Watching progress disappear

I remember a few years ago when trans rights (and frankly trans people’s existence) were brought to the fore by North Carolina’s bathroom bill. H.B 2 (a name that is still burned into my mind all these years later) restricted trans people to bathrooms that matched their birth certificates. I was a few years into college at the time it was passed and suddenly it seemed that everyone and everything was talking about trans people. Overnight, The religious college I was attending switched focus from homophobia to transphobia. This transphobia was everywhere: in the dorms, in classes, and on every news channel. I didn’t know I was trans at the time, but I can remember this period vividly. No matter where you looked, you were faced with transphobia and fearmongering. It was truly an awful time.

Like most of the United States (and the world for that matter), my state saw a massive surge in transphobia in 2021. For the last decade, my state has made significant positive strides for trans people. Name and ID changes were made easier, gender identity was made a protected class, laws against discrimination were passed, and a robust policy for trans youth in the education system was established. In fact, for most of last year, it looked like we would avoid the national trend towards transphobia. That was until we had local elections. Conservatives and reactionaries at every level across the state ran campaigns based almost exclusively on transphobia, peddling conspiracy theories, and fearmongering. Transphobic messages were in campaign ads, yard signs, billboards, and repeated in the news. These messages found receptive ground. Republicans won throughout the state, even flipping liberal strongholds.

Conservatives were quick to use this newfound power to attack trans people and roll back protections. My state had 0 anti-trans laws proposed last year, eschewing the national trend towards transphobia. Since Republicans took office last month, 6 bills targeting trans people and especially trans youth have been advanced. These include a bathroom bill, a bill banning trans people from athletics, and a bill requiring teachers to out trans kids to their parents. So far state-level legislation has failed to advance, however, that is a small comfort. There is no guarantee that these bills can be defeated forever and the transphobic sentiments that brought conservatives to power are still present.

In many ways, this massive shift was a wake-up call for me. I have always been concerned about the federal government using the law to attack trans people and their rights, but I always had the comfort that I lived in a progressive state. Against the backdrop of the Trump administration and the wave of anti-trans legislation in 2021, my state was expanding protections for LGBT people rather than diminishing them. I figured that I had at least some protection from transphobic legislation. Having that completely flip in the span of a month is frankly terrifying. Last year’s local elections changed the entire atmosphere of the state, bringing to light the transphobia that lay under the surface. Even months after the election, the transphobic conspiracy theories and fear-mongering are still being repeated. As a result of this massive shift, over a decade of progress and protections are now at risk of being wiped out at any time.

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