There is always an undercurrent of fear for members of the LGBTQ community that one will be the victim of a violent hate crime. The polarizing political climate in the United States along with the repeal of Roe v. Wade have seemed to energize anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, causing a dramatic spike in violent crimes, especially against transgender folks. Members of the LGBTQ community are nearly four times more likely to fall victim to violent crime, according to statistics.
As LGBTQ civil rights have progressed, some acceptance and tolerance came from the Christian right. With the rise of Trumpism, that tolerance seems to have fallen away and become a more aggressive form of hatred. False narratives, hard-right-leaning political figures and candidates as well as the spread of misinformation among social media platforms has helped this rhetoric to spread.
In the National Crime Victimization Survey data one in five violent hate crime victims believed the crime against them was because of bias against groups they were associated with (23%) or bias against their sexual orientation (20%). Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have a higher likelihood of being assaulted because of who they are. So far in 2022, 32 trans individuals have been killed; last year, the toll was 45. It was the deadliest year so far. Since 2013, over 200 trans and gender non-conforming people have been killed, the overwhelming majority being trans women of color, especially Black trans women.
“Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence, driven by bigotry and transphobia and stoked by people who hate and fear transgender people and the richness of their experience,” Joni Madison, interim president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), in a statement. “Dehumanizing rhetoric has real-life consequences for the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color — but especially Black transgender women.
“As we have seen an unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures attacking transgender youth and trans adults, the moment we are in is clear. They have attacked transgender people’s right to health care, right to exist in public, and right to live openly, with the ultimate goal of dehumanizing and erasing their lives and experiences. Every life has value.”
Aside from unchecked hate speech on social media, dehumanizing laws have been pushed out by states in record numbers. From laws banning trans girls and women from participating in scholastic sports to bathroom bans to restricting and banning gender-affirming care, the message is clear: trans lives don’t matter.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive requiring child welfare agents to investigate gender-affirming medical procedures as child abuse, something that could remove children from a safe home and family. A federal judge has since partially blocked this directive. Earlier this fall, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia issued new guidelines to make it harder for youth to change their names and pronouns at school. It also prevents them from using school facilities and participating in youth programs aligned with their gender identity.
North Carolina really kick-started the trend in 2016 with its so-called bathroom bill, with the pace of anti-trans legislation really picking up speed in 2018. That year, 19 bills were introduced across the United States. Last year, legislators introduced 131 bills in 34 states. As of Oct. 13 of this year, 155 such bills have been introduced. Of the 390 bills introduced since 2016, only 39 were passed. Though this seems like a low number, the ones that have passed have had detrimental consequences on the lives of many trans folks.
Earlier this year, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a gender-affirming care ban, saying at the time, “We’re going to go by how God made us: if the Good Lord made you a boy, you’re a boy, and if he made you a girl, you’re a girl. It’s simple.” For some, it’s not just religious reasons but political clout. An adviser for Abbott’s re-election campaign said that restrictions on trans youth is “a 75, 80 percent winner.”
Some of this backlash activists say may be because of the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which found that a federal law banning employment discrimination based on sex also extended to sexuality and gender identity.
The attack on reproductive rights is inextricably entwined with the fight against LGBTQ equality, say activists, with many of the same political figures involved in one area also fighting in the other. An example of this is the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group at the head of the fight against abortion rights. An Idaho legislator credited the group with helping to push through a bill preventing trans girls from playing girls’ sports in 2021. It was the first of many similar bills passed in the United States since then. Eighteen states have followed Idaho and adopted so-called “sports bans.”
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed his state’s sports ban earlier this year. He cited the potential mental health impact to trans youth in addition to flaws with the legislation, saying, “four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what this is all about. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are part of something.” The state legislature went on to override his veto.
Bigotry has gotten bolder. Using the law as a weapon and a shield against those who aren’t cis-gender, white, and God-fearing appears to be the endgame of many and it endangers all of the LGBTQ community, says HRC.