LGBTQ+ students at MSD are enraged and unsettled over the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ bills

April 14, 2022

“I think that a lot of the [anti-LGBTQ+] bills are unnecessary. Most of them are conservatives trying to remove the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. It doesn’t make any sense. These bills hurt the community and put us in harm’s way,” junior Eleanor Sather said. “We are discriminated against and don’t have the rights we deserve. The United States is supposedly a ‘free’ country. How can it be a free country if we are going to take away the rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community?”

In legislation targeting trans people, they may restrict healthcare for trans youth, single-sex facility restrictions, excluding trans youth from sports, school or curriculum restrictions, restrictions on access to accurate ID and others.

“I think [the bills targeting trans people] are very unfair. Many people have prejudices against the trans community and refuse to acknowledge people by their preferred gender or pronouns. My family members are transphobic and it disgusts and scares me. I’m afraid that trans rights will be taken away, that we won’t be able to live as we should,” freshman Avery Doe* said. “People have no idea how much the trans community [have] to deal with and the stealing of their rights is only something else to add onto that. It isn’t fair to take away such basic human rights and it makes no sense why they’d target trans people just because they can’t open their minds to people that aren’t exactly like them. It really hurts.”

Attacks, like Oklahoma’s “Save Women’s Sports Act” which bans transgender athletes from playing on girls’ and women’s sports teams or Arkansas’ ban on transition-related healthcare for trans minors through legislation, have been back on the rise since 2020. However, trans advocates have pointed out that this time, cisgender allies aren’t giving the same solidarity that people saw in 2016 when North Carolina passed and signed into law HB2, which banned people from using public restrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. Kelly Hayes, host of the podcast “Movement Memos,” wrote “Trans youth are facing right-wing attacks and a solidarity shortage.”

Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been a fierce criticizer of responses to anti-LGBTQ+ bills that focus on its effects on cis queer people.

“Between the meaningless self-aggrandizing videos of people saying ‘gay’ and the cis gays who have never shown up for trans people being shocked that they too are targets, this moment is a perfect encapsulation of contemporary movement failures,” Strangio tweeted.

Targeting the LGBTQ+ community as a whole are “religious exemption” bills. To make them constitutional if passed, bills can be considered Religious Freedom Restoration Acts: religious exemptions regarding healthcare for LGBTQ+ people, adoption and foster care and more. “Religious exemption” is often regarded as a “dog whistle” for anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, essentially saying that religion allows them to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

“I think that negative LGBTQ+ beliefs based on religion is complete bullsh*t,” freshman Jane Doe* said. “People shouldn’t be scared to be who they are just because it’s ‘forbidden’ in religion. […] My religion should have nothing to do with my sexual orientation or identity.”

Regarding healthcare, the bills would allow healthcare providers to deny LGBTQ+ patients service. 8% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people reported that a doctor or other healthcare provider refused to see them because of their sexual orientation, according to the Center for American Progress. For transgender survey respondents, that number rose to 29%. 

Several lawsuits have been filed over reports of adoption and foster care agencies turning away prospective LGBTQ+ parents. “Religious exemption” bills on adoption and foster care would allow these agencies to do such legally if they claim doing it because of their religion.

“I myself am religious and I can say that this whole idea [of religious exemption] is ridiculous,” Avery* said. “[…] I understand some people may have been taught to be homophobic, yet they need to understand that our world is changing and we are trying to progress in our ideas and way of life. The freedom that another person has shouldn’t be limited by the religious beliefs of another.”

Religion can be a struggle for many LGBTQ+ students as homophobia and transphobia are very often excused with religion.

“As a bi Muslim, it’s a little harder for me to talk to family about this because there aren’t too many Muslims who are part of the LGBTQ+ community because it is considered ‘haram,’ which means bad or forbidden,” Jane* said.

Anti-LGBTQ+ bills and rhetoric, including trans-exclusionary radical feminism, a record number of fatal violence against trans people in 2021 and over 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 2022,  have been on the rise in the past two years, but mainly since 2016. 

“In 2022, what we’re seeing nationally is really an all-out assault on trans people, particularly trans young people in state legislatures. That looks a lot just like an escalation of what we’ve seen year after year, really beginning in 2016, when we started to see the so-called bathroom bills really emerge as a sort of backlash to marriage equality,” Strangio said in an interview with TruthOut. “[…] Between 2016 and 2020, because of that, attacks on trans people in the restroom context really waned. This was also of course during the Trump administration when state legislatures could rely on the federal government to be sort of the ‘discriminator-in-chief’ with respect to trans people. And then what starts to happen in 2020 is we start to see an escalation of attacks and a real pivot from our opponents.”

While legislation has been a key factor in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, discrimination and homophobic and/or transphobic rhetoric has come from other places. Comedian Dave Chappelle and Netflix were slammed last year after Chapelle expressed that he was a “TERF,” or trans-exclusionary radical feminist, in his Netflix special. 

Chappelle also showed support for “Harry Potter” author JK Rowling. Rowling has faced controversy for her sentiments against trans people since 2019. Rowling also is a TERF, publishing what is regarded by critics as a “transphobic manifesto” in June 2020.

The frequent attacks on LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, have had negative effects on some MSD students’ mental health.

I worry about [the anti-LGBTQ+ bills]. I know that some members of my family support the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and it’s really harmful to my mental health. I even heard someone say ‘parents deserve to know if their child is gay.’ That choice should be left up to the child themselves if they deem it necessary to come out and when they intend to do it. I worry that these bills might make things more oppressive for us and that my family will be in support of it, only adding another suffocating weight to an already struggling community.

— Avery Doe*

42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary adolescents, according to The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in 2021. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health.

Passed legislation is being counter-acted by lawsuits, though some LGBTQ+ students feel that the damage is already done. LGBTQ+ students struggling can get help by talking, texting or chatting with counselors at the Trevor Project. 

More generally in BCPS students can call 754-321-3421 for suicide counselors at any time.

*Names indicated were changed to protect the student’s anonymity

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