It’s Never Okay to Attack Trans Youth, But Especially Not During a Global Health Crisis

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March 31, 2020
Photo by: The Gender Spectrum Collection

This truly unprecedented moment in history has provided startling perspective about what really matters in our lives and the world. Hospitals across the country are woefully unprepared to address the health needs of thousands of simultaneously ill patients and have been all but abandoned by callous and incompetent White House leadership. With 3.3 million people in the United States filing for unemployment last week alone, it is easy to see how many members of our community hang on the precipice of disaster.

In response to the terrifying reality of the COVID-19 global pandemic, like many others, I have felt a clarity of collective purpose, unity in our shared humanity, and the desire to protect and support the most vulnerable people in our community. As these last few days (which felt like an eternity) passed, I looked out into the world (Twitter) foolishly expecting to see the same clarity of purpose and unity emerging collectively from our leaders nationwide.

Instead what I saw was a toxic mix of breathtaking incompetence and blatant cruelty from far too many in positions of power who are ignoring calls for courage and togetherness while pressing ever forward with the business of discrimination. Even as I write this, legislators in several states across the country relentlessly push legislation that criminalizes the compassionate and competent doctors and educators who care for transgender youth, denies transgender people accurate birth certificates, and excludes transgender youth from the opportunity to compete in primary and secondary school sports.

For example, it is clear that legislators in Alabama ought to be ensuring the protection of their residents from a highly contagious deadly virus and the massive repercussions of thousands of people laid off in an effort to control the virus. Instead, like comically absurd Disney villains, they plot how to pass Alabama Senate Bill 219, which would deny transgender children life-saving medical care and school support, wasting time they could be using to save the lives of Alabamians. I cannot think of anything more shameful than choosing to harm children while the residents of Alabama suffer and die at needlessly elevated rates — it is certainly not the public health response the state’s people deserve.

These harmful actions are not only a Southern phenomenon as just last night Idaho rose to the top of the “Naughty List” when the Governor signed into law two hateful, anti-trans pieces of legislation in the midst of the COVID-19 public health crisis. What a true moment of irony to be a state legislator in Idaho, a state with so many more important things to do than prevent trans people from participating in school sports (SB500) and updating their birth certificates (HB 509). Idaho seems to enjoy being sued by (and losing to) Lambda Legal, so trust me when I say they will be hearing from us very soon.

Sadly, bills like these that target transgender youth are not odd one-offs in a couple of outlier states. So far this year, in statehouses from South Carolina to Washington State, we have already faced more than a dozen bills aiming to block needed medical care for transgender youth and nearly two dozen aiming to ban trans youth from school sports. It is a concerted, lies-based, deeply hurtful attack on children.  

As if the actions of all those states in the midst of this literal nightmare was not enough to bring your blood to a ferocious boil, what the Department of Justice has been up to this last week is sure to do it.

Maybe, with optimistic curiosity, you might ask, “Have they been organizing a coordinated investigation and prosecution system to take on racist hate crimes against Asian Americans, aided by the President’s own deliberate mis-naming of the virus?”

Or, perhaps, “Have they created a task force to curtail price gouging, or other crimes of financial opportunity perpetrated against the increasingly fearful and vulnerable public?”

If they are, it is at best unclear. But what is clear is that they have wasted taxpayer-funded time drafting a transphobic court filing, which argues that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletics Conference’s trans-inclusive policy is not a proper application of Title IX, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs. This 13-page “Statement of Interest,” was filed by the DOJ in a Connecticut case brought by notoriously transphobic legal group, Alliance Defending Freedom. This statement, which the Department of Justice drafted in the middle of a national health crisis, erroneously calls transgender girls “biological males” and argues that Title IX does not protect transgender youth from discrimination in schools. It is truly unconscionable that state and federal leaders are prioritizing harming trans young people during a historic catastrophe.

Now more than ever, we must judge our representatives based on their response to the mortal danger facing their constituents, their neighbors, and their children. There is only one conclusion to draw from state and federal government officials’ continuing their obsessive focus on punishing children while our nation needlessly suffers: they would rather let people die than allow transgender youth to exist.

Today, on the National Trans Day of Visibility, I hope you will think on this new and unjust reality and ask yourself what you can do to ensure trans youth are not erased.