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The United States of America, the proclaimed “land of the free,” a place that supposedly values life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, is now in the spotlight once again for actions that work directly against these ideals. The United States is no stranger to hypocrisy. The Constitution wasn’t written with marginalized groups truly in mind, so discrimination is, unfortunately, to be expected. However, the lengths that the United States is currently taking are beyond disgusting.

Republican lawmakers have been working undoubtedly to pass oppressive, discriminatory bills that target the trans community. The bills have been specifically aimed at gender-affirming care, drag shows, transgender students and bathroom usage. It’s only April, and there have been more anti-trans bills introduced now than in the entirety of 2022. There have been so many across the country — some more egregious and dehumanizing than others — that it’s difficult to go over all of them and unpack them to truly understand how detrimental they are, so I’ll focus on a region of this country we’re familiar with: the South.

Anti-trans bills are harshest in the South, likely due to the fact that most Southern states are more Conservative-leaning states. Florida is a major perpetrator of pushing out and passing these anti-trans bills. On March 22, a Florida House of Representatives committee advanced an anti-trans bill so general and so extreme that it could affect access to treatment for breast cancer. It bans gender-affirming care for minors, such as hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery, and would force them to medically de-transition. The wording of this bill potentially threatens access to breast cancer treatment as well. The bill defines gender-affirming care and interventions as “procedures or therapies that alter internal or external physical traits,” and includes surgical procedures that “change primary or secondary sexual characteristics.” 

A Democratic representative, Christine Hunschofsky, noted this overly broad language could potentially apply to mastectomies, a common surgery that removes one or both breasts to treat breast cancer. This could also affect treatment for prostate cancer seeing as it can be treated with prostatectomies, essentially the equivalent of a mastectomy but with the prostate instead. This is just one anti-trans bill amongst many others Florida has passed.

Kentucky is also a perpetrator of passing similarly heinous bills. They’ve recently passed Senate Bill 150 into law, despite it being vetoed by Democratic Governor Andy Beshear. This bill prohibits conversation regarding sexual orientation or gender identity around students, requires school districts to prevent trans students from using the bathroom that accurately reflects their gender identities, allows teachers to use the wrong pronouns, bans all gender-affirming care for trans minors and requires doctors to de-transition minors if they’re using any restricted treatment options. Many pleaded with Kentucky’s mainly Republican Legislature to try to prevent this bill from advancing, but unfortunately, their pleas didn’t work. This is one of the country’s cruelest bills targeting trans people. Other southern states including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia  and West Virginia are trying to or have already passed bills that mirror some of the same “values” as Florida and Kentucky’s bills have. 

This surge of anti-trans bills being produced, passed and even put into law is absurd. The worst part is that these states have all similarly justified these actions by claiming it’s all in the name of “protecting the children.” The thinly veiled attempt to use children as a justification for infringing on human rights is disgusting; and they have no sound empirical evidence proving being trans, or the transgender community as a whole, poses harm to children at all.

In fact, preventing trans youth from acquiring gender-affirming care through surgery and hormone therapy puts children in more danger. A 2020 peer-reviewed study conducted by Trevor Project researchers found that trans and nonbinary youth were 2 to 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, contemplate suicide and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender peers. On the brighter side, the Trevor Project also documented that a separate study found gender-affirming healthcare has been shown to decrease the risk of suicide in transgender youth by about 25 percent after approximately one year of treatment. Taking away access to these life-saving treatments will almost certainly contribute to upticks in transgender youth’s suicide rates. 

These very same Republican legislatures and committee members support guns in this country, and are even calling for there to be more than there already are despite U.S. citizens being the most heavily armed citizens in the world. Gun violence has become the number one cause of death of children in this country, ahead of cancer and automobile accidents. There have been over twice as many mass shootings in 2023 than the number of days in the year, and yet calls for more guns are still being made. If protecting children was truly their focus and if it were something they sincerely cared about, gun control would be their primary goal rather than targeting and restricting the LGBTQ+ community. 

Many of these GOP and Republican legislatures pushing for these awful bills to be passed have cited religious beliefs, specifically Christian-based beliefs, as reasonings for wanting them instilled. However, these individuals fail to recognize that Christianity is a religion that actually centers itself on love and acceptance. Making such stubborn efforts to ostracize and strip a group of people of their rights simply because you don’t understand them directly contradicts the messages of the religion they claim to so strongly believe in.  

So far this year, 46 states around the United States have introduced over 650 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, signifying a disturbing and distressing era of the targeting of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans people. This does not signify progression in our country, but regression into a far more discriminatory, close-minded era that so many citizens have been trying to drive this country out of. In fact, a 2022 Pew Research Center survey found most Americans favor laws that protect trans people from discrimination. Unfortunately, the Republican government officials and lawmakers have precedent over the everyday citizens of this country, making it difficult for us to incite a change.

However, we must do our part to try. Educating ourselves on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole is crucial for all of us to do so we can understand the complex issues that affect this community . Amplifying their voices helps as well. They know primarily what it’s like to be within their community and have to experience discrimination because of who they are, and they will certainly provide the most accurate information possible regarding LGBTQ+ issues. Protest and stand with them, and make their issues a concern for you, regardless of whether you identify yourself as LGBTQ+ or not. We cannot stand by and allow basic human rights to be stripped away simply because the GOP doesn’t understand the existence of trans and other queer individuals. We must prioritize equal rights for all, and advocate for love, acceptance and empathy in the United States as well as around the rest of the world.