2021 presents a record-high number of anti-transgender legislation

States like Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are targeting transgender youth

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Nika Perez

GSA Club: Lynn Atchley is the Gender-Sexuality Alliance club advisor. Atchley has had past experience with the LGBTQ community and spoke out on her experiences. “I have family members who are gay, so I am fiercely protective of them. I have loved being involved with this group of kids as I am very protective of trans people as well,” Atchley said.

2021 has seen an increase in anti-transgender legislation in many states across the country. The mental impacts on the Transgender community as a result of anti-transgender legislation are severe and are causing harmful outcomes.

As of the year 2021, the nation has seen an increase in anti-transgender legislation with over thirty states introducing legislation that would regress transgender rights.

Throughout America’s history, discrimination and violence against transgender people have been high. While some may believe that transgender rights have increased significantly over the past few years, transgender people are not protected by the law—but are increasingly targeted by them.

Studies show that the increased mental health struggles are directly linked to harassment and violence they’ve faced due to their gender.

“I’ve had a fairly mild experience; my family was never actively homophobic or transphobic,” senior Han Sangwin said. “I’ve never received harsh bullying or abuse. Though I do have trans and otherwise LGBTQ friends who have been mobbed, bullied, beaten up, [or] kicked out of their house, and it’s so sickening.”

Much of the legislation that has been introduced this year is affecting minors.

Twenty states have introduced bills that ban gender-affirming healthcare to transgender minors. Gender-affirming surgery and healthcare are viewed as lifesaving services. Gender-affirming care does not exclusively refer to surgeries, but also healthcare that interrupts things like puberty and hormones. Puberty is often described as a traumatic and distressing experience for people who are not their assigned gender. Transgender individuals who received gender-affirming healthcare report reduced psychological distress by 48%, a 35% reduction in smoking, and a 44% reduction in suicidal thoughts. People who had not yet received care were twice as likely to have mental health issues and associated behaviors.

“Why are my rights even up for debate?” Sangwin asked. “What makes me or any other LGBTQ member unworthy of respect? I knew some people who were pro-life and that’s the main reason they supported [former president Donald Trump] — are you truly pro-life if you don’t also support/respect the lives of LGBTQ folk? You feel outrage at an embryo being killed, yet say nothing about the countless trans lives taken? Doesn’t sound pro-life, sounds pro-control,” they said.

“Affirmation in all forms can be life-saving for trans and gender-diverse people,” said lead author Anthony Almazan, a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. “Policies that limit access to care can put lives at risk. Our evidence shows we should be expanding gender-affirming care, not limiting it,”

Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, who directs the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute in Boston, said the issue of gender-affirming health care is often clouded by “an anti-trans political agenda” that argues transgender people “will eventually regret accessing care.”

There is a reason for concern regarding the recent surge of anti-transgender legislation.

“In the past when states have floated anti-trans bills, we’ve seen calls to the trans [suicide] lifeline as much as triple.” Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality said. Studies show that 90% of teens who want but cannot receive hormone blockers had suicidal thoughts. Transgender teens who could get treatment had a lower percentage of 75%. Medical professionals agree that hormone blockers and therapy are safe, reversible and healthy.

Thirty-one states have introduced bills that would ban transgender athletes from participating in sports teams that align with their preferred gender. These bans are based on the conception that transgender girls would have an unfair advantage in sports. This type of rhetoric regarding young transgender people is dangerous, in that this type of legislation has the purpose of discriminating against young transgender individuals and sets a precedent for discriminating against transgender people in the law.

Much of the introduced 2021 anti-transgender legislation would target young transgender people specifically; having severely dangerous impacts on teen transgender suicide rates and rates of depression.

While many of these bills have been struck down in court, bans on transgender youth participating in same-gender sports have been signed into law in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

One bill of this nature is the Arkansas “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which would prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in club sports with those of the same gender identity. Another bill in Arkansas, House Bill 1749, has been referred to as one of the most anti-transgender legislation in the country. This bill would protect teachers that do not want to refer to someone in a way that “is inconsistent with the public school student’s biological sex.”

The law was deemed unnecessary since there were no cases of teachers being sued for misgendering students, but it was passed anyway.

In February 2020, three girls filed a lawsuit against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference. They complained that girls who were designated male at birth were allowed to compete against other girls in track competitions. The athletes said that transgender girls had an unfair advantage and should be forced to play on the boy’s team. People claim that cisgender girls can’t win against girls who are “biologically male.” Some also argue that this law is to “protect” cisgender girls.
“Because schools are permitting males to compete as girls and women, girls and women are losing competitive opportunities,” the complaint reads. “To American girls — those born with XX chromosomes — the message is, ‘Give up. You can’t win.”

Directly contradicting these statements, however, is the facts of the competition. One of the girls filing the lawsuit won against the transgender competitors.

