2022 starts with Anti-LGBT+ bills proposed

The new year has barely started, and 2022 is already a bad year for LGBTQ people. Republican legislators in Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire and South Dakota have proposed a series of bills and policy proposals that specifically target trans and non-binary youth. Bills that would limit access to gender-affirming healthcare, the ability to participate in sports at all levels, and even, again, using the bathroom are all being pushed in these states.

As PGN has previously reported, anti-LGBTQ legislation has become a focal point of the Republican Party since January 2021, suggesting that the new culture wars will pivot off LGBTQ discrimination and that the 2022 midterms will use anti-LGBTQ talking points, especially at the local and state level.

This latest spate of anti-trans bills adds onto a myriad of bills that were put forward in 2021 — a year that LGBTQ advocates called the worst in recent history. More than 60 anti-LGBTQ bills are being considered across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which lists anti-LGBTQ rights laws in proposal. These bills fall under a range of categories — all discriminatory and dangerous to LGBTQ lives. 

These bills are wide-ranging, including overall restriction of health care and social services to LGBTQ people, so-called “bathroom bills,” single-sex facility restrictions, bills excluding trans-identified youth from athletics, restrictions on identification documents, religious exemption bills, religious exemptions in heath care implicating LGBTQ people, religious exemptions in adoptions and foster care, religious exemptions in schools and student organizations, and bills preempting local protections against discrimination.

Gillian Branstetter, media manager for the National Women’s Law Center and the former media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality told NBC News about the new bills, “Unfortunately, I think we’re getting ready to watch a race to the bottom among legislators who are in a competition to see who can do the most harm to trans kids.” Branstetter added, “It is a hostile and dangerous trend that I’m sure we’ll see continue through the year.”

The bills in question support Branstetter’s comments.

An Arizona bill would ban health care for trans minors. That bill is similar to one that passed in Arkansas last year. In that Arkansas bill, Act 626 (previously H.B. 1570), the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act” (SAFE Act), the Arkansas House of Representatives outlawed any gender-affirming medical treatment for persons under eighteen years of age. PGN reported that the bill was being challenged by the ACLU.

In the bill proposed in Arizona, SB1045, there is an additional provision that would require disclosure by school staff to a parent or guardian of any child exploring their gender.

Kentucky has introduced HB253, a bill banning gender-affirming health care for minors. This bill also allows surgeries on infants with intersex traits. These surgeries are opposed by intersex people as non-consensual decisions involving both their gender identity and sexuality.

An Alabama bill, SB5, bans health care for trans minors and like the Arkansas bill, also requires school staff to disclose to parents or guardians any child who is exploring their gender.

Arizona also has a bill that would ban trans girls from all girls’ sports — even club and intramural, at all levels of competition from kindergarten through college. This bill, SB1046, also would allow for the examination of the bodies of trans girls and women athletes.

Both Kentucky and Alaska have bills banning trans women and girls from sports. South Dakota has two bills, HB 1006 and SB 46, banning trans women and girls from all sports including club and intramural. 

The South Dakota bills are significant in that they follow Texas’s SB8 anti-abortion law, which PGN reported on. The South Dakota bills would allow for “authorizing a private civil right of action,” which means cisgender students could file grievances against trans students.

Yet as PGN reported in 2021, major sports organizations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and International Olympic Committee (IOC), allow trans and non-binary athletes to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity under specific rules. The Tokyo summer Olympics saw a record number of trans and non-binary, as well as lesbian athletes participating. 

In November 2021, the IOC updated its guidelines on trans athletes, removing controversial policies that required competing trans athletes to undergo what it described as “medically unnecessary” procedures or treatment. 

The ongoing debate over University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, a trans woman, has brought the issue into the forefront, with parents complaining that Thomas, who had previously competed on the men’s team prior to transitioning and qualified for the 2022 NCAA Championships, had an unfair advantage. But Thomas was defeated January 10 in an Ivy League 100-meter freestyle by Yale’s Iszac ‘Izzi” Henig, a trans male athlete. Henig competes on the women’s team. 

South Dakota has a third bill, HB 1005, that bans trans students from restrooms and locker rooms. Like Texas’s SB8, HB1005 grants students that civil right of action to sue if they encounter a trans student in a restroom or locker room and consider that a personal injury or harm. 

On January 6, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement of support for trans youth. The statement noted, “The AAP has partnered with chapters and other entities to file amicus briefs in support of legal challenges brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in several states. AAP members and leaders also have been reaching out to state lawmakers to express concerns about harmful legislation.”

“It is critically important for every child to have access to quality, comprehensive and evidence-based care — transgender and gender-diverse youth are no exception,” said AAP Immediate Past President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP. 

Beers said, “As pediatricians, we will continue to speak up and advocate for our patients. We also want transgender and gender-diverse youth to know that not only do we care for them, we care about them, we value them and we will do all we can to ensure they have access to the care they need and deserve.”

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Victoria A. Brownworth is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, DAME, The Advocate, Bay Area Reporter and Curve among other publications. She was among the OUT 100 and is the author and editor of more than 20 books, including the Lambda Award-winning Coming Out of Cancer: Writings from the Lesbian Cancer Epidemic and Ordinary Mayhem: A Novel, and the award-winning From Where They Sit: Black Writers Write Black Youth and Too Queer: Essays from a Radical Life.