According to the Human Rights Campaign https://www.hrc.org/about, the largest LBTBQ+ lobbying organization in the United States, and Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/ another human rights advocacy group, as of July of last year, 121 bills directly targeting transgender people, and youth have been proposed. (Ronan, 2021) This number is steadily climbing.
These proposed bills include 36 transgender-specific healthcare bans in 22 states and 66 transgender sports bans in 36 states. (Ronan, 2021) From making it illegal and punishable by law for parents to provide access to gender-affirming healthcare and for the healthcare system to provide it to forcing people to use their assigned birth names, use the incorrect restroom, and be forced to stop playing school-sanctioned sports, the fearmongering continues.
The fact is that most Americans, including most of the GOP, oppose these bills. In a 2021 Marist Poll by NPR, two-thirds of Americans reject these proposed anti-trans targeted laws. (NPR, 2021) When this group was asked if they “support or reject transition-related healthcare for minors,” 70% of Republicans reported that they do not support these bills. This was the highest percentage of those responding. According to the Marist Poll, 66% of those polled oppose healthcare bans, and 67% oppose anti-trans sports bans. (NPR, 2021)
To help track which states score lowest and highest in laws protecting human rights, we can look to the Movement Advancement Map. https://transgenderlawcenter.org/equalitymap This easy-to-use tool provided by Transgender Law Center tracks how well individual state rate regarding Relationship & Parental Recognition, Nondiscrimination, Religious Exemptions, LGBTQ Youth, Health Care, Criminal Justice, and Identity Documents. (Transgender Law Center, 2023)
As you navigate the information provided in the MAP database, it is important to remember what is written above regarding the power of hope. Most people in the United States, including those in states that rate poorly regarding human rights proposals, do not endorse hate-filled, fear-based legislation.
Most proposed anti-transgender targeted bills come primarily from three main sources. The Heritage Foundation https://www.heritage.org/about-heritage/mission Family Policy Alliance https://familypolicyalliance.com/about/about-us/ and the Alliance Defending Freedom https://adflegal.org/landing/standing-for-religious-freedom Former Vice President Mike Pence is a strong supporter of The Heritage Foundation (Heritage Foundation, 2021) as is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. (Heritage Foundation, 2023) This is why they persist despite most Americans being opposed to these fear-mongering bills. These proposed and, in some cases, enacted bills and laws exist because the politicians at the helm of several powerful states are using the power of hate to put forth their fear-based agenda, hurting people. People you might know, people you might love, people who want to live their lives with the same freedoms that we all should have equal access to, yet here we are in 2023, fighting for what should not be a fight at all and certainly not a fight against young people who in the land of the free and certainly brave should receive the highest level of care and protections.
There is hope. There always is. To quote the late Václav Havel, the former President and famous playwright dissident of Czechoslovakia, “There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight. The salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility.” (Goodreads)
In the fight against those who would steal another’s power to bolster their own falsely, we offer the chance for sanctuary. When we look at the above MAP outlining which states are rising to protect their citizens, we see this hope in green.
Washington State is green for many reasons, but being a sanctuary state for those persecuted for existing is the best reason to be green. The lush forests, the fields of grass, and the moniker of Seattle being “The Emerald City” all pale in comparison to the real reason Washington State is a green light for hope. Should you find yourself needing the protection of a state where common sense and the protection of trans children and adults’ rights matter, we want to extend an invitation to seek this greenery for yourself and for your family.
Living here, especially in Bellingham, where it is common to see equality stickers and pride flags, is why I am writing this piece to you. We lived here before our child came out as transgendered. We have always supported the inclusion of all people as equals, yet the support of our community became critical when we needed to know that our child would be safe. That our child would be free to live their life as they see fit to live it. That they would be able to gain employment and have access to trans-positive health care. To wear clothing that they feel good in, to use the correct restroom, and to have a name that they chose. In short, that our beloved child would be seen as an equal human to everyone else. This exists in many places, not just here in Bellingham, but we can only write about our experience of inclusion from a deeply personal perspective; this includes where we live. Bellingham is special. The love we as a community have for our children extends past the fear pouring out of Washington, DC. As a community, we stand together against hatred and invite you to experience this acceptance for yourself.
