President Joe Biden has reversed the Trump administration's ban on transgender people serving in the military and nominated Dr Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary of health, who, if approved, will be the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed federal official in US history. But at the same time as this progress comes a wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation from state lawmakers across America.
Montana politicians proposed two bills on Monday, one that would stop transgender student athletes from being a part of teams that match with the gender they identify with, and another that would forbid health care workers from providing care to trans youth that affirms their gender identity, NBC News reports.
The executive director of ACLU Montana, Caitlin Borgmann, said in a statement that if passed into law, the bills "will cause irrevocable harm to trans youth".
Legislation aiming to restrict the rights of transgender student athletes has also been introduced in Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Dakota, New Hampshire, and Florida. Idaho passed a comparable law last year.
According to Freedom for All Americans, a "bipartisan campaign to secure full nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people nationwide," 21 bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ people have been put forward in state legislatures for 2021.
Many of the proposed bills target the rights of trans youth. Alabama state lawmakers have promoted a bill that would ban health care professionals from prescribing medication that affirms the gender identity of young trans individuals. Similar bills have been put forward in Utah, Missouri, Indiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A New Hampshire bill would include parents giving care that affirms their child's gender identity in the definition of "child abuse".
A study published in October 2020 in the journal Pediatrics showed that transgender minors who receive care that affirms their gender early in life are less likely to develop mental health issues.
Oklahoma lawmakers lifted a ban on conversion therapy, which aims to crush the sexual orientation and gender identity of LGBTQ youth.
Most of these bills won't be passed into law but they can still harm LGBTQ people, says the legal director of UCLA Law's Williams Institute, Christy Mallory. The research centre focuses on gender identity and sexual orientation law.
Ms Mallory told CNN: "Even just the campaigns around the bills can be really stigmatising and hurt kids, even if the bills don't ultimately pass. Just the fact that knowing that lawmakers are introducing these bills, people are seeing it and reading it, can signal to kids that maybe they're not supported by their states, that their government is not behind them."
According to research published in 2019 by the Trevor Project, an "organisation providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services" to LGBTQ people under the age of 25, 1.8 per cent of young people identify as transgender. The data also said that young transgender individuals "reported significantly increased rates of depression, suicidality, and victimisation compared to their cisgender peers".
The CEO of Freedom for All Americans Kasey Suffredini told NBC News: "I think the volume of bills is going to dramatically increase, particularly because of what is happening at the federal level. For the opposition, this is the only avenue for their narrative that treating LGBT people with dignity and respect is a problem for the country."
President Joe Biden has signed several executive orders aimed at furthering the rights of LGBTQ people, resulting in social conservatives pushing back on the state level. One of the orders signed by Mr Biden aims to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation at federal agencies.
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