Lawmakers across the country have recently proposed — and in some cases passed — a number of bills that target the transgender community. The majority of these bills attempt to restrict transgender kids’ participation in school sports or ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming health care. These bills have given rise to a debate over transgender rights, a debate filled with misconceptions and lies. With this article, we hope to clear up myths about the transgender community and explain the nuances of what's being discussed.
What's really happening with transgender people’s participation in sports? Aren’t there biological advantages?
The reality is that tens of thousands of transgender and non-binary students have been playing sports for years without any unfair advantages or problems. In fact, the Associated Press asked lawmakers who were seeking to pass these discriminatory bills to cite problem cases in their states and not a single lawmaker could identify a case.
That’s why “more than 500 college athletes signed a letter to the NCAA board of governors asking the organization to refuse to schedule championships in states that have banned transgender participation in sports.”
All female athletes — transgender and non-transgender — have different shapes and sizes, have different strengths and weaknesses. The research shows there’s no scientific reason to exclude transgender young people. Doing so can lead to immense harm in overall well-being by interrupting an activity crucial to identity and development.
People say it’s now trendy to be transgender or non-binary. Is that true?
Being transgender is not a trend and transgender people have a history that spans centuries. Over the past few years, transgender visibility has increased dramatically, a sign that our society is becoming increasingly accepting of diverse gender identities. This is a positive sign, as more and more transgender people feel that they can live openly and receive support.
Like the LGBTQ community has seen time and time again, increased visibility often leads to increased attacks by those who wish to shove us back in the closet. Lesbian, gay and bi+ young people should be free to declare their sexuality without others doubting them. The same should be true for young people who have a diverse gender identity.
Aren’t kids too young to transition?
When a young child expresses that they are a gender other than their sex assigned at birth, their parents may support them in finding their own, unique identity. This can involve changing the child’s name, clothing or pronouns.
Once a transgender youth reaches puberty, a doctor may prescribe them with reversible puberty blockers to safely delay the effects of puberty. Puberty blockers are not “experimental” treatments, but FDA-approved medications that have been used to treat precocious puberty in non-transgender children for several decades. Scientific studies demonstrate that access to puberty blockers reduces suicidal ideation and that parents’ affirmation of their child’s gender identity reduces rates of depression, anxiety and suicide to levels consistent with their cisgender peers.
When kids are allowed the freedom to safely express themselves, they are happier, healthier and grow into thriving adults.
What about people detransitioning?
Detransition is rare, and is often the result of environmental factors rather than regret.
Researchers at The Fenway Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School) recently published the first rigorous study of the factors that drive transgender and gender diverse people to detransition. The study found that “13.1% of currently identified transgender people have detransitioned at some point in their lives, but that 82.5% of those who have detransitioned attribute their decision to at least one external factor such as pressure from family, non-affirming school environments, and increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual assault.” Data from the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey shows that respondents who detransitioned cited a number of reasons for doing so, including facing too much harassment or discrimination after they began transitioning (31%), having trouble getting a job (29%), or pressure from a parent (36%), spouse (18%) or other family members (26%).
of those who have detransitioned attribute their decision to at least one external factor such as pressure from family, non-affirming school environments, and increased vulnerability to violence, including sexual assault.
How is anti-transgender legislation related to violence against transgender people?
Since 2013, HRC and other advocates have tracked over 200 cases of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people across 30 states and 113 cities nationwide. Beyond fatal violence, the transgender and non-binary community faces higher rates of harassment and physical assault — including transgender young people, with 43% of transgender youth reporting being bullied in school.
Laws targeting transgender people — and the political rhetoric surrounding anti-transgender bills — send a message that transgender people are not worthy of equal treatment, contributing to dangerous stigma that drives this epidemic of violence.
Bottom line: when transgender people aren’t valued — including by their own lawmakers — their lives are viewed by some as disposable, putting them at risk.
To learn more about how to support transgender and non-binary people, please visit hrc.org/transgender.