-trans sentiment in legislatures is not just limited to cruel attempts at curbing healthcare. In West Virginia, Republican State Sen. Michael Azinger introduced a pair of bills purporting to protect children from obscene performances and materials. However, the law’s definitions broadly and unfairly single out “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display to any minor.”

These bills are rightly criticized as presenting transgender people’s mere existence as a threat to children. School and entertainment venue officials who violate the bills, if passed, would face stiff fines as well as months of incarceration. Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, warned these bills “are like the ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ but on steroids,” according to a report from NBC News.

In North Dakota, Republican State Sen. David Clemens introduced legislation that would require public schools to use pronouns that match students’ and teachers’ “determined sex at birth, male or female.” The punishment for using the correct pronoun when it doesn’t fit this definition would be $1,500 per violation. Fortunately, this offensive bill received overwhelming criticism and failed on Friday in the North Dakota Senate with a vote of 39-8.

“Trans people have always existed, and we’re not going to stop existing if people don’t teach about us,” Cox explained. Fortunately, while many Republican lawmakers are on the attack, America is also progressing. In the midterm elections, 436 openly LGBTQ candidates won, beating a record of 336 in 2020, and the number of LGBTQ public office holders has surpassed for 1,000 for the first time in U.S. history, according to the LGBTQ Victory Institute. The haters may make the battle uglier this year, but they will not win.