Black Trans Activists Vow to Fight Spread of Anti-Trans Bills

Ernest Owens
·6 min read
Photos Courtesy Mikael Garner, Michael B. Maine, Michael B. Maine, Sunny Wolf
Photos Courtesy Mikael Garner, Michael B. Maine, Michael B. Maine, Sunny Wolf

A recent uptick in anti-trans legislation and political bigotry is throwing into question the progress and protection for transgender Americans announced by Joe Biden as he assumed the presidency.

Although it’s been a little over a month since the Trump administration departed, calls from Republicans at the national and state level to remove transgender athletes from playing in competitive sports, and teens from getting proper gender-confirmation health care, have gained traction. Then there was the prejudice expressed by Republican lawmakers in Congress in the debate over the Equality Act.

The LGBTQ Equality Act Is Back. Its Sponsors Are ‘Optimistic’ for Senate Victory.

Black transgender people are now speaking out against policies that will hit them the hardest as the most vulnerable population within the LGBTQ community.

A report by the National LGBTQ Task Force with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) revealed that Black transgender people had “an extremely high unemployment rate” at 26 percent that is two times the rate of the overall transgender community sampled (and four times the general population).

Other major disparities in experiencing extreme poverty (34 percent), homelessness (41 percent), and facing harassment for their identity (5o percent), provides context to the devastating high rate of Black transgender people being murdered in America. Last year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) described 2020 as the “deadliest year on record” for transgender Americans with at least 37 transgender and gender non-conforming people violently killed—22 of them being Black.

“As a Black trans community activist, I have made it my life’s duty to personally put my own life on the line daily,” says Mikael Garner, CEO of Chosen With A Purpose Enterprise in Philadelphia. “My life and the existence of my fellow trans brothers and sisters matter and cannot be overlooked, dismissed, nor erased. This is true especially for those of intersectional identity, being black and trans in America.”

Garner, and several other Black transgender community members, have been alarmed by the recent roll-out of bills in various state senates and houses across the country specifically targeting their healthcare and overall inclusion in society.

Mississippi’s SB 2536, an anti-transgender sports bill, marks the first piece of specifically anti-transgender legislation to be passed this year, and sent to a governor’s desk for assent.

Black transgender activists in Mississippi are concerned that such bans will create a “double trap” for them in a deep-red state. Some fear that Black neighborhoods with LGBTQ individuals will be profiled and discriminated against more under anti-LGBTQ laws that can be used as a form of “repackaged racial bias.” For example, if a Black transgender person self-identifies, they fear racists can use their trans identity as a covert way to push them out altogether for being Black.

Activists fear that SB 2536 will only create new pathways for Black transgender people to be discriminated against, given how much Black youth are involved in sports in Mississippi.

In Tennessee this week, state legislation advanced that would ban transgender athletes from participating in girls’ sports. Tennessee Republicans argued that the bill is to stop school-aged girls from facing unfair odds at sports. After passing the State Senate, the likelihood of the bill passing the state’s Republican-controlled House is very likely.

“This hateful and unconstitutional bill is unnecessary—the bill sponsors have admitted that they do not know of a single instance of a Tennessee student facing any harm from a transgender athlete playing sports,” the Tennessee ACLU said in a statement. “Protecting women’s sports is important, but transgender girls do not threaten them.”

Such legislation is following a coordinated, anti-trans push of eight bills across seven states (mostly Southern) in the past month. Mississippi, Iowa, Arizona, Georgia, and others are either pushing anti-trans sports bans, bathroom bans, birth certificate bans, and/or medical bans.

This week, Alabama state senators voted to ban gender-affirming healthcare. Called the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, the Republican-backed law aims to prohibit medical professionals from administering hormones or puberty blockers to anyone under the age of 19, with prison as a consequence for doctors who don’t comply.

“When I hear a powerful politician question the morality of a kid they have never encountered, I am curious,” says J Mase III, Co-Director of The Black Trans Prayer Book. “I’m curious at how these folks would be rated by their own children and the children of their neighbors if given the chance. Politicians and community members intentionally stripping away the autonomy of kids are not just enemies of trans children, but of all children.”

“As someone who transitioned after high school, removing a youth’s right to chose whether they would hormonally transition gives people the idea that teens are not smart enough to make their own decisions about their bodies and that being cisgender is somehow the standard or norm,” says Sunny Wolf, a Black nonbinary advocate for disability rights.

“Putting power behind bills that actively erase the existence is transgender individuals is not only wrong but harmful to the future generation coming up. The only harmful thing that comes out of transitioning is the world’s perception on the transgender population and every youth should be able to decide that, not the government.”

As Democrats began to take back the House and Senate at the federal level the year, Republicans resorted to expressing transphobic sentiment more outwardly on the national scene.

During his controversial return to the public spotlight after facing his second impeachment trial, former President Donald Trump’s recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) spewed transphobic rhetoric that promoted the actions being carried out in conservative states.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are pushing policies that would even destroy women’s sports,” Trump said to the crowd, who immediately booed in agreement with him. “Young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males.”

“It’s not good for women,” the 45th president added, before telling a lie that only increased fearmongering. “It’s not good for women’s sports, who worked so long and so hard to get to where they are. The records that stood for years, even decades, are now being smashed.”

Similar anti-transgender banter can also be seen in Congress as Republicans have resorted to bigotry to dismiss the Equality Act, an all-encompassing LGBTQ rights protection bill, that recently passed the House.

Two congressional Republicans who voted in 2019 to support the Equality Act, Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), flipped their votes this time around, with Stefanik claiming the progressive law “eliminates the role of single-gendered organizations and activities throughout our society.”

Making matters worse, the Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert has even gone as far to suggest that the Equality Act is actually about the “supremacy of gays and lesbians and transvestites” above all other Americans.

“It is crucial that the Equality Act is passed to protect all LGBTQ people from discrimination of any kind,” says Blossom C. Brown, a Black trans activist and spiritual life coach in Los Angeles. “Adults who think it is fine to bully kids, especially trans youth are disgusting, despicable and must be stopped. If it does not get passed it can cause a detrimental domino effect for our LGBTQ community. The physical, mental, emotional health of our community is at stake.”

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