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Volley of anti-trans legislation draws criticism from students

The growing numbers of bills targeting the transgender community have been labeled by students as attacks against gender identity, with serious consequences. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/UNSPLASH

The ongoing presence of transphobia in American politics has drawn criticism and concern from students, who view its momentum as an attack against the transgender community.

Record numbers of anti-trans bills are set to be passed in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign. A total of 79 bills focusing on transgender people were introduced in 2020, followed by a record of 147 proposed bills in 2021. As of March, 137 bills targeting transgender individuals had already been introduced.

The bills revolve around the inclusion of transgender people in spaces that align with their gender identity, including public restrooms and athletics. Others limit discussion of gender and sexuality in the classroom in an effort to discourage external influences on students’ self-exploration. 

Restrictions on access to gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery, are another defining feature of many of the bills.

Florida has proposed four bills centering on transgender individuals in 2022, according to Track Trans Legislation. Two of the bills were signed into law, including House Bill (HB) 1557, which prohibits discussions on gender identity in public classrooms.

Also known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” HB 1557 seeks to encourage school officials to notify parents about their student’s gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill, passed March 29, also states that classroom conversation surrounding gender and sexuality must be appropriate to the age level, per the preference of parents.

HB 1557 identifies the transgender community as the oppressors of the cisgender majority, despite historical trends displaying the inverse, according to Crawley. Cisgender people have long been the cultural norm in the U.S., Crawley said, but are now forming laws to protect their identities. 

“There’s an interesting pattern [which] essentially claims about either discrimination or discomfort by people who are in the normative majority,” Crawley said. “That’s an interesting narrative reversal [where] people who are in the majority are made uncomfortable simply by talking about the existence of diversity.”

Simone Perciballi, junior biomedical sciences and public health major, echoed the alienating effect of bills like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, citing concerns about how transgender people will be viewed as the conversation around gender transitioning is stifled.

“The more anti-trans legislation that is enacted into law, whether it be under the guise of ‘fairness’ in sports or ‘protecting children,’ the more it is perpetuated that being trans is wrong in America,” Perciballi said.

S.L. Crawley, associate professor in the Department of Sociology, affirmed the role this type of legislation will play in future elections by motivating constituents to vote for politicians that align with their values.

“It seems to me that much of the creation of these laws, to the extent that they’re not solving an eminent social problem, are intended as political theater,” Crawley said. 

“They’re created for the purpose of trying to stir up the base for future elections. But it doesn’t always work. Sometimes trying to stir up one’s own base stirs up the opposition.” 

HB 1557 is not Florida’s first attempt at restricting the presence of transgender individuals in state-funded spaces. Senate Bill (SB) 2012 was previously proposed in 2021 in an effort to prevent gender nonconforming athletes from joining athletic teams that aligned with their gender identity at public elementary, secondary and postsecondary levels of education. 

HB 1475 would have similarly prevented transgender girls from joining girls athletic teams, and would have permitted the use of genital inspections to settle disputes over whether a student was participating in a team associated with the student’s biological sex.

The two bills were never signed into law, but an amendment was added to SB 1028 which banned transgender girls from joining girls sports teams, according to Miami New Times. 

The bills may have wide-reaching consequences that extend beyond their intended purpose, according to Michael Denton, assistant professor in the College of Education’s Higher Education and Student Affairs program.

“Those laws create a climate where people who are already transphobic may feel emboldened to police and regulate and commit any kind of violence, whether that’s physical violence or verbal violence against trans people,” Denton said. “That is what the bigger context for these trans bills is trying to establish.”

The most recent development in transgender regulations in Florida came in the form of an announcement from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) on June 2, stating Medicaid will no longer be covering gender-affirming care for adults. 

In the missive, the AHCA stated that data supplied by the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t prove gender-affirming care is effective in reducing gender dysphoria. This is the sense of discomfort trans and non-binary people may experience due to the difference between gender identity and sex assigned at birth.

Junior music education major Sam Cody said this restriction will make it difficult for them to receive gender-affirming care due to the increased pressure on their financial situation.

“I currently don’t have health insurance, but I wanted to apply for it to be able to afford gender-affirming care,” Cody said. “I am from a low-income household, and getting any healthcare services is out-of-reach for me due to how expensive it is.”

The lack of access to care also exacerbates Cody’s experiences with gender dysphoria.

“It’s like looking at myself in the mirror and knowing that who I am and want to be isn’t there,” Cody said. “Especially because I haven’t received any gender-affirming health care, I look at myself, but feel like less of myself and more like a shell or vessel.”

A June 2 letter from Florida General Surgeon Joseph Ladapo to the Florida Board of Medicine also called for standards of care surrounding gender-affirming care after the DeSantis administration called for restrictions on the form of health care for transgender youth.

Students and professors predicted the number of proposed anti-trans legislation will continue to rise.

“We’re not going to see a decrease in [anti-trans legislation], partly because this has been very successful in a lot of spaces,” Denton said. 

“It is very popular among conservative politicians. Conservative politicians are doing this because it creates a base for them. It appeals to their base. It gets them votes. They get to make claims that they’re defending the country and traditional norms and values.”