Under Attack: The Political Assault on the Rights of LGBTQ+ Students


When former President Trump announced last year that, if reelected, he would ‘stop’ gender-affirming care for minors, which he described as ‘child abuse’ and ‘child sexual mutilation,’ he was advancing a strategic political effort to restrict the rights of transgender and nonbinary students barreling through state and federal legislatures. Initially masked as attempts to define the rights of parents to regulate discussions of gender identity in schools, these bills have rapidly progressed to bans on gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary children. In 2023, states around the country introduced at least 142 bills to restrict healthcare for trans and nonbinary people, three times more than the previous year. 80% of these bills target children under 18 and seep into multiple spheres of the lives of trans children and families in a coordinated effort to question and threaten the very existence of trans people. 

Gender-affirming care covers a range of steps to support a person’s gender identity, including adopting a different name and pronouns and counseling. Around the start of adolescence, it can include medical treatment such as puberty blockers and hormones, after considerable consultations with the child, medical providers, and guardians. Contrary to current political messaging, gender-affirming care is deemed medically necessary by all major medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. Yet, 37 states introduced medically restrictive anti-gender affirming care laws in 2023 alone. Lawmakers are willing to go to great lengths to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. At least 15 states have successfully passed legislation that bans access to medical care for trans youth, often criminalizing the doctors or the guardians of transgender youth seeking medical access. 

This broad sweep of proposed bills and codified laws is championed as an attempt to protect the interests of children by shielding them from ideologies deemed harmful by politicians. Nonbinary and trans children are already at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, attributed to experiencing higher levels of social rejection, bullying, and societal stigma. One study, contributing to existing evidence of gender-affirming interventions, found that access was associated with lower rates of depression and suicidal ideations over 12 months among trans and nonbinary young people.

Young people who were able to use their chosen name in any context experienced 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% decrease in reported thoughts of suicide, and a 65% decrease in suicidal attempts compared to their peers who could not. So, with ample evidence that gender-affirming care helps and does not harm children, it is questionable how these bills are designed to support thriving children. 

These bills are not rooted in protecting the welfare of all children, rather they are tools of political manipulation to galvanize a base of voters who may have genuine fears about their children. They are fueled by extremists interested in the privatization of public education who also attempted to manipulate legislation restricting teaching, race, and racism in schools. These groups, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and the Liberty Council (among others), are on record as the driving force behind “parents’ rights” bills that target children and public education.

We know there are legitimate questions that arise as children and families navigate gender identity. We want families to be able to answer these questions with resources and support that these bills deny. Instead, these bills answer questions without asking them. They preclude that inquiry, denying children, families, and educators the space to safely navigate this season.

As people of faith, we are invited to protect each other, care for each other deeply, and create a world in which we can coexist in a variety of ways across various points of difference. These bills do not reflect that spirit of co-existence or community protection. If we are to build a world in which all children have the resources to meet their needs to the highest degree, we must be resistant to political machinations not rooted in any altruistic desire to help children.

March 27, 2024
The Expectations Project

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  1. In 2009 the Oklahoma City Public Schools added ” sexual orientation” and ” gender identity” to its policies on bullying, harassment, and non discrimination. It was not a smooth road to that point and most objections were based on hardwired misconceptions and fears of the fires of hell. Starting in the fall of 2010, those first graders spent their whole 12 years in the system protected, safe, and equal, and when they had entered middle school, without any fuss, because none of the predicted problems entered reality, the board added “gender expression”, something they certainly would not have done had there been problems.
    Although Oklahoma City might have been the only municipality in the state with such inclusive policies, like a union shop in a right to work county, the fear of a union presence has the non- union shops offering employees benefits not equal to those of the collective bargaining unit but close enough to keep employees from wanting to unionize and take control from management, and city’s policies allowed other districts to institute safe, inclusive policies without codification.
    The same process that benefits workers benefited students and gave room for learning without political and religious sideshows of opposition.
    When the state jumped on the anti-Trans bandwagon, it ignored the 12 years in Oklahoma City, but, wanting to belong like a desperate child, based its actions on the monster under the bed and not observable facts.
    In March 2022 just before their graduation, the Class of ’22 saw the state outlaw their friends and classmates. The pressure now was not to be the school district most devoted to all students, but the most devoted to a political need to fit in even if students get hurt.
    Within less than two years old ways and attitudes were brought back, there was no incentive to make all schools reasonably safe for and welcoming to all students and there was a murder in Owasso.
    Oklahoma City was proof that inclusion caused no harm but had benefits.
    Governor Stitt’ s policy resulted in a killing and a young life forever lost with both the victim’s family and the students involved and their families changed in less than two years of justifying his active bigotry claiming it was to protect children.
    OKC inclusion, twelve years, no problems.
    Governor Stitt’s policy, a killing in less than two years.