These days, gender-affirming care and equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks seem like they’re dependent on a coin toss between states; something as essential as basic human rights tossed around with the value of something as small as a dime.
It’s nearly impossible to break down the attempts to ban gender-affirming care state by state, bill by bill, or lawmaker by lawmaker — there are simply too many.
In the most recent tally, the ACLU has tracked over 460 anti-LGTBQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country in 2023 alone. And while some bills will be shot down, and others are only just now going into effect, the harm caused by such widespread transphobia already has heartbreaking implications.
Across the country, trans folks of all ages are put at further risk of life-threatening violence, persecution, and mental health crises.
In Montana, transgender Representative Zooey Zephyr was silenced and barred from the House floor for advocating for trans rights.
In Nebraska, Senator Megan Hunt was put under investigation for a “conflict of interest” for being a parent to a trans child and advocating against a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors.
While some left-leaning states have indeed become safe havens for gender-affirming care, the cause for concern is nationwide, transcending political binaries. But no matter where on the map you look, there are LGBTQ+ people (and allies) fighting for liberation.
There are people everywhere — no matter the laws of their respective statehouses — assigning real value and integrity to trans lives.
Hundreds have turned out in support of Zephyr in Missoula, Montana, rallying behind their representative, chanting “let her speak,” both in the name of democracy and equality.
Back in Nebraska, Hunt, Nebraska’s first openly LGBTQ+ state senator and mother to a transgender son, has filibustered the state legislature for nine straight weeks, alongside Senator Machaela Cavanaugh — allowing no other bills to pass until lawmakers kill the ban on gender-affirming care. Cavanaugh has audaciously promised to “burn the session to the ground over this bill.”
The duo, along with Senator John Fredrickson (the first openly gay man to be elected to the Nebraska legislature), created the Don’t Legislate Hate PAC to help put a stop to these discriminatory bills.
“Countless people have reached out asking how they can help push back against this extremely discriminatory agenda, and we felt that we needed to do more. Thus, our PAC was born,” Hunt told Good Good Good.
“We will use its national platform to support state-level candidates with the courage to stop anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across our country. Our PAC is here to let our LGBTQ+ community know that someone is fighting for them.”
Although the Nebraska legislative session has come to a close, and did indeed include the passage of a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, Hunt fought tooth and nail to keep it from happening.
While Nebraska became one of many states to create anti-trans legislation, other states around the country have solidified trans rights into the very fabric of their constitutions. States like Maryland, Michigan, Colorado, and Maryland have all passed legislation to expand gender-affirming care this year.
Colorado’s Senate Bill 188 protects people who are seeking abortion care or gender-affirming care.
“It’s about the state of Colorado saying that we have legally protected healthcare here in our state, and we’re going to protect the people providing that care and the people getting that care. We have a right to do that,” Colorado Representative Brianna Titone told Good Good Good.
“Colorado has done a lot when it comes to setting up rights for trans people here. We’re running out of things to do in Colorado, which is a good thing.”
Titone is the first transgender state legislator elected in the state of Colorado, and although she is grateful to live in a state where she feels energized and supported in collective efforts to further protect the rights of trans folks, she is still subjected to discrimination.
“I experience hateful remarks on the floor of my House, 10 feet in front of where I’m sitting now,” she said (in a video chat where she was literally on the Colorado House floor). “But at the end of the day, I get my way.”
“We passed the laws we want to protect people. And I always feel really terrible about what’s going on in other states where they are taking away their rights right in front of them.”
But, Titone urged, if trans people “have the stomach” to take the bad with the good, it’s vital that they are at the table.
One of her major accomplishments of this legislative session has been the passage of a “right to repair” bill for farm equipment, allowing farmers in Colorado to fix their own equipment — which is an exciting development for large agricultural states like Nebraska and Montana — both of which will likely pass anti-trans legislation this year.
“The question I have is: do they know that this bill that they’re so excited about was authored and shepherded through by a trans person?” Titone said.
“How would that change their mind if they knew that? I would like to see the smoke come out of their ears when they realize that the greatest thing that they’ve had happen in agriculture in a while was done by someone who they may despise.”
When it comes to trans representation in government, Titone is looking toward a future where the jobs of LGBTQ+ legislators are not to fight for their right to exist safely and comfortably — but to actually have the space and resources to work for their constituents.
“I want them to realize that trans people are working for them,” Titone said. “Even the people who may not like me, I’m still working for them. I want them to understand that we need to be in these spaces because we’re good at our jobs. And without us being in these spaces, you might not get the things you want.”
“We’re not monoliths; we’re just trying to do what’s best for all of our constituents.”
A mere hop, skip, and jump across state lines, Hunt maintains the same energy in Nebraska: Trying to do right by her constituents — whatever it takes.
“I find tremendous hope and drive from the countless supporters who contact my office from across the state. I am inspired by the countless transgender individuals who bravely share their stories and speak out against discrimination,” Hunt said.
“We are united in our commitment to upholding the values of equality, fairness, and respect for all individuals, and we will not back down in the face of bigotry and intolerance.”
In a confusing, conflicting time where injustice and cruelty infiltrate so much of American political life, both Titone and Hunt seek sustained hope.
“We just have to stick to our positions,” Titone said. “We have to speak truth to power and stick together and support each other. We’re going to get on the other side of this.”
The work between neighbors is not the same, but it is done with the same goal in mind: Safety and equality for all — no matter where they live.
“Now is the time for sustained outrage,” Hunt said. “Now is the time for constant and prolonged righteous rage. The kind of outrage that puts morality over civility. The kind of outrage that understands the power of protest and direct action.”
Whether it’s constant contact with elected officials, protests and rallies, letter-writing campaigns, community events, ongoing self-education, donations to local advocacy organizations, or even running for office, Hunt said it best:
“No action is too small or too big.”
A version of this article was originally published in The 2023 Pride Edition of the Goodnewspaper. Get your own Goodnewspaper by becoming a good news subscriber today.