A Relentless Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation Is Threatening Trans People’s Right to Exist

All of these types of proposals, no matter what age groups they single out, have a chilling effect on virtually any conversation regarding trans or queer identities in K–12 classrooms. Florida’s law and the copycat bills that are being pushed across the US are so vaguely worded that they have created mass confusion among teachers, students, and school districts, with little clarity provided by state leaders.

The “don’t say gay” statute in Florida, for instance, required that all instruction on LGBTQ+ subjects be “age-appropriate” without defining what that means, and school districts have interpreted it broadly to avoid potential lawsuits. Some Florida districts have banned trans-inclusive children’s books like Call Me Max and I Am Jazz from school libraries to avoid infringing on Florida’s laws. Others have reportedly ordered teachers to remove all books from their personal classroom collections.

Other states are trying to prevent trans students from using campus restrooms and locker rooms that match their identities, as lawmakers simultaneously continue to limit sports participation for trans and nonbinary youth. In addition to the 18 trans sports bans already in place, 25 states are attempting to prevent trans students from competing on sports teams that align with their gender, compromising 56 bills in total, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spokesperson tells SELF. 

Passing restrictive drag bans that threaten trans people’s right to exist in public

In 2023 alone, at least 35 bills have been introduced in 16 states that seek to restrict drag performances, a Human Rights Campaign spokesperson tells SELF.

This month Tennessee became the first state in US history to restrict drag shows, and LGBTQ+ people and allies are concerned that the mandate—and others like it across the country—could have devastating consequences for trans people. Tennessee’s SB3, which was signed into law by Republican governor Bill Lee on March 3, prohibits “adult cabaret entertainment” from taking place on public property or in any venue where a minor could conceivably be present. Those who violate the statute face a Class A misdemeanor on the first offense and a Class E felony upon subsequent infractions. This means drag entertainers could face a sentence of between one and six years in prison—in addition to a maximum fine of $3,000—for performing at an all-ages drag brunch or reading to children at drag story hour events, both of which have already faced violent threats from far-right and white supremacist groups.

While the law specifically takes aim at drag performances, critics have warned that these bills could be used to penalize gender nonconformity. Nebraska’s version of the Tennessee drag ban, LB371, defines drag as any performance in which individuals exhibit a gender presentation “that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers,” which could potentially prohibit actors from performing in a local community theater production of Mrs. Doubtfire, make it illegal for trans people to sing karaoke at a bar, and make it virtually impossible for Pride parades as we know them to take place. The Nebraska bill goes so far as to outlaw drag events from being held within 1,000 feet of a “child care facility, park, place of worship, playground, public library, recreational area or facility, residence, school, or walking trail,” making it extremely difficult for LGBTQ+ people to find any community space at all.

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