In states and towns where it is becoming frightening for same-sex couples to hold hands on a date, this is a routine sight in our special town. Where transgendered children are being banned from receiving life-affirming health care, we openly embrace this care and offer it at many healthcare facilities, including low-income clinics.
The city of Bellingham offers this statement regarding human rights in our special town “The City of Bellingham supports each individual’s right to be treated with dignity and to live without fear of violence, intimidation, or discrimination based on group identification or personal characteristics. These include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief or non-belief, age, class, disability, veteran or military status, and political opinion.” (City of Bellingham)
The Bellingham City Council takes this further by stating that they align with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights. When people became fearful that their human rights would be in jeopardy following the 2017 election, the City of Bellingham issued RESOLUTION NO. 2017-10 https://codepublishing-modern-prod.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/ which addresses in detail that Bellingham will stand up for the rights of all people, particularly migrants, those identifying as LGTBQ+, that Black Lives Matter and that treaty rights and the rights of our sovereign neighbors will always be upheld and respected.
While there are endless media stories detailing the effects of fearful politicians scrambling to take away the rights of others to curry favor with the minority, there are places where these voices are not the voice of the community. Bellingham is an example of such a place. Bellingham is a proud community of people who believe that human rights are rights for all and not some.
If you need to leave your state due to the increasingly alarming climate of anti-trans or anti-LGTBQ legislation, we are here for you. We are also here if you need to be connected to resources to help make this move more manageable. We are here if you need to ask questions about schools, housing, healthcare policies, and access, or the general support climate and resources available for you or your family.
We are all members of the human race. If you feel that you can no longer live in a state where the current politics are making it illegal to exist, there is hope.
You Belong Here
Anti-Defamation League. (2021, April 16). Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved from Anti-Transgender Legislation: Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/anti-transgender-legislation-frequently-asked-questions
City of Bellingham. (n.d.). City of Bellingham. Retrieved from Commitment of Human Rights: https://cob.org/about/commitment-to-human-rights
Goodreads. (n.d.). Goodreads. Retrieved from Famous quotes by Václav Havel.: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/71441.V_clav_Havel
Heritage Foundation. (2021, February 4). Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from Vice President Mike Pence Joins Heritage Foundation as Distinguished Visiting Fellow: https://www.heritage.org/press/vice-president-mike-pence-joins-heritage-foundation-distinguished-visiting-fellow
Heritage Foundation. (2023, March 21). Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from Gov. Ron DeSantis to Headline Heritage’s 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit in April : https://www.heritage.org/press/gov-ron-desantis-headline-heritages-50th-anniversary-leadership-summit-april
NPR. (2021, April 16). NPR. Retrieved from New poll shows Americans overwhelmingly oppose anti-transgender laws: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/new-poll-shows-americans-overwhelmingly-oppose-anti-transgender-laws
O’Hara, E. (2021, April 14). GLAAD. Retrieved from Guide for Journalists: Reporting On Anti-Trans State Legislation: https://www.glaad.org/blog/guide-journalists-reporting-anti-trans-state-legislation
Ronan, W. (2021, April 12). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved from 1,500+ Parents of Transgender, Non-Binary, and Gender-Expansive Youth Condemn Anti-Trans Bills in Open Letter to Lawmakers: https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/1-500-parents-of-transgender-non-binary-and-gender-expansive-youth-condemn-anti-trans-bills-in-open-letter-to-lawmakers
Thoreson, R. (2023, January 20). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from Lawmakers in the US Unleash Barrage of Anti-Transgender Bills: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/01/20/lawmakers-us-unleash-barrage-anti-transgender-bills
Transgender Law Center. (2023). Transgender Law Center. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from National Equality Map: Movement Advancement Project “Equality Maps Snapshot: LGBTQ Equality By State.”: https://transgenderlawcenter.org/equalitymap
This letter was written by concerned parents of trans youth from across America. The Human Rights Campaign delivered this letter on behalf of these 1500+ parents to elected officials in Washington, DC.