Posted on: May 7, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Emily Stephens

Content Warning: Instances of transphobia and harassment, misgendering, self harm, and suicide, mentions of dysphoria, mentions of transphobic rhetoric and transphobic legislature, mentions of harmful misinformation about trans and nonbinary people.

So far this year, according to the trans legislation tracker, 64 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been passed at the state level, and 474 bills are still active. As a nonbinary person, knowing this scares, hurts and angers me all at the same time. When I first started to notice the rise in these bills, I found myself with the same existential dread that I carried on my shoulders all throughout high school.

During the end of middle school and most of high school, I began to realize that I was not the gender I was born as. I kept seeing my friends around me with puberties that were made for them, while I was having one not made for me. My puberty was changing my body in more obvious ways and I became less in control of my thoughts and body. I began to feel corrupted, like something was deeply wrong with what was going on inside me. The changes I was told were “normal” and “a part of life” felt much more like mutations, and I felt like a monster.

Mio Ovalle

Freelance Contributor

My mental health slowly began to improve once I was referred to a local clinic that treats kids like me. A few months later, I was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and was told that I would finally begin to receive care. The doctors and clinicians thoroughly went over the effects of the care I would receive with me and my parents.

Over many months, I had session after session with a psychologist at the clinic. We talked about everything–how uncomfortable in my body I was, what it felt like being trans, and even things that didn’t relate to my gender or body. We would talk about my home life, life at school and many other things. It wasn’t until a full year afterwards that I started my hormone replacement therapy. About a year later, I started noticing changes. That was and still is one of the most joyful and surreal experiences I’ve ever had. 

I first started HRT when I was about 16, and I’ll be 20 this May. When I first arrived at the clinic, I was so insecure about every little thing that I or anyone else noticed about me. I detested my voice, so I spoke very little. I didn’t want to be seen in my own body because I was afraid people would see me the way I saw myself.

Today, I’m much more confident in myself and the way I talk, and I care a lot less about how I’m perceived. I am getting better at feeling at peace in my body.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve begun to rethink everything about myself. One realization I’ve had is that my gender is neither man nor woman. I know this because I’ve been able to experience both genders. One of them, I was born and raised as, the other, I transitioned to in high school, thinking it would alleviate the pain I was feeling. Living in both spaces has taught me that I am not either, but instead, I seem to be something outside male and female. 

Many of us are beginning to discover our inner beauty. We are beginning to love ourselves and the bodies we come in. We are beginning to live more openly, more confidently and more honestly.

In response, Republicans throw more and more restrictive and transphobic bills at us. Rather than understanding us, rather than leaving us alone, they put us in their political crosshairs. They target us to gain brownie points from their supporters and colleagues.

I think many of these conservative politicians and their supporters genuinely think they are doing the right thing. They don’t understand that going through the changes that gender-affirming care offers gives bodily autonomy to trans and nonbinary people. It allows us to have a say in the way our bodies develop. 

Photo by Dody
Mio’s friend Dody is often misgendered by people he believes don’t understand him.

This political climate has put trans people, as well as our rights, on the battlefield. Far-right conservatives are targeting not just us, but also our healthcare, our pronouns, and whether we can play sports or use the bathroom. I’ve interviewed multiple LGBTQ+ people about being LGBTQ+ in the current climate. 

One of them was my friend Estephan Silva. “There are way too many this early in the year,” Silva said, referring to the proposed bills. “If there are over 300 within the first three months, what will the end of the year look like for us? I’m worried if that number is just going to keep going up.”

Another friend, Dody, also commented on the sheer number of bills: “I think that one bill unjustly infringing on the rights of trans people would have been too much, and the fact that there have been 492 bills is absolutely vile.”  

This year brings a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, most focusing on trans youth. See related story.

Most of these bills target trans youth. The Human Rights Campaign notes that 47.7 percent of trans youth in America live in states where gender-affirming care is either banned or at risk of being banned. The mere fact that these bills are in the hundreds should be cause for alarm for any trans person in America, regardless of the state they live in, as these bills will worsen incidents of discrimination and hate crimes. They add more struggles on top of what a vulnerable group faces. I have always had anxiety about me or my friends being victims of hate crimes or being killed because we are LGBTQ+.

Silva described his experiences with being in the closet and how that could make him a victim. “Since I’m closeted, I’m not referred to how I want to and feel the uncomfortableness of that of course,” he said. “And not only that, I’m not able to get on any hormone therapy, let alone surgeries. I feel like it’s just as difficult being a closeted trans person as an open trans person; our struggles are just different. If I was out and open, I would have the risk of being homeless, lost job opportunities, being the victim of a hate crime or even killed.” 

In fact, trans people are more than four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes. Being out as trans comes with its own set of struggles and uncomfortable experiences. Since I was out as trans in high school, I was bullied a lot during freshman year. This taught me to keep my head down so as not to be hurt anymore. Still, I couldn’t avoid it entirely. During a birthday party for my brother, one of his friends asked “You’re trans? Did you have bottom surgery yet? If you didn’t, then you can’t be trans.” 

At work, I am constantly made fun of and judged by my coworkers. I’ve had a former coworker—who went to 8th grade and high school with me—out me to the others and joke about my body and appearance with them. He would say such things behind my back like “Is it a boy or a girl?” “Why can’t it dress properly?” “What’s its deal?” He joked around that we were dating, and he would joke about me and him sleeping together. I’ve been called slurs behind my back and I’ve even had another coworker try to flirt with me and catcall me. This didn’t start until after I was outed by this coworker. 

I am in a place in my life where I am misgendered pretty often, whether it be accidental or not.”

Dody, uses masculine and gender-neutral pronouns

Dody told me about uncomfortable experiences he’s dealt with. “I am in a place in my life where I am misgendered pretty often, whether it be accidental or not,” he said. “I have definitely had to learn to be so comfortable in myself that it doesn’t really matter, but on days where I am insecure it can definitely make me spiral a bit. It used to make me feel like I wasn’t doing enough to present myself in a certain way and that would lead back into the cycle of anxiety and depression, but now I am able to shrug it off most days.

“Most transphobia I face is just talking to someone who doesn’t understand what it is to be trans, and it can be daunting to try to justify my existence to people who haven’t taken it upon themselves to inform themselves beyond the news or bits of propaganda.” 

They aren’t alone in feeling the incredible weight of being the “expert” on all things trans. Trans adults make up 1.6% of the U.S. population. It’s likely that me, Dody, or any other trans person could be someone’s first introduction to the idea of someone being transgender. 

I got to talk to independent journalist and trans activist Erin Reed. She talked briefly about how people might see us, if at all: “So I think, for better or for worse, people don’t care about trans people. We don’t occupy the minds of the vast majority of everyday people. They just don’t think about us.” However, as trans issues are talked about more in the news, it becomes more likely that most people’s first impressions about us come from the media. 

But what happens when people’s first impressions of the concept of being trans comes from websites and news outlets that willingly or not, spew propaganda? What happens is people’s first impression of an already heavily-attacked group of people is rooted in misinformation, fearmongering and hatred?

“Whenever it comes to people attacking our care, and with harmful misinformation, people don’t often care enough to push back,”  Reed said.

Silva said something similar when I asked him why transphobic narratives and rhetoric are as accepted as they are. “Since we are so unknown to them, people would believe anything anyone tells them,” he said. “And now that even big-named politicians are using this same rhetoric, people just accept this as fact.”

An article by Mother Jones, which is an investigative journalism organization, chronicles more than 2,600 pages of emails between far-right politicians like Fred Duetsch, Kristi Noem, and various hate groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom and American Principles Project. Throughout the emails, they plot and strategize on how they will launch the nationwide attacks we are seeing today.  

These actions of banning healthcare are said to be done to “protect” kids and their bodies, although most people on HRT and puberty blockers are older teens. The instances of trans minors receiving gender-affirming surgeries are very rare.

Photo by Erin Reed
Trans activist Erin Reed runs a blog called Erin in the Morning, where she provides insight into trans legislation and life.

This presents a deeply complicated moral question. Are the bodies humans are born in more important than the well-being of the people who occupy them? What if these bodies cause incredible pain? Was the pain that I dealt with not enough to justify my right to change my own body? Apparently the supporters and sponsors of these bills don’t think so. They think of gender-affirming care as horrific mutilation and as “medical experimentation.” Not as self-liberation or freedom. 

“Many people sit in bubbles of people who are just like them, and this allows them to perpetuate their ignorance, whether it is unknowingly or knowingly,” Dody said. Far-right echo chambers are filled with people who still subscribe to outdated world views and traditional customs especially when it comes to gender and gender roles. Many of these bills come down to pure misunderstanding, as well as refusal to understand.

I really feel like many of the sponsors of these bills, and the governors who sign them, see what they’re doing as a good thing for society. They see what they’re doing is good, because all they