More anti-trans bills have been introduced in the first three months of 2021 than in any other year so far – and it’s no accident, legal advocates warn.
A Republican-led “legislative boom” has seen at least 25 states introduce over 60 bills targeting transgender children, the most common being bans on trans girls and women competing in sports.
Twenty-one bills have been introduced to criminalise gender-affirming care for trans kids with one state, Alabama, making it a felony offence.
For comparison, in the whole of 2020 the number of bills focused specifically on trans youth was 41, a total already surpassed in just over two months of 2021.
Activists say this unprecedented push was catalysed by Biden’s election and the Supreme Court Title VII ruling, which has seen Republicans’ culture war fears fall on fertile ground.
“On the Democratic side, this is not an issue that really excites the base,” ACLU director Dan Cox told Axios. “But on the right, I think these issues are really, really salient, so it tends to fire up folks disproportionately on the right than the left.
“A lot of this stuff is being framed as dangerous for children. That harkens back to the gay rights movement. And that’s a pretty effective way to get people who are sort of more moderate and middle of the road off and active on this issue.
“It’s not random that these are the issues that are being brought up,” he added.
The result is that 2021 is now “a critical inflection point” in the movement for trans justice, said Chase Strangio, ACLU deputy director for transgender justice.
He and his colleagues have repeatedly highlighted the striking similarities between separate anti-trans sports bills, noting that much of the legislation is being written or directly influenced by the same anti-LGBT+ Christian organisations.
“These bills are intended to look constituent-led, but we know it’s driven from these centralised groups,” he previously told NBC News.
Among the biggest backers of the discriminatory legislation is Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian group that’s provided legal counsel for a variety of attacks against LGBT+ rights. The ADF is currently representing plaintiffs in one of the most high-profile cases, a federal lawsuit filed by three teenage runners in Connecticut.
The group also had a hand in crafting Idaho’s notorious Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, the only trans sports bill to become law so far – and many of the bills that have followed use the exact same language.
According to an attorney for the organisation, “lawmakers in at least five states” went on to use the ADF’s model legislation to draft their own anti-trans bills.
Many of these bathroom bills never succeeded, but lawmakers are now redoubling their efforts with a calculated scattergun approach that activists say is designed to “sow fear and hate” against the transgender community.
As always, the brunt of this discriminatory campaign will be borne by transgender youth, whose families are now being urged to flee certain states so they can access gender-affirming care.