by Natalie Hanson
posted May 17
Across the United States, fervor for passing anti-trans laws has reached an all-time high within the political right -– affecting even counties in politically “blue” states, such as Butte.
In some states, health care providers already face felony charges for offering gender-affirming care. Advocates for the trans community say such care is integral for a successful transition.
More bills targeting transgender rights have been introduced and become law this year than at any time in U.S. history. There have been 543 anti-trans bills proposed nationwide in 2023 alone, according to the website Trans Legislation Tracker. Of these, 71 have passed.
Even in California, Republican lawmakers have joined in launching attacks on the rights of LGBTQ youth. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) -– who represents nearly all of interior Northern California, including Chico, Redding and Susanville in the House of Representatives -– has been pushing bills seeking to limit health care funding for, and criminalizing, gender reassignment surgery since 2020.
In March LaMalfa introduced what he called a “parental rights” bill inspired by a lawsuit against Chico’s school district. He then gave a press conference on the steps of the Chico Unified School District offices. HR 1585 seeks to “implement a state policy to prohibit a school employee from conducting certain social gender transition interventions.” The bill is currently in the House’s Education and the Workforce committee.
LaMalfa on May 17 announced the introduction of two more bills attacking gender-affirming health care for children, the Protecting Children from Experimentation Act and the End Taxpayer Funding of Gender Experimentation Act, which are endorsed by conservative groups like the Anti-Woke Caucus, Family Caucus and Protect Kids Caucus.
Meanwhile, only about 0.6% of Americans 13 years and older identify as trans.
In the State Assembly, AB 1314 by James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Bill Essayli (R-Riverside) seeks to require a teacher, counselor, or school employee to notify a parent within three days of becoming aware that a student is identifying at school as a gender not aligning with the child’s sex on their birth certificate or sex assigned at birth.
That bill died in committee when California Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat from Torrance and chair of the Assembly Education Committee, declined to set it for a committee hearing.
“As a parent, I believe that gender identity conversations between parents and their children should occur in a safe and private space,” he said in a statement. “I will not be setting AB 1314 for a hearing, not only because the bill is proposing bad policy, but also because a hearing would potentially provide a forum for increasingly hateful rhetoric targeting LGBTQ youth.”
Several advocates in an Ethnic Media Services briefing May 12 explained why parental pushback can gain a foothold even in states like California that have significant protections for trans people and LGBTQ youth.
Sailor Jones, associate director of Common Cause North Carolina, said that the infamous bathroom bill passed in their state kicked off the national debate around civil rights of transgender people.
“We know the vast majority of trans and nonbinary youth say that debates around these issues are negatively impacting their mental health,” Jones said.
Pew Research indicates more than 80% of trans youth have contemplated suicide, and 42% have attempted it.
Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said that it was Republican think tanks that decided trans issues would be their policy focus after finding that Americans are generally unfamiliar with trans issues.
“For purposes of political scapegoating, they were an easy target,” she said. “After marriage equality stopped being a wedge issue, they needed a new target, they needed a new thing to whip people into a frenzy about.”
That push has deeply impacted schools in Florida, where books are being pulled off library shelves or rejected by publishers. School districts may tell gay teachers they cannot indicate they have a partner or family.
Smith said that as a Black southerner, “I know it’s not really about bathrooms. I know it’s about limiting the ability of trans people to be in the public space.”
She said these things are rooted in fear of change as demographics flip, which always lead to attacks on the transgender and LGBTQ communities and on history education.
Democratic lawmakers from states like Texas, where Republican leaders lead the charge to strip away civil rights from LGBTQ people, say that they are not afraid to push back against their colleagues.
Texas Representative Gene Wu, a Democrat from Houston, said that he has watched political focuses shift rapidly in his state, from anti-marriage equality bills to bills seeking to target Central American refugees and Muslim Americans. He said that the common theme is always seeking to limit the civil rights of people with limited political power.
“The names of those people always change over time,” Wu said.
“It’s always some group on the periphery, people who the general public lacks an understanding of. If you don’t help defend against anti trans legislation, the same people who went after the trans community will come after you next.”
Asked if he fears backlash for supporting marginalized communities, Wu -– who wore a tie displaying the transgender pride flag in the briefing -– said he does not, because he knows it is right to do so.
“Leave people the hell alone,” he said. “It’s none of anyone’s business, especially the government’s.”
While leaders in blue states like California have emphasized protecting LGBTQ people, legal challenges have already begun. Chico recently became the epicenter when a parent filed in federal court opposing Chico Unified School District’s upholding the state Department of Education’s anti-discrimination policy. That policy allows students to maintain confidentiality with school personnel while questioning their sexual or gender identity, separate from their parent or guardian. The case is still with a federal judge.
Natalie Hanson is a contributing writer to ChicoSol.