Halfway Through the Year, 2021 Is Already the Worst Year Ever for Anti-Trans Legislation

Republican state lawmakers have launched attacks on trans youth, in collaboration with right-wing groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, which have created model legislation under the banner of “Protecting America’s Children.” 

A ‘Protect Trans Kids’ demonstration in front of the White House in February 2017 to protest the non-science based policy of segregating LGBTQ children in public schools based on the schools’ determination of their gender identity. (Ted Eytan / Flickr)

Editor’s note: While many state legislatures have ended their sessions for the time being, several are still trying to pass anti-trans legislation—including Texas, where Democrats recently fled the state in a last-ditch effort to prevent GOP legislators from passing several bills including voting restrictions and a bill that would prevent trans student athletes in Texas from playing on the team that matches their gender. 

But advocates aren’t giving up hope. The ACLU announced in May that it would sue the state of Arkansas over its bill that restricts health care for trans youth. And California recently banned state-funded travel to five states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws on their books. With many pieces of anti-trans legislation currently sitting in committee, the GOP attack on trans rights is certain to continue into 2022.

Just halfway through the year, 2021 is already the worst year in history when it comes to legislative attacks on trans rights. 

At least 17 pieces of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people (and trans people in particular) have been signed into law in the first half of this year alone. This tops the previous record, set in 2015 when 15 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were signed into law. 

Republican lawmakers in state legislatures have launched this attack, which specifically targets the rights of trans youth, in collaboration with right-wing groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, which have created model legislation under the banner of “Protecting America’s Children.” 

Spiritual successors to North Carolina’s notorious 2016 HB 2 “Bathroom Bill,” which banned trans people from using the restroom that matched their gender until it was partially repealed in 2017, these bills seek to legislate trans people’s presence in everyday life. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there are currently over 250 proposed anti-LGBT bills across the country. The vast majority fall into two categories: bills that seek to criminalize gender-affirming health care for trans minors, and bills that seek to ban trans youth, or trans girls specifically, from playing on the sports team that matches their gender (these are often titled “Save Women’s Sports act”). Several states have also introduced versions of North Carolina’s HB 2

In addition to criminalizing providing gender-affirming health care such as puberty blockers to trans minors or under-21s, some anti-trans health care bills (with titles like “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act” or “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act”) define gender-affirming care as child abuse. Behind the pretense of “protecting children,” the true intention of these bills is to legislate trans children out of existence.

These bans run contrary to the guidelines of national health organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as recent studies like one in the journal Pediatrics which found that puberty blockers significantly lowered instances of suicidal ideation in trans youth. A recent study from UCLA’s Williams Institute found that up to 45,000 youth could lose access to this essential care if these bills are passed. 

“When I think about what message these bills send, in a country where people are supposed to celebrate the opportunity to live the American dream to otherwise be free and treated equally, the message that the bills send is that it is not okay. And in the instance of bills that include medical intervention, that it’s not possible for you to exist as someone who is trans,” said David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, calling the bills and the underlying anti-trans sentiment “genocide.” 

“When we think about the rate at which trans folks have died by suicide, or are otherwise victims of institutional violence, I really want everyone who was involved in the passage and codification of these bills to understand that they are contributing to the death of trans folk,” he continued.


This article originally appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Ms. Become a member today to read more reporting like this in print and through our app.

These deadly bills, some of which had been introduced in previous years and failed or been struck down, are rapidly becoming deadly laws. In March, Mississippi became the first state to enact an anti-trans sports ban. And in April, Arkansas became the first state to enact a trans health care ban when Republican lawmakers overrode Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of HB 1570. As of May 7, the HRC counts 17 bills that have passed—and enactment of many more is expected before the year ends.

Activists note that the wave of anti-trans legislation mirrors a current uptick in hate crimes against trans people—particularly Black and Latina trans women. Last year saw a record high 44 reported murders of trans people documented by the HRC. And 2021 is currently on pace to surpass that disturbing record.

Nevertheless, trans people on the ground are fighting back, opposing the bills and defending their communities.

“We are tired of being the focal point of everyone’s political arena,” said Alabama organizer Camille Pichoff-DeLorca. “The people that are pushing these, they don’t really care. They don’t care whether our community exists, or does not exist.”

Up next:


Oliver Haug is a social media editor and podcast producer with Ms. magazine. They are also a freelance journalist, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and sexual politics. Their writing has previously appeared in Bitch Magazine, VICE, them.us, the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit," and elsewhere. You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on Twitter @cohaug.