Kris Hayashi: Clearly, we are all still…in the midst of a global pandemic due to COVID-19, escalating climate crisis, [and] growing white supremacist and anti-democratic forces. This is a time where the failure of our society to value people, to value humanity, to value our world, is so clear. And what I think is important to know is that for trans communities, even before this current time and moment, we already were struggling to survive, facing high rates of violence, harassment, discrimination, and overall, just [a] lack of having our basic needs met.
I think this is most clear when we look at the increasing murders of trans people in this country. Every year for the last few years has been the most reported murders of trans people in the US, of which the majority are Black trans women and femmes. So, I just think it’s important to name that in this time that is hard for everyone, for trans people, the conditions that we’re living in have all just gotten so much worse.
And on top of that, over a decade ago, we started to see…the conservative Right really started to promote anti-trans legislation and policies. Over a decade ago.
However, this really ramped up around 2015…or 2014. That was when we saw a slate of anti-trans legislation and policies in multiple states across the country. This was just an organized and strategic attack against trans communities by the conservative Right that we hadn’t seen before. This was a time of the so-called bathroom bills, of which folks likely most remember the bill that was passed in North Carolina. At the time, our opponents were showing ominous images of men in girls’ bathrooms to make their case.
It’s important to name that under these false narratives, which were really about bringing up this specter of trans people, of queer people, as sexual predators, it’s also an assertion by our opponents—and a false assertion—that trans women are men, that trans women are not women. So, we‘ve seen our opponents, since that time, continue to push for this strategy. They shifted a little bit to also include showing images of teenage boys in girls’ locker rooms, seeking to cause harm. They use[d] those narratives for a number of years, and they still continue to use [them] today.
And then Trump was elected. They then moved their attack to the federal level. The Trump administration basically did everything that they possibly could to roll back the few rights and protections that trans people have, to deny our humanity and ultimately to deny our very existence. As they did for so many communities.
Now that we are under a different federal administration, these attacks by the conservative Right on trans people have basically moved back to the states. And what we are seeing now in the US is really an unprecedented level of attack in the form of state-level anti-trans legislation. This past year, we saw around 150 bills in 33 states. Most of these bills are seeking to keep transgender children and youth from simply living their lives—whether it’s [by] playing sports, getting health care, or simply naming that we exist in schools. At this point, we’re talking about a majority of states in the US [that] had some form of anti-trans legislation or policy. To put this in context, in 2015, when the bathroom bills started to take off, there were about 21 bills across the country—anti-trans bills.
What’s also important to know is that more [of these] bills are passing. And that even when these bills do not pass, for the trans people who live in those states [where these laws are proposed], for the trans children, for their families to be bombarded by anti-trans rhetoric and anti-trans hate—to know that their elected officials are out to harm them—is absolutely devastating. This is [especially true] for communities that already face high rates of suicide and other mental health conditions.
Over the last decade, it has been clear that the conservative Right is attacking the humanity and the rights of trans people as a strategy. They are attacking trans people as a way to stay in power, to build their base, and to win votes.