Photos taken by DJ Campos
What is anti-LGBTQ legislation and why is it on the rise?
When I was in high school in 2021, anti-LGBTQ legislation was just beginning to take shape. As I did a presentation on a pro-censorship education bill, I had no clue how much more legislation would begin to target LGBTQ Tennesseans.
Since 2021, new bills have passed in Tennessee which target gender affirming care for transgender youth or another which legally protects misgendering students. But not all of these bills are set in stone, as is shown by a legally challenged anti-obscenity bill which was used to shut down drag performances.
In fact, the earlier mentioned bill which bans gender affirming care for transgender youth is also being challenged as violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This could not be more important for transgender youth because of the benefits that gender affirming care provides towards mental health.
Organizations such as the American Psychologist Association support treatment that includes medical care. The American Medical Association echoes this statement in a letter which denounces legislation that prevents gender affirming care.
Although providing an accepting environment for transgender youth is most important, medical treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty suppression should be considered as options to support transgender youth.
Some critics of gender affirming care for youth argue it may cause infertility, but this is unsubstantiated under current evidence. Many other critics of gender affirming care for youth suggest that surgeries are being performed on transgender youth, however surgical procedures are typically not recommended for youth.
Although the former myth is one common view on gender affirming care, these myths tend to be abundant, so much so that it could take an entire story to cover them. However, if you want to read more, this article is useful for answering nine common myths about gender affirming care.
Unfortunately, anti-LGBTQ legislation is on the rise nationwide, so there is certainly growing support to restrict human rights. When all research, professional organizations and principles of basic respect would lead to the conclusion of opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation, how could they get so much support that these bills continuously pass into law?
To help answer this question, I interviewed two professors in UTK’s women, gender, and sexuality program.
Why does anti-LGBTQ legislation often target benign topics such as the personal pronouns people use? According to Alexandra Chiasson, an associate director and lecturer in UTK’s Women, Gender and Sexual Program, the focus of anti-LGBTQ legislation often aligns with what will evoke emotion.
“I think that for a lot of people, the evoking of emotions becomes a really important political tool. Especially when you're not sort of willing to engage with topics critically,” Chiasson said.
This reasoning applies to other more important topics, such as gender affirming healthcare.
Another major factor in politics around anti-LGBTQ legislation is which contributes to anti-LGBTQ sentiment and legislation is the fears and anxieties of society. During my interview with Professor of Anthropology Tamar Shirinian, she advocated this view.
“The anxiety that if someone comes into contact with transness, this will then lead them to become trans is actually pointing out that anxiety of how fragile heterosexuality and cisgender identity actually are,” Shirinian said.
By saying this, Shirinian reflects on a way that anxieties are projected onto children in our society.
Although this may sound like simple fearmongering, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric like this can also be said in a protectionist way. When promoting the idea that anti-LGBTQ legislation serves to protect our children, exclusionary ideas are promoted as a positive.
On the contrary to the spread of hateful ideas, positive legislative change can be achieved through organized protest, advocacy and voting as a collective. On an interpersonal level, one of the best ways to be an ally to transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse individuals is by supporting social transitioning.
While medical and surgical transitioning deals with relationships between physicians, patients and parents, (ideally, at least) social transitioning involves transgender, non-binary, and gender-diverse individuals, family, peers, partners, teachers, and professors.
For transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people, social transitioning looks like coming out to peers and family, adopting pronouns that reflect their gender identity, going by a different name, and presenting in ways that feel comfortable with their identity.
On a basic level, social transitions can be supported through using the correct name and pronouns. On a closer interpersonal level, it is helpful to ask transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse loved ones how they can be supported.
Within a societal level, learning what we can do to combat transphobia (anti-transgender sentiment and hatred) is best practice. Part of that is getting more informed on the struggles that transgender, non-binary and gender diverse individuals go through, such as learning about proposed and existing anti-LGBTQ policies.
Anti-transgender ideas often rely on disinformation and fear mongering, so when harmful ideas and myths are fully exposed for what they are, it becomes clear that being pro-transgender is the way to go.
Remember, y’all means all!
SB 1229, the 2021 bill which aims to censor education
HB 0009, the legally challenged anti-obscenity bill
SB 0001, which bans gender affirming care for transgender youth
Challenge of SB 0001 under the equal protection clause
Position of the APA on gender affirming care
American Medical Association letter to National Governors Association over laws targeting gender affirming care for youth
Article covering infertility concerns for transgender youth