Across the country, a record number of bills targeting the transgender community were introduced during the legislative session. The American Civil Liberties Union is tracking nearly 500 bills proposed, including nearly 80 bills passed into law, aiming at denying or limiting gender-affirming care, access to bathrooms, and sports participation.
The barrage of bills introduced this session has sparked concerns among the transgender community. Kado Stewart, the deputy director of OneNTen, says they've been fielding calls from concerned LGBTQ+ community members and assisting youth in understanding the impacts of the bills.
"The feeling from young folks in our community is that they are tired of hearing anti-LGBTQ attacks and anti-trans attacks," Stewart said. "They're afraid of policies and laws that could be changed, that could affect their life and could affect their autonomy to make informed decisions about their own bodies, about their own futures."
In North Carolina, the republican-controlled legislature voted to override vetoes from the state's Democratic governor, passing three measures that targeted transgender youth. Legislation put in place Wednesday bans on gender-affirming care for minors with limited exceptions, it restricts transgender identity discussion in schools, and prevents transgender athletes from playing on girls' sports teams from middle school through college.
Earlier this year, Texas became the largest state to ban gender-affirming care for minors, joining at least 18 other states. Gov. Greg Abbott's office released a statement to Scripps News, reading in part, "In Texas we must protect children from making permanent, life-altering decisions before they have the mental capacity to do so, and Senate Bill 14 does just that."
In June, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs issued two pro-LGBTQ executive orders, allowing transgender state employees to use their insurance plan to cover medically necessary gender-affirming care, and banning state support and promotion of conversion therapy. Hobbs also vetoed bills she said attacked transgender children, introduced by Republican Sen. John Kavanagh.
Kavanagh said his pronoun bill and his bathroom, shower, and locker room bill protected transgender youth.
"This bill protects everybody," Kavanagh said. "It gives the transgender student their own facility so that they're not stared at, disparaged, you know, discriminated against for being in the opposite one."
Erin Reed, a journalist and transgender woman, reports on legislation targeting transgender people. She argues that the bills introduced in republican-led states are about transgender eradication.
"It means eliminating us from public spaces, it means making it hard for us to exist in public," Reed said.
Shaon Shamsul came out as a transgender woman when she was 29 years old. She said she knew early on that she was transgender, but she was afraid to come out.
"I'm male-bodied, but I always have identified as a woman," Shamsul said.
While her friends have been supportive, her family has struggled to accept her as a transgender woman.
"There was a lot of telling me that I was going to go to hell, because they're a religious family," Shamsul said.
The lack of acceptance from her family and the stigma surrounding the transgender community made her question her decision.
"You have this low-grade wondering if you know, would it be easier for everybody around me if I just died?" Shamsul said.
Suicide deaths and attempts are higher among people who identify as transgender compared to the general population. A Danish study with more than 6.6 million participants found over a four-decade period, trans people had 7.7 times the rate of suicide attempts and 3.5 times the rate of suicide deaths.
Esmé Nichols was 16 years old when she came out to her family as a transgender woman. She said her mother and stepfather were not accepting of her identity. Her life spiraled,and she said she attempted to end her life.
"I reached over and grabbed my bottle of antidepressants off my nightstand, and I took a handful," Nichols said.
Nichols said after regrets set in, she called an ambulance.
Nichols was named prom queen her senior year in high school. She said while she radiated confidence, she still faced cruel jokes made at her expense. Students called her a "freak" or "weirdo" and threw food at her. During Nichols' interview with Scripps News, a vehicle drove by and someone inside blurted out a slur.
Shamsul helped Nichols' biological father create a safe space for his daughter. She said her involvement in Nichols' life was to show her that you can find acceptance, overcome challenges, and succeed in life.
Shamsul began gender affirming care in April. She said looking back now, she wishes she would have started gender-affirming care earlier in life.
"I don't want more rights than anybody else. I just want to be able to participate in society without stigma," Shamsul said.
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