by Jefferson Ellison. Published on April 10, 2021.
Well, well well, look what the cat dragged in: vintage transphobia and your local government seeking reprieve in the bodies of its citizens, all in the form of N.C Senate Bill 514. The bill, presented by Republican Senators Hise, Daniel, and Sanderson, is modest in length (5 pages) but boy-oh-boy does it make use of its space.
1. The bill bans treatment for trans people under 21.
2. Medical professionals who offer gender-confirming surgery, hormone treatment, or puberty blockers could have their license revoked and face civil fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence.
3. The bill compels state employees to “immediately notify” parents in writing if a person under the age of 21 displays “gender nonconformity” and expresses the desire to be treated in an “incompatible” way with the gender that they were assigned at birth.
4. North Carolina would classify adults between 18 and 21 as minors under the “Youth Health Protection Act.”
Bottom line? They want to chip away at trans rights by making identity confirmation a “choice” that only “adults” can make, rather than a respected medical necessity valid for all individuals.
The topic of transgender rights is still very new to so many people in our society, so language - much like reading - is fundamental. As a society, we’ve come to a critical junction where the public opinion of trans people is being written and solidified in real-time. This is why it’s so dangerous that our legislators - whose job it is to represent a constituency, not raise a generation - are hijacking the conversation. They’re actively and intentionally creating an alternative perspective that dehumanizes others and invalidates trans people.
If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s the same bullshit logic that has allowed for abortion to remain relevant in political conversations, even though it has been legal for over half a century. The issue with the former is the same as the latter: you cannot stop someone from doing something that they have decided is best for them. Since the beginning of time, conservatives have argued that access breeds necessity. Implying that the only reason people do things–like act on their hormones or crave external and internal harmony–is because the delete button (if you will) was available to them. That argument is dehumanizing, circular, and rather stupid. Children are hungry and require food long before they know how to ask for it. The rate of abortion is not directly correlated to the amount of abortion access; it is the result of how many uterus-owning individuals find themselves pregnant when they do not want to be. Likewise, gender confirmation is not the result of a “liberal gay agenda”. It is a course correction in a flawed and broken world. Limiting access to resources does not erase or make the resource irrelevant. Moreover, making it hard for people to do what they want to do (read: need to do) will not make them invisible.
Interestingly enough, what your friendly neighborhood politicians have done by introducing this bill is not fight trans visibility, per se, but instead fight harm reduction. That’s not to say that visibility is unaffected by this–because it is–but the glaring issues are the ones that will occur for the people the bill claims to protect.
Suppose you were to think about LGBT+ politics the same way you think about teenagers having sex. In that case, you could consider identity-centered political actions like sex education that preaches abstinence: the results won’t change, but the impact will. 16-year-olds are going to continue to have sex, no matter what. But because of sex-positive education that teaches them about safe sex and things like consent, hopefully, they won’t get pregnant, have harmful interactions, or transmit disease. In the same vein, people have been gay since the beginning of time, but by “legalizing” it, being gay is made “safer.” There is a lessened chance of public shame, lessening the need for a gay man to be on the “down-low”, which means there’s a lesser chance of a man having bareback sex in a park with strangers and transmitting an STD to his wife.
That is how harm reduction works. It reduces the likelihood of negative impact. Roe v. Wade is not about morality; it is about harm reduction. Just like the teens who will always continue to have sex, people who don’t want to be pregnant will always find a way not to be pregnant. Legalizing it makes it safer, because it gives them a safe way to do what they’ve already decided they’re going to do, and it keeps them from having to use hangers in strange ways or play doctor with a vacuum cleaner.
Making it illegal for people under the age of 21 to begin their transition makes it harder to transition, which makes it more expensive, and even more consequential - allow me to explain. Adults don’t always have caretakers that can help them through their transition, adults can’t always afford to take off from work, and they tend to have a more challenging time making significant shifts that aren’t entirely life-altering. For instance, at birth, a person was given the name Chad, but whose name is now Claudia, may find it difficult and less safe to transition to their true self if they have to do it after they’ve started a job and life in a specific city. Should they still do it? Of course. Should it be accepted? Absolutely. Is there more risk involved? Is it harder? More expensive? You bet your fat ass it is.
There’s also the genuine and very problematic issue of trans-ignorance and the privilege of passing. A person who was assigned female at birth and unable to start hormone blockers may find it hard to present and perform in a way that feels right to them if they are naturally buxom. They will also have a tough time explaining to people how they can be a trans-man and have big breasts. Most of that is simply trans-ignorance, and the rest of it is misogyny. Thinking that a person with large breasts must be sexualized, and if they are sexualized, then it must be done purely for the pleasure of cis-straight men centers the wrong fucking person.
Aside from the issue of gender and identity performance, there is also the relational aspect. By forcing all state employees (a broad term, which feels dangerous and intentional) to dictate to the guardians of a 19-year-old how that person must identify in public, is to offer them nothing but fear and shame. The LGBTQIA+ have long accepted that not everyone will see or respect them (read: us) for who we are they are. And to our credit, we’ve made the best of having to hide in plain sight. We change clothes after we leave for school. We travel deep in Harlem for nights of culture and joy. We hide our sex to the back corner of the porn shop and distance ourselves from your hateful stares. For you to strip a person of protection that comes from ignorance by forcing them into conversations that no one asked to have, shows that you already know and want the outcome. You want people to fear their natural inclination. You don’t want people to trust their bodies. You want to control people and shame them into submission. One could argue that you know that your system of governance and your culture of conservatism is nothing more than the brainwashing of the ignorant masses and the scapegoating of God’s children for the sake of your own selfish gain.
Lastly, there’s hypocrisy. Which–much like the Abrahamic God–may not always answer to the same name but is always precisely where you think it would be. How are we still creating laws that separate and disconnect adulthood? At this point, America has divided adulthood into those who can go to war, those who can smoke CBD, those who can smoke cigarettes, those who can use family insurance, those who can drink, and those who can live life on their own terms. How can we get on the same page about who we want to be as a country when we can’t get on the same page on what it means to be a citizen?
Indeed, I’m not a trans person. And while I advocate for the rights of trans people, this piece is not in blind advocacy. The goal of these 1300+ words is to contextualize the legislation being put forth by our government. I can not speak for the trans community, but anyone of us can have a trans-child. If we can only talk about our own rights, how can we expect to speak to each other? And if we can’t recognize where harm is possible, how can we expect to avoid it.