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Transgender Visibility in These Times? Absolutely

by Joel McDonald

March 31, 2022

Targeted. Vilified. Criminalized.

Brave. Valued. Loved.

These are a few words that come to mind when I think of our transgender siblings. Today, March 31st, is International Transgender Day of Visibility. We recognize this day in a time when transgender individuals and their families have been under attack in the United States and throughout the world.

In Utah, the desire of four transgender children to play on teams aligned with their gender identity sparked a flurry of activity in the legislature to enact a law to would bar young transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports, making the state the 12th in the country to enact such legislation, despite a veto from Utah Governor Spencer Cox.

In Idaho, a bill criminalizing gender-affirming care for transgender youth passed the Idaho House but, thankfully, failed to pass the Idaho Senate. If it had passed and was signed by the governor, anyone providing gender-affirming healthcare such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and sex reassignment surgery would have been punished and faced life in prison. It also would have barred parents or guardians from taking a trans child out of state for care, making it one of the most restrictive legislation targeting trans youth in the United States.

In Texas, Governor Abbott issued an order criminalizing providing gender-affirming health care, similar to the bill considered in Idaho. While the order is being challenged in the courts, health providers in Texas are suspending gender-affirming care.

Alabama is considering legislation to ban prohibit gender-affirming health care too. That bill has yet to pass either chamber of the Alabama legislature, but there is almost a month left in the legislative session.

These are just a few examples of legislation targeting transgender youth, their families, and their medical providers in the United States. This legislation is harmful. According to Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley, “By making it impossible for doctors to provide care for their patients, transgender youth are denied the age-appropriate, best practice, medically-necessary, gender-affirming care that a new study just found reduces the risk of moderate or severe depression by 60% and suicidality by 73%.”

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there were 30 bills introduced in 19 states restricting healthcare for transgender youth in 2022. Another 65 bills were introduced in 30 states to exclude transgender youth from athletics. Dozens of other bills have been introduced in many states to restrict transgender issues from being discussed in schools, restricting access to appropriate legal identification, and restricting bathroom use.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least nine countries have national laws criminalizing forms of gender expression that target transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

What Affirmation stated in 2018 in response to political efforts to eliminate recognition of transgender people holds true today.

Affirmation joins the many organizations and individuals who denounce any intention to erase rights and protections of transgender, queer, and intersex persons. No person must ever be threatened with erasure… Affirmation will continue to provide a place of safety and support for transgender, queer, and intersex people. We support this space where you can be fully authentic in your sexual, gender and spiritual diversity. You are worthy of respect and protection from discrimination. You are seen, you are needed, you are loved!

Last year, Affirmation Vice President Rebecca Solen wrote,

Affirmation stands with transgender people and works to prevent trans erasure and violence. Affirmation is an advocate for inclusion and healthcare for all transgender people. Trans rights are, and always will be human rights. While we all have our individual places of safety, Affirmation is a unique harbor to help strengthen us all as we sail out to make the world a better place.

Last week, Affirmation Vice President Laurie Lee Hall wrote,

…as I watch a torrent of laws being passed in conservative states singling out transgender school girls and banning their participation on female sports teams, I am reminded of the young girl I was, who though not athletic like my sisters, would have given anything to just be included on their team even to just sit on the bench with the chance of maybe having my parents decide in late innings that we had a big enough lead to put me in right field!

The need to be included as a young person is genuine and critical to each young person’s well being. To be called out as different and excluded is cruel.

Laws banning transgender girls from participating in school sports marginalizes and inflicts intentional discrimination and real harm upon one of the most vulnerable segments of our youth population.

Even as the transgender community endures a political assault, GLAAD reports that “society is becoming more accepting as trans people feel increasingly comfortable and confident being publicly and fully themselves,” and that, “while only about 30% of the general American public says they personally know a trans person, that percentage drastically varies when segmented by age. For example, 19% of Americans over 65 claim to know someone trans while half (50%) of Americans under the age of 30 do. This isn’t surprising when taken into account that 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, according to Gallup’s 2022 poll.”

Visibility is a double-edged sword.

Visibility comes at a cost. Laws denying gender-affirming healthcare, legal identification, and public access are arguably the backlash for increased visibility. They are regurgitation into the public forum of that what has been expressed in the shadows by the prejudiced for generations. These laws, and those supporting them, are attempting to erase that visibility with little regard for the well-being of transgender individuals and their families. The Church punishes visibility by excluding from baptism or limiting the participation of transgender individuals seeking to socially or medically transition.

Yet, visibility is critical in the fight for progress. Just as Harvey Milk called upon gay and lesbian individuals to overcome prejudice by coming out, allies of the transgender community must support them as they also combat prejudice with visibility. We must do what we can to educate ourselves and those around us. We must hold leaders politically accountable for their harmful words and for their actions against our transgender siblings in the halls of legislatures and executive mansions everywhere.

As an LGBTQIA+ community, we must show that there are no words, orders, or laws that can erase any portion of our community. On this International Transgender Day of Visibility, it is my hope that our thoughts will turn to our transgender siblings who bravely live as their authentic selves, that we will acknowledge their valuable contributions to our lives and society, and that we will express the love we have for them.

This article was submitted by an Affirmation community member. The opinions expressed are wholly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Affirmation, our leadership, or our staff. Affirmation welcomes the submission of articles by community members in accordance with our mission, which includes promoting the understanding, acceptance, and self-determination of individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and our vision for Affirmation to be a refuge to land, heal, share, and be authentic.

1 Comment

  1. Cynthia Frank on April 24, 2022 at 12:11 PM

    Hello! Regarding the Trans day of Visibilty, I am an invisible transgender woman. Really! No one can see me, unless I wear clothes. Fortunately I don’t like wearing clothes. In the rain you can occasionally see a dim outline but in a light drizzle I am still mostly unseen.
    Being invisible, for the most part,keeps me from Pride Parades.
    As you can imagine being invisible means I am unloved. I can’t meet people because they can’t see me. (This is known as a no brainer.) So, in my case, love doesn’t win, unless it’s God’s love. No one believes in God though, so love is not winning. No at all.
    Also, for me, it “doesn’t get better.” No indeed. I’ve been invisible for as long as I can remember and I’m not expecting my invisibility to terminate any time soon.
    So without love or anything getting better Im hoping to swim the English channel and be called brave and courageous. My bath towel that is will be called courageous since that is all that will be seen of me.
    My own experience as a trans woman has not been positive. Right after my transition and surgery I was evicted, homeless, hungry and boiled in oil as well as decapitated. Trust me, it wasn’t pleasant. And I wish it had stopped there! After decapitation I was denied hormone replacement because medications were not dispensed to headless patients.
    Being invisible of course it didn’t matter much since no one could see my secondary sex characteristics. Even still it was a blow to my ego. That’s all for now

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