Anti-trans bills “stupid, stupid, stupid”

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Gov. Bill Lee

People worldwide took to social media on Wednesday to raise awareness and increase visibility for trans and non-binary individuals for International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Identifying publicly, or “coming out,” as trans or non-binary can often be a difficult step for transgender people to take. This is especially true in areas when where they feel threatened or marginalized.  

Local members of the LGBTQ community said that Governor Bill Lee’s decision last week to sign into law an anti-trans athletes bill makes them feel unwelcome in their own hometown. 

The anti-trans athletes bill forces trans students to show legal documents revealing the sex they were assigned at birth in order to participate in middle and high school sports. Lee has said that he passed the bill to “preserve women’s athletics and ensure fair competition.”

Bethany Ericson of Knoxville, however, believes Lee’s argument is disingenuous. “People act like all of a sudden there’s going to be an insurrection of trans athletes at all of their events. Stupid, stupid, stupid,” she said.  

In conjunction with other pending anti-trans bills, the ultimate goal of the new law is effectively remove trans people from society altogether, said “Max,” a transgender Knoxville resident who is afraid of what’s coming next. 

“Trans exclusion in sports is a precursor to our removal in other spheres of public life such as doctor’s offices for hormone and surgical care, courts for name and gender changes, public restrooms, etc.,” said Max, who didn’t want their full name to be used due to safety concerns.

Max was one of several members of the local LGBTQ community who didn’t want to use their names due to safety concerns. Hard Knox Wire prefers to use only “on-the-record” quotes from people who are willing to be identified except when they may face specific, verifiable threats. Given the current climate and the possibility of trans persons facing discrimination or violence if identified publicly, their wishes to use only their first names or “scene names” have been granted.

“The point is to make living as a trans person an unbearable situation socially, legally, and medically so that we either don’t transition or transition and are pushed to a point of desperation where our survival is extremely difficult if not impossible,” Max said.

The new law is part of what critics call the “2021 Slate of Hate” — a slew of “anti-equality bills pushed by national extremist groups and peddled by lawmakers in Tennessee in an effort to sow fear and division,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ advocacy group.

International Transgender Day of Visibility was founded by US-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009. Crandall created the day because she was frustrated that the only well-known trans-centered day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which mourned the murders of transgender people but didn’t celebrate living members of the transgender community. President Joe Biden issued a proclamation marking the date officially to celebrate the trans community. “I call upon all Americans to join in the fight for full equality for all transgender people,” Biden stated. 

To oppose the anti-trans legislation in Tennessee, trans advocates have also launched a “transgender week of action,” according to Democracy Now. 

“Chloe R” of Knoxville, who declined to give her full name due to safety concerns, said the anti-trans athlete law is both morally wrong and irrational. “I find this law to be unnecessarily invasive and based out of pure ignorance with no scientific backing.”  

She is also concerned that the law will harm youth as “it also has the potential to out students who may have socially or medically transitioned early on.” 

What LGBTQ persons and advocates fear is that the new law is only the opening bid in a series of moves to roll back any gains they’ve made in recent years. For instance, the state House of Representatives passed a “bathroom bill” this week that aims to prevent transgender people from using restrooms that align with their identity by requiring businesses with “formal or informal” policies of allowing transgender people to use the appropriate restrooms to post offensive and humiliating signage, according to HRC. 

The Legislature is also considering at least five other bills to restrict trans medical care, prevent schools from teaching a LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, and to permit all government employees to opt-out of diversity training.

“The whole attack on trans daily life is absurd,” said “TM,” another non-binary Knoxville resident. “Outside of it being ethically and morally wrong to bar someone from pursuing what they want, it makes no logical sense. A trans woman is a woman. A trans man is a man. There’s no difference in them competing and a cis gendered person. Unfortunately, these attacks continue to happen to my community. Each one closer and closer to home. 

“I often wonder when I won’t be safe anymore to be gender non-conforming. We really just want to live our lives. That’s it. It’s really that simple. We are human, and I think people lose that behind a screen, and not knowing those who are part of the community. Chances are though, they’ve been in contact — just didn’t know. It has no bearing on their life. They just want to control others. It’s a slippery slope.” 

Jennifer Stambaugh can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com. 

Published on April 1, 2021