“Children as Collateral”: GOP’s Latest Culture War Targets Trans Children

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Republicans in Alabama on Thursday introduced what is arguably the most extreme anti-transgender bill a state has yet introduced: a package banning gender-affirming medical treatments for children, threatening doctors who provide such care with felony crimes, and requiring schools to inform parents. inform if a child indicates that they may be transgender. Separate legislation passed by state GOP lawmakers requires children to use bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates and policies conduct discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, a version of the “Don’t Say Gay” — Florida Governor law Ron DeSantis signed last week. The legislation, the newest and arguably most sweeping, goes to the Republican governor Kay Ivey‘s desk for consideration, although she has yet to say whether she will sign it.

“This is wrong”, representative of the state Neil Rafferty, the only openly gay member of the Alabama legislature, told the Associated Press Thursday. “You are all sitting there campaigning against family as the foundation of our nation… but what this bill does completely undermines that. It completely undermines family rights, health rights and access to health care.”

If signed, health care providers assisting in the gender transition of people under 19 could face up to 10 years in prison. The bill, passed by the Alabama House 66-28, is part of a constellation of anti-LGBTQ laws across the country, especially those targeting trans youth. There’s the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that DeSantis signed last week. There are the 13 states — including most recently Oklahoma — that have banned transgender women and girls from participating in female sports. And then there’s Texas, Arizona and Arkansas, each of which has recently placed restrictions on gender-affirming treatments. (Arkansas law, first of its kind when it surpassed GOP governor) Asa Hutchinsonlast year’s veto has been put on hold amid a legal battle. Alabama law will face a similar challenge if signed.)

The wave of legislation comes amid what appears to be a surge in brutal anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on the right. During the Supreme Court Justice hearings Ketanji Brown Jacksonfor example the Republican senator Marsha Blackburn asked the nominee to “define the word ‘woman'” and berated her when she declined. “The fact that you can’t give me a straight answer on something as basic as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of forward-thinking parenting we hear about,” Blackburn said. (Secretary of Health and Human Services) Xavier Becerra endure a similar question by Lauren Boebert at a hearing in Capitol Hill this week.) In response to denunciations of their toxic rhetoric and the dangerous laws it spawned, Republicans have labeled their critics “groomers,” as the DeSantis spokesperson did last month.

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Anti-LGBTQ discrimination clearly hasn’t gone away with upper skin, the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States. (One of Donald Trump’s first steps in taking office was the repeal of Obama-era protections that allowed transgender students to use toilets that matched their gender identities). In the past year, Republicans have escalated fabricated moral panic campaigns into major political gains. Whether it’s critical race theory reportedly taught in schools, or the revival of the wider anti-LGBTQ movement, conservatives have created a bogeyman who can easily turn into whatever they need to protest that week. , whether it woke up kindergarten teachers or transgender athletes.

Republicans have, of course, suggested that they are all doing this in the name of protecting children; Wes Allen, which introduced the Alabama bill, said Thursday that the “brains of children are not designed to make long-term decisions about what these drugs and surgeries do to their bodies.” But the anti-LGBTQ hostility poses a dramatic risk to gay and trans youth, with 85% of transgender and non-binary children saying in a recent Morning Consult poll that the debates over these bills have hurt their mental health. And the laws themselves, of course, deny them access to life-saving health care, such as Lynly Some, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center emphasized in a statement Thursday about the Alabama law. “Our goal is to ensure that trans youth become trans adults,” Egyes said, “and such bills contradict transgender people who thrive in this country.”

Some Republicans have acknowledged that. Last month, Governor of Utah Spencer Cox vetoed a sports ban on transgender people, citing the small number of trans children participating in high school sports in the state and the staggeringly high risk of suicide among trans children in his reasoning. “Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few,” Cox wrote. “I don’t understand what they’re going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.” However, for much of the GOP apparatus, politics outweighs those calls for compassion. “You say this is about children. It’s not,” Chris England, a state representative and chairman of the Democratic Party of Alabama said Thursday. “It’s about scoring political points and using those kids as collateral damage.”

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