OPINION | Anti-trans legislature threatens everyone

Billy Bernfeld, Staff Writer

Mylie Bluhm

Republican transphobia is a severe threat — not just to trans people but to all of us. As hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills make their way into various state governments, the rights of transgender Americans grow ever fainter. The intentional vagueness of some laws may extend their reach far beyond oppressing just trans people.

In late February and early March, Tennessee Republicans took new measures to force their ideology upon their constituents — restricting drag shows and banning gender-affirming care for children. I have already explored trans healthcare in another article, but it must be repeated: the benefits of gender-affirming therapies have already been proven, and methods such as hormone therapy and reassignment surgeries persist as lifesaving measures against gender dysphoria.

It goes without saying that denying essential medical care to trans youth is fundamentally dangerous, but these extremist laws pose a further danger to the country at large. Hormone therapy encompasses far more than just mitigating gender dysphoria, and banning such procedures also affects other demographics.

From preventing postmenopausal bone loss in all people assigned female at birth — AFAB — to treating forms of cancer that rely upon specific steroids to progress, hormone therapy is crucial to fighting health conditions other than gender dysphoria. By using “gender-affirming care” as an umbrella term for all procedures that involve steroid hormones, as Tennessee Republicans have already done, one can only speculate how many life-threatening conditions will go untreated because legislators want to control the bodies of their constituents.

While the risks of restricting healthcare are straightforward, the dangers of banning drag are far more nuanced. While the bill states that it will expand Tennessee legislature to restrict “male or female impersonators” who appeal “to a prurient interest.”, the statement’s vagueness endangers all people, regardless of gender identity.

When discussing “male” and “female,” conservatives often refer to traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity — definitions which are inherently subjective depending on who you ask. For instance, a cisgender man who does not abide by traditional gender norms — perhaps by wearing gender-neutral or feminine clothing — could be accused of “impersonating” that which is deemed to be “female.” Similarly, someone who presents as androgynous or otherwise deviates from gender norms could be persecuted.

The ambiguity of what constitutes “male or female impersonators” is arguably the point — lawmakers in Tennessee intend to enforce what they deem to be “proper” gender norms. These norms often fall under the outdated Western gender binary, and insistence on such a thing could restrict autonomy and social mobility in daily life.

When Republicans falsely define the workforce as masculine in nature, non-male employees could potentially be interpreted as “impersonating” their male counterparts. All it takes is for one lawmaker to apply their subjective definition of masculinity to any situation they deem incompatible with traditional gender roles.

As for drag, it poses no apparent threat despite Republican fear-mongering. While conservatives may view the breaking of gender roles as sexual — precisely because they falsely conflate sex and gender with genitalia — drag is simply an art form that can be enjoyed by all age demographics.

Despite conservatives’ accusations of sexualization and inappropriate behavior, drag performers have shown no evidence of abusing children, nor do they sexualize the environment they take part in. If conservatives are concerned with child abuse, then I suggest they focus on the actual statistics on who commits such acts.

Ironically, Republicans and the faith leaders they defend have an infamous history of sexual abuse against children, from Matt Gaetz’s child trafficking scandal to Mark Foley propositioning teenagers online. The Republican Party has no right to make accusations of sex crimes — seeing as their ranks are riddled with the sexual predators they claim to condemn.

As some conservatives actively call for the eradication of transgender people nationwide, it is crucial that we understand their intent as it applies not just to the transgender community but to the country as a whole. They have made it clear that their goal is to destroy the trans community — and if history has taught us anything, claiming that a group of people should “be eradicated from public life entirely” ends in atrocious tragedy.

As stated before, the transphobic agenda of the Republican Party fundamentally threatens human rights. It might not be the most optimistic outlook, but it’s an honest one nonetheless. Despite our current dilemma, however, there is still hope. By encouraging equity and acceptance in our local communities, as well as supporting non-governmental organizations that fight for legal justice for the trans community, we can do our part and make a necessary difference.

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