The first round of hearings for the Equality Act were recently heard on the Senate floor. The bill has already passed through the House and if it makes its way out of the Senate would provide federal level protections for LGBTQIA+ folks based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We would be legally protected from discrimination in public accommodations, education, housing, federally-funded programs, jury selection, and places of employment. While same-sex marriage is recognized throughout the United States, states vary widely on their anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination laws. What may kill the Equality Act is the gross transphobia that exists in this country. 82 anti-transgender bills were introduced in the 2021 state legislative session, surpassing the 2020 total of 79–this is the highest number of anti-transgender bills in history. Most of these bills target transgender kids, transgender female athletes, and the physicians who provide affirming care.
Many people are outraged by this but aren’t sure what to do. Politics, transgender issues, and laws that play crucial roles in the lives of transgender folks can feel daunting and untouchable. Folks who want to help often don’t know how to be allies or what actions they can take. Here are ways you can protect transgender and nonbinary youth from discrimination.
Get To Know Transgender Youth
Transgender kids are just kids. They need to be heard, trusted, and supported. Trans kids really are the coolest and most badass people you will ever meet. The GenderCool Project showcases transgender youth and their parents so you can get to know who they are and not what they are.
Know The Issues
The Human Rights Campaign and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are great websites to keep up to date on the anti-transgender bills being introduced in each state. Or simply type “anti-transgender bills” into your search engine to see the damage being done to transgender people and youth, specifically in schools, sports, and their access to health care. Do you live in one of the 26 states trying to ban transgender girls from playing sports? What is your school’s stance? Do you live in one of the 17 states trying to ban health care for transgender youth? Do transgender youth have the same rights and protections as cisgender youth? Allies can’t be spoon-fed our struggles and tragedies. If you truly want to help you need to do work on your own. You need to pay attention and stop being shocked by what is happening in the queer community.
Make Some Phone Calls
If you do live in states with anti-transgender bills on the table, call your state representative and senator and tell them you want them to vote NO to any bill that would exclude trans youth from sports or criminalize health care for trans youth. Be sure to give them your name and where you are from and that you expect them to do the right thing for all citizens they are supposed to represent. Email their offices too.
Demand LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity Trainings and Anti-Discrimination Policies
Ask your school principal and superintendent if all teachers and staff have been given LGBTQIA+ trainings on ways to make sure classrooms are safe and inclusive. Are there clear anti-bullying policies in place? Ask your school’s PTO to host community conversations around LGBTQIA+ issues to be sure all parents have a better understanding of these topics. Do the same for your workplace. If you haven’t received training on ways to make your spaces more inclusive for co-workers, visitors, and clients then let your boss know it’s time. Ask what protections are in place to protect LGBTQIA+ employees. You don’t need to be queer to be sure queer folks are safe.
Reach Out And Affirm Transgender Youth
Send a message to a trans kiddo you know and let them know they are loved. Let them know you have their back. Buy them a cup of coffee or drop off a slice of rainbow cake. Tell them they are amazing and you can’t wait to see all of the cool things they will accomplish. Let them know you will do everything you can to break down barriers that stand in their way.
Stand Up Against Bigots
Being an ally to transgender and nonbinary kids means being confrontational at times. This means you will need to correct people when they misgender a transgender person. You will need to tell someone a joke or comment is transphobic and be prepared to defend that truth. You need to argue with and educate the bigots in the comment sections, at family dinners, and outings with friends. Protecting transgender youth means you have to get in the arena and fight too.
Donate To Transgender Led Organizations
Fighting for equality takes a lot of emotional labor and money. Generous donations from allies helps pay the folks to do the work while supplying transgender and nonbinary people the finances they need to support themselves and their fight against discrimination. If you can afford it, I recommend donating to one of the following organizations.
Trans Lifeline offers emotional and financial support to transgender people in crisis. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project and The Marsha P. Johnson Institute offer legal services and support to transgender folks of color and Black transgender people who need to be defended and protected. The Trevor Project provides chat and crisis hotlines to LGBTQ youth under the age of 25. Their mission is to prevent suicide among queer and transgender youth. They also offer much needed trainings in schools and for adults who work with youth.
If you are angry or sad about what is happening to transgender youth, then please be loud and visible too. Transgender youth need to be protected, and that means they need your passion to become action.