In the state of Washington, School Districts follow a more progressive model to allow transgender athletes to compete in school athletics.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which oversees all middle and high school athletics in Washington state, has a policy that defers the school district policy in regards to transgender athletes.
Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Jason Pearson, who oversees all athletics at Lake Stevens High School, described the Lake Stevens School Districts’ policy regarding transgender student-athletes.
“[The WIAA] used to have a policy and it was a little less progressive at the time, so then they basically shifted so throughout the state people were doing different things, districts had different policies. So they simply just said, ‘school districts you decide how you want to do this’,” Pearson explained.
Pearson described the process that a transgender student may follow in Lake School District to have their gender recognized by the school to participate in sports correspondent to their gender.
“Within the Lake Stevens School District, our policy is if we have a student who is going through that situation, they go through their counselor and there’s actually a packet that allows for the student to change their gender in Skyward. So they go through that and there’s some parent permissions in there and they do that. Our district policy is that it’s what your Skyward gender says and then that would be what sport you could do,” Pearson said.
The current Gender Transition Support Plan that the Lake Stevens School District follows requires permission from a student’s guardian to change one’s name and gender in Skyward. LGBTQ+ students at Lake Stevens High School can access support in several ways. The student club, Gender Sexuality Alliance offers a community of support for students to get together. Additionally, there the Guidance Center offers support with counseling services. Jennifer Hudson, a student mental health support specialist at Lake Stevens High School, described her experience with supporting LGBTQ+ students.
“Often times students in the LGBTQI+ community are severely impacted by multiple factors in our communities including their own self acceptance and the acceptance from others. And so I think it’s an underserved population,” Hudson said.
Hudson described the impact that transgender students have felt as a result of anti-transgender legislation. Hudson said that when anti-transgender military legislation was enacted during the Trump administration, transgender students aspiring to pursue the military became very uncomfortable and had severe moments of gender dysphoria. Hudson saw an increase of discomfort because these students felt immediately unsafe.

 

“Many who oppose the inclusion of transgender athletes erroneously claim that allowing trans athletes to compete will harm cisgender women. This divide and conquer tactic gets it exactly wrong. Excluding women who are trans hurts all women. It invites gender policing that could subject any woman to invasive tests or accusations of being “too masculine” or “too good” at their sport to be a “real” woman,” Chase Strangio, Deputy Director of Transgender Justice at ACLU said.

“When a school or athletic organization denies transgender students the ability to participate equally in athletics because they are transgender, that condones, reinforces, and affirms the transgender students’ social status as outsiders or misfits who deserve the hostility they experience from peers,” according to Dr. Deanna Adkins, a pediatric doctor who works with transgender teens.

In the case of North Carolina’s House Bill 358, also known as the Save Women’s Sports Act, the bill was not passed. This was because they could not find a single example of a complaint filed of why the issue of transgender women in sports would be a problem.
One North Carolina athlete, Asher McKinney-Ring, spoke out while the bill was being considered. “Words can’t explain how painful and exhausting it is to wake up every morning knowing that my rights to normal childhood experiences like school sports are being debated by elected officials that I have never met, and that my existence and identity are not protected by law,” says McKinney-Ring.

Those complaining about how trans athletes should not be allowed to compete against their cisgender counterparts never seem to address transgender males who are competing. There are hundreds of boys designated female at birth who are fighting for their place to compete in boys’ sports. Despite what people argue, transgender individuals aren’t just identifying that way for the sole purpose of having an advantage over their competition. They want to compete as their gender because they want to be treated equally. Transgender boys are competing too, and they are winning.

Chris Mosier is a transgender athlete in the Olympics. Mosier on Team USA, making him one of the best male athletes in the country. “Competing as a woman, I thought about gender all the time, to a point where it interfered with my ability to be successful because I didn’t feel comfortable at races. Now, I feel more able to focus and gender doesn’t come up as much,” Mosier said.

He gave up his top-ranking spot in the female category to compete with other men. Mosier founded TransAthlete.com, a resource for transgender athletes. There, athletes can find different state and school policies, as well as useful information and petitions.

“Nobody believes it when they’re younger, but life gets better,” Mack Beggs, a champion trans male wrestler said. “You have to manifest what you want in life. You can’t let people get you down, because at the end of the day you have yourself.”

Shane Diamond, a former trans athlete, is the impact campaign coordinator for Changing the Game, a film about Mack Beggs. “For transgender youth, having access to sports is quite literally life-saving; according to a study recently published by the Center for American Progress, the mere existence of transgender-inclusive sports policies lowers the risk of poor mental health and suicidality for trans youth. Even if trans youth don’t participate in sports, the fact that they are able to reduces their risk of depression and attempted suicide. As a community, we need the mental health benefits that sport can offer,” Diamond said.

“Because of the wave of anti-transgender legislation sweeping the country, trans youth are hearing consistently false and harmful messages about themselves: that our inherent identities are deceptive and unfair, that there’s not enough room for us, that we don’t belong,” Diamond said.

The Washington Legislature passed Senate Bill 5313, the Gender Affirming Treatment Act, which was delivered to Jay Inslee’s desk on Apr. 26. The bill would ban health insurance discrimination, specifically in regards to denying or limiting coverage for gender-affirming treatments.

Hudson described a positive shift that she has witnessed among students here at Lake Stevens High School.
“I’ve also seen a huge increase in hope with the change in our leadership for the country. I think there’s more hope now that we are shifting to something different,” Hudson said.
Additionally, Hudson described local changes in our policy and procedures directed by the state aimed to make our community safer and more welcoming for transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals.
“My hope is that my office becomes a place where people know that I don’t take a break from that and I know that the other counselors feel the same way, we want to be welcoming,” Hudson said.
Pearson reiterated this sentiment, citing the school community’s desire to create a positive environment for all students here at Lake Stevens High School.
“I think that Lake Stevens High School is pretty accepting. I would hope that the students recognize that the building is very open and understanding and trying to be with all our students, whether it’s LGBTQ or anything. We’re trying to be very inclusive in everything we do,” Pearson said.

 

 

 

Resources For LQBTQ+ Students
GLOBE Youth (GLOBE is a local Snohomish County group that provides support for LGBTQ+ youth. For more information about meeting dates and times visit their website)
PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays offers online outreach to LGBTQ+ individuals and their families)
Trans-Parenting (offers educational resources to parents and community members in regards to providing transgender youth with the correct resources and support)
Get support here at Lake Stevens High School (student mental health support)
Information about free mental health services
Local Mental Health Health Providers

Check out the student gallery we made featuring art by Lake Steven High School’s LGBT+ Students!