Above: A protest against anti-transgender legislation in South Dakota last year, photographed by Greg Latza/ACLU
After a year in which state lawmakers considered and passed a record number of anti-transgender bills, the process is starting again.
Legislators in at least seven states introduced a total of nine anti-trans bills in the first few days of 2022, NBC News reports. The states are Arizona, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and South Dakota.
Most of the measures would restrict the rights of trans and nonbinary young people, including their ability to compete in school sports under their gender identity, receive gender-affirming health care, or use the restroom of their choice.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re getting ready to watch a race to the bottom among legislators who are in a competition to see who can do the most harm to trans kids,” Gillian Branstetter, a trans activist and media manager for the National Women’s Law Center, told NBC News. “It is a hostile and dangerous trend that I’m sure we’ll see continue through the year.”
In 2021, more than 280 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in 33 state legislatures across the nation, with more than 130 of them being specifically anti-trans, according to the Human Rights Campaign. More than two dozen of the anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed and were signed into law, and about half of those focused on trans people.
Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia last year passed legislation barring trans student athletes from competing under their gender identity, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem issued executive orders to this effect. Noem has now proposed legislation to write the language of her executive orders into law, and Rep. Rhonda Milstead has formally introduced it. Idaho had enacted a similar law in 2020; it’s now been at least temporarily blocked by a court, as has West Virginia’s.
Arkansas legislators overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto to adopt a law barring trans minors from receiving gender-affirming health care; it has been blocked by a court as well. Tennessee enacted a less strict but still discriminatory law regulating this type of health care — among five anti-LGBTQ+ measures it passed last year.
Politicians proposing anti-trans legislation this year deny that they’re anti-trans. “It is unfortunate that we see this as removing the rights of any people,” Milstead, a Republican, told NBC News. “If competitive sports are made to be fair, there is a place for everyone to compete according to the biology they were born with.”
Backers of such legislation, almost all Republicans, claim trans girls and women have an inherent and unfair advantage over cisgender females — something highly disputed by both activists and scientists.