I have been dreading this update, though it's beyond necessary. It's been over two months since we visited this topic, and unfortunately that means a lot of new laws have been pushed across the country. I want to talk about some of them, particularly some especially draconian legislation in Florida (of course), but also to address the broader state of where we stand.
And I want to reiterate the–obvious, I think–reason that I focus so often on attacks on Trans people and queer people more generally: in the fight against fascism, Trans and queer people are on the front lines. They are most immediately in danger, and their very existence is used as a wedge in a deeply divisive culture war. From the spearhead of Trans identity follows queer people more broadly, eventually including anyone who is not cishet. Of course this is not the only battle, nor the only danger, but it is one from which nearly all else flows. From this fight, despots like DeSantis will strive to create a state of theocratic simplicity, in which no one will deserve to live but Christian, white, cis, straight people.
A fasc classic, I bring this up mostly with good news for a change. PEN America and Penguin Random House are suing a Florida school district over their book ban. Their argument, that the ban has infringed upon students' 1st and 14th amendment rights, is a great first step in fighting back against this ban–which is in line with rules issued from the state.
However, these bans are accelerating. Florida just expanded their "Don't Say Gay" bill, which will now eliminate classroom instruction that mentions sexual orientation or gender identity across all grades. Couple that with last year's Stop WOKE Act, and you've damn near eliminated any nuanced discussion of identities in schools that aren't straight, cis, and white. This, of course, will result in a huge number of young adult and children's books becoming unavailable in schools.
Banning books that feature LGBTQIA+ characters is a great way to silence a generation, and to shutter paths that children and young people may not even realize exists or are valid. I don't think most people who are pro-ban even realize this effect–they're pro-ban because they've heard them dang gays are grooming the childrens. They don't realize, most of them, that what they're doing isn't ridding society of the effects of alternative lifestyles–they're actually just forcing children into a set of boxes that don't fit them.
More immediately awful is the passage of a "bathroom ban" in Florida, which can criminalize the use of a bathroom that corresponds with your gender identity. The charge is a misdemeanor, but moreso than simply putting a fine on using the bathroom of your gender, it will inevitably entitle people to police bathroom usage, and to escalate any kind of argument or conflict that may ensue. The bill goes into effect on July 1st, but we have already seen the effects of such legislation and rhetoric on public restrooms across the country. There are several viral instances of cis queer women who didn't appear "female" enough for someone in or around a public bathroom, and harassment ensued. In the latest instance, the police were called and forcibly removed the person in question.
Use of a restroom is a basic biological necessity. When legislation like Florida's comes up, it can effectively remove a Trans person's ability to exist in public without fear of criminal punishment or harassment. It's one more slice of life from which they are excluded. And, predictably, this particular issue does not end with Trans people. Anyone who presents as anything other than traditionally cisgender is at risk in this climate, and the fact that in Florida you're only charged with a misdemeanor is the nicest thing about this bill.
As activists have warned, where bigots began by saying they were protecting children by going after gender-affirming care, they have broadened their efforts in order to curtail the availability of said care for adults, as well. Florida's latest, SB 254, bans all such care for minors outright. For adults, severe limitations have been placed on how they can receive gender-affirming care. It cuts Medicaid funding, requires in-person treatment, and prohibits care from anyone other than physicians–meaning no nurse practitioners or physician assistants. This, at the least, creates an immense wait time on care, and in effect prohibits care in many cases.
Legislation has been moving forward in Texas and Nebraska as well, with Nebraska pushing through a batch of shitty bills after the incredible work of Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, who almost single-handedly filibustered the advancement of anti-abortion and anti-gender-affirming care legislation until recently. Similarly, Texas has banned gender-affirming care for minors, effective in September. Minors currently undergoing noninvasive treatment will be allowed to continue after receiving six months of therapy. The story in Texas is complicated by the intervention of Grade-A asshole Ken Paxton, who up until very recently held the title of Attorney General. Paxton was on a mission to investigate clinics and hospitals that provide gender-affirming care. This includes clinics like the Dell Children's adolescent clinic, the staff of which was let go after Paxton announced he would be investigating the facility for their provision of gender-affirming care. That is bad enough, but the Dell clinic did far more than just provide gender-affirming care. They treated eating disorders, developmental disabilities, menstrual disorders, and mental health issues. Despite all of this good, the clinic has all but folded up. In their zeal to prohibit the existence of Trans people, goons like Ken Paxton and other far-right pricks will not sweat harming other children.
What Happens Next
In red states, this legislative march will continue apace. Part of this includes the kind of scope-creep of age in these bills, in which care becomes prohibited for older and older Trans youths. And where a law doesn't outright ban care, it creates hurdles to care, as in Florida. Expect this to spread, as state legislatures love to copy a bad idea.
There hasn't been much escalation in terms of rhetoric, but that's probably because there's not much further for the rhetoric to go. Trans people are under threat of death and erasure on a systemic and personal level. It doesn't really get worse than that, only more widespread. Only a few months after Proud Boys marched against a drag show in Columbus, Ohio, the Blood Tribe (you know, actual Nazis) showed up to a drag fundraiser. Many people hold this view, especially in red states. But, crucially, not everyone. The fundraiser, thanks to the profile-raising presence of white supremacists, blew clean past their goals.
It's important to note victories like that, because it proves that the majority of people aren't absolute hateful shits. They may not be perfect–they may be far from it–but they don't agree with Nazis. They don't agree with outright white supremacy. And even amongst some pretty egregious imperfections, those are people we can work with.