Anti-transgender legislation resonates on Remembrance Day
RALEIGH, NC — The North Carolina legislature’s persistent efforts to restrict transgender lives cast a shadow over Callum Bradford as he grew up in Chapel Hill, following him on his journey of self-discovery , going out and getting the 16-year-old’s gender-affirming health care credits as rescue.
After Republicans swept most state-level elections this month, Bradford and other trans and gender-nonconforming residents are bracing for the possibility of new or reintroduced legislation targeting LGBTQ people, and especially trans people, who could survive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto if Republicans fight for enough supporters.
“Before I came out, I was thinking about these laws, and I was like, I know I’m a man, but do I really want to deal with this?” said Bradford. “Can’t I just go back to when I was innocent and spared the hate?”
Statehouse victories for Republicans across the country in this month’s midterm elections resonate for trans people as they mark Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international observance honoring victims of anti violence. -transgender and raising awareness of the threats trans people face.
The reverberations are particularly intense in North Carolina, which provided the model for the current wave of nationwide anti-trans legislation when, in 2016, lawmakers passed a bill to restrict transgender access. to public toilets and to prevent municipalities from enacting new anti-discrimination ordinances.
The resulting backlash hit North Carolina’s economy as sports tournaments, businesses and conventions severed ties, costing the state hundreds of millions in revenue before the policy was finally overturned in 2017 and settled in federal court in 2019.
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For Bradford, who was yet to come out, it was the first of many bills that eroded his confidence and exposed him to the harsh reality of transgender youth, who have been top political targets this year as the US has seen a record number of anti-trans bills – more than 145 introduced in 34 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Republicans won a supermajority in the North Carolina Senate and lost one seat to a supermajority in the House. The result narrowly preserves Cooper’s veto if Democrats approach by-pass votes as a united front.
But GOP House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters Nov. 9 that he considered House Republicans to have “a ruling supermajority” because some moderate Democrats have voted with them in the past.
While Moore said the party hasn’t solidified its priorities for the long session beginning in January, Senate Leader Phil Berger is already reconsidering a ‘parents’ bill of rights’, which was passed by the Senate this year but did not get a vote in the House before the end of the session.
Touted by GOP senators as a toolkit to help parents oversee their children’s education and health care, the bill included provisions prohibiting instruction on the sexual orientation and identity of gender in K-3 curricula and requiring schools to alert parents before any change in the name or pronoun used for their child. Cooper condemned the measure and compared it to Florida’s “don’t say gay” law.
“As far as a parental bill of rights goes, parents have made it clear that they are not happy with some of the things that are happening in our public schools,” Berger said. “A number of MPs who supported this bill when it passed the Senate last year are coming back. I suspect there will be good support to move forward with this again.
Bethany Corrigan, executive director of Transcend Charlotte, a provider of gender-diverse adult services in Mecklenburg County, said the mandatory reporting aspect of these bills constitutes a “forced exit,” which can expose LGBTQ youth at increased risk of housing instability, mental health crises and violence.
But Corrigan warned that it’s not just explicit anti-LGBTQ bills that could affect trans rights in North Carolina. They said new abortion restrictions, which GOP leaders have already expressed an interest in imposing next year, could later be used to limit access to gender-affirming health care.
“Bodily autonomy is under threat for people in terms of reproductive health care – where does it stop?” Corrigan said, noting that the abortion policy affects trans and cisgender people alike.
Bradford, who has been taking testosterone for a year and a half, said he fears his access to treatment may be limited. His father started looking for apartments in Virginia before midterm to give his son a back-up plan. The teenager now wonders if North Carolina will be a safe place to go to college.
Among the motions that lawmakers introduced last session but did not pass were a bill limiting medical treatment for transgender people under the age of 21, and another restricting the ability of women and transgender girls to participate in school sports. Republican Mitchell County Sen. Ralph Hise, the former’s sponsor, did not respond to messages asking if he plans to reintroduce the bill.
Cooper’s spokeswoman, Mary Scott Winstead, said the governor will continue to stand up for transgender people in North Carolina, who too often “face inexcusable and unacceptable violence.”
In neighboring Tennessee, the GOP-controlled legislature announced after Election Day that its first priority would be to ban medical providers from altering a child’s hormones or performing surgeries that allow him to present themselves as a sex different from their biological sex.
Advice from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that young people with gender dysphoria can start taking hormones – estrogen or testosterone – at age 14. As of this year, the recommended minimum age for certain surgeries, including breast removal for trans boys, has been lowered. 15 years and genital surgeries such as removal of the uterus or testicles up to the age of 17.
Katherine Turk, a historian of women, gender and sexuality at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the recent increase in anti-trans legislation follows a historic pattern of backsliding after marginalized groups won visibility and political momentum.
“Increased visibility often leads to increased vulnerability,” Corrigan said. “Several states that have introduced these harmful bills have also seen high rates of deadly violence against trans people, particularly black trans women.”
According to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign, at least 32 trans and gender nonconforming people have been killed in the United States this year, including Sasha Mason, a 45-year-old trans woman killed in Zebulon, North Carolina.
Transgender Remembrance Day events were planned around the world on Sunday against the backdrop of a deadly mass shooting at a Colorado gay nightclub the night before.
Kori Hennessey, director of education and programs at the Raleigh LGBT Center, had previously held a Sunday vigil outside the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh.
“With every attack on our community, physical but also legislative attacks, our supporters become more outspoken,” said Hennessey, who is non-binary. “We hope it will happen again. In the meantime, we’ll be at the governor’s door to remind him that we’re here and worth fighting for.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.
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