This year, legislation has swept the country that threatens the trans and gender non-conforming community. More than 80 bills have been filed in state legislatures across the country in order to strip trans children of life-preserving healthcare, ban their participation in athletics, and deny them the dignity of recognition by their chosen name among other heinous acts. For years, myself and my colleagues at the ACLU have fought across the country alongside advocates in our states to kill bills which would violate the constitutional rights of transgender people, and, in many cases, put their lives only further at risk.
Legislation such as SB10, also known by its sponsor, Sen. Shay Shelnutt, and supporters as the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act”, aimed to make it a felony to help a transgender minor access critical medical care to affirm their gender identity. As a result, transgender minors are categorically barred from receiving this care, even when the minor, the minor’s parents, and the minor’s medical providers all agree that the care is medically necessary and in the minor’s best interest. The legislation, which passed the Alabama Senate and was advanced through the House Health committee, would have punished not just doctors, but also parents, teachers, clergy members, and anyone else who plays any role in causing a minor to obtain this care. Alabama’s felony health care ban is not just cruel and harmful, but patently unconstitutional on multiple fronts.
This comes at a time when 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth, according to The Trevor Project. In addition, the Human Rights Campaign reports Black trans women and gender non-conforming people are dying at an alarming rate, at least 44 killed by the end of 2020 and 23 trans people killed to date in 2021. When lawmakers introduce hostile legislation toward the transgender community, it has real implications for the LGBTQ+ community. Arkansas physician, Dr. Michelle Hutchinson, stated that four of her patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the state’s largest provider of gender-affirming care, attempted suicide following their state legislature’s passage of a similar ban on trans health care. When lawmakers put their political gamesmanship to score points with their base above the health and safety of any children, the consequences are grave and, in some cases, irreversible, which is actually the very falsehood that supporters of these healthcare bans are perpetuating.
While Alabama’s health ban did not manage to pass before the conclusion of the 2021 regular session, we know that the work to combat these attacks is far from over and we are prepared to continue defending trans youth in our communities, at the State House, and in the courts. What we also know is that this is not a feat that can be done alone, and we’re glad to stand with providers, advocacy groups, parents, and families across this state who are also doubling their efforts to meet the needs of LGBTQ people. But, now more than ever it is important that the support and advocacy from business and corporate leaders and lawmakers that support LGBTQ+ rights be resounding. We can no longer accept the silence and complicity of leaders that place merchandise on sale during pride month or make a generic social media post, but at the times when trans rights are on the line they are missing in action.
We cannot wait to act until these attacks return in another legislative cycle or until we lose another member of the trans community due to hate and violence. We must be proactive and speak to leaders at every level, local, state, and federally about the protections trans Alabamians need today. Politicians that miss the mark must be held accountable. Businesses in Alabama are benefitting right now from the labor and patronage of LGBTQ+ people and they must fight back to protect the same people that are supporting their bottom line. Trans youth shouldn’t live in fear that their right to healthcare could be stripped or that the physicians that have cared for them will be imprisoned because they carried out their duties. While President Biden’s administration announced recently that Title IX protections included trans students, meaning that any school in Alabama that prevented a trans student from participating in athletics would be violating federal law and should file a complaint with the Department of Education, but how this will be enforced by the DOE remains to be seen.
Congress also has the chance to act right now to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination under federal law by passing the Equality Act, but we must call on our leaders here in Alabama to bring forward inclusive policies and protections at every level that send a clear signal that trans people and the entire LGBTQ+ community belong here. We can build on the success of the passage of HB385, sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall, which removes homophobic and medically inaccurate information from Alabama’s sex education curriculum and go further in ensuring all young people are affirmed and given the proper tools to address mental health. We can secure commitments from our state representatives and senators to vote against any bills that exclude and discriminate against LGBTQ+ folks. We can keep advocating for trans people to be appropriately recognized, going even further than the last year’s win in Corbitt v. Taylor to ensure their identifies are respected in the workplace, schools, and medical facilities. It’s also critical that we support organizations such as The Knights and Orchids Society (TKO) in Selma, Alabama, and Magic City Acceptance Center in Birmingham, Alabama as they are providing direct services to LGBTQ+ youth.
Let this Pride Month be a reminder that Black and brown trans women in particular have always been at the forefront of social change by leading and mobilizing, not only for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, but for the advancement and protection of all of our civil rights and liberties. In the tradition of the very women who lead the Stonewall Riots, such as, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, we must not be silent, in fact, our voices must grow louder in the face of these attacks for LGBTQ+ Alabamians until every one of our leaders respects the rights for all.