Defending Our Common Humanity

Far-right attacks are putting transgender youth and their families directly in harm’s way and putting all of us at risk. We are fighting back.

We all deserve to live and love freely and be supported and celebrated for who we are. The current onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is taking aim at those fundamental ideals, with devastating consequences for children, families, and all of us.

Since 2021, 22 states have passed transgender healthcare bans and 23 states have barred transgender kids as young as elementary school from playing school sports. Multiple states have passed some version of a “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law censoring teachers, schools, and students. Others have made it impossible for transgender and gender-diverse students to use the restroom at school.

A handful of states now require schools to out students to parents, a policy far-right groups are pushing for in the courts and local communities as well. Such policies interfere with teachers’ ability to support their students and to help ensure parents have the resources they need to support their LGBTQ+ children.

“We will support these parents and their kids in pushing back against that dangerous reality on every level.

– Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights

States are trying to ban drag shows and keep books about LGBTQ+ families out of school libraries.

The far right is advancing its anti-democratic agenda on the backs of transgender and LGBQ+ youth and adults. Fortunately, those of us who believe in freedom and our common humanity are fighting back.

GLAD is in the thick of the fight, directly challenging laws in Alabama, Florida, and New Hampshire, and supporting our partner organizations in other legal battles across the country.

In Alabama, we are challenging the criminal ban on medical care for transgender adolescents.

Last year, we presented two days of testimony in federal court from medical and scientific experts, transgender adolescents, and their parents. The Court concluded, as every other district court judge across the country to hear the facts since has, that there is no justifiable reason for the state to categorically ban access to safe, established, and necessary medical care simply because someone is transgender.

A panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed the district court’s ruling. We are asking the full 11th Circuit to reconsider the panel opinion and preserve the injunction barring the law from being enforced.

In Florida, where another district court also preliminarily blocked a law banning care for transgender adolescents, we are preparing for a full trial this December. We are also challenging restrictions put on transgender adults’ ability to obtain gender transition-related health care.

These laws target transgender people and put parents in the excruciating position of not being able to provide their adolescent children with the care they know they need to thrive.

As Jennifer Levi, Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights and GLAD’s lead attorney in Alabama and Florida put it: “We will support these parents and their kids in pushing back against that dangerous reality on every level.”   

In New Hampshire, we are challenging a school censorship law that chills teachers’ ability to talk to students honestly about race, disability, and LGBTQ+ identities.

Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver
Senior Director of Transgender and Queer Rights Jennifer Levi and Human Rights Campaign Litigation Director Cynthia Cheng-Wun Weaver

Throughout New England we have worked overtime the past three sessions to stop the same harmful anti-LGBTQ+ bills we are seeing across the country.

That includes successfully defeating a bill last year that would have reversed New Hampshire’s ban on the debunked and dangerous practice of so-called conversion therapy. An attempt to challenge another state’s conversion therapy ban is pending consideration at the U.S. Supreme Court.

It can sometimes feel like these attacks came out of nowhere. But we know better. Our community has made tremendous progress over the past 20 years and the right is trying hard to reverse that.

Two decades ago, we began to see states passing express protections against discrimination for transgender people. Today, nearly half the states have such laws on the books.

We are fighting for our freedom, for our right to be ourselves, to live and love fully, and to celebrate our shared humanity. It’s a fight we can’t afford to lose.

Legal victories, educational research, and community advocacy have brought schools to a place of deeper understanding about the importance and fairness of supporting transgender students to express themselves and be respected for who they are.

The medical community has developed policies and practices to make safe and effective treatments for gender dysphoria more accessible. More and more families have the tools to understand and support their transgender children.

In 2020, the Supreme Court affirmed that discrimination on the basis of transgender status and sexual orientation is unlawful under federal law. And earlier this year, the Supreme Court declined to review a landmark ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects transgender people from disability discrimination.

Increased visibility and understanding of our lives and increased legal protections have all made it more possible for transgender and LGBQ+ people to fully participate in civic life – to live and love freely, to be embraced by families and integrated fully into our communities.

Now, a deliberate effort by influential politically motivated actors seeks to replace our shared humanity with fear and disinformation.

Our power lies in collective action—advocating in courts and in legislatures, and engaging at the ballot box, in grassroots activism, and in everyday conversations.

And the good news is – even now – when we fight, we can win.

Over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced across the country this year – and the vast, vast majority of those were defeated. When federal courts have had the chance to hear our full arguments and truly understand the impact of these laws on people’s lives, we’ve won. Far too many hostile bills have passed, to be sure. But we also can’t lose sight of how many we have defeated.

And while it sometimes seems like we are exclusively playing defense, we are also still advancing laws to protect our community.

This year, Michigan became the 23rd state, along with DC and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to provide comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

15 states have adopted “provider shield laws” that protect access to medical care for transgender people – GLAD worked with state partners to pass such laws in Massachusetts and Vermont, with more to come.

In Maine this year we helped pass a law that creates a pathway for 16- and 17-year-old transgender adolescents to get medical care in the extraordinary circumstances where a parent objects to care even though denying it results in harm.

Those who want to move us backward and put our community in harm’s way have a lot of power and resources, it’s true. We have our work cut out for us, and we know we won’t win every fight. But we are fighting for our freedom, for our right to be ourselves, to live and love fully, and to celebrate our shared humanity.

That’s a fight we can’t afford to lose.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2023 GLAD Briefs Newsletter. Read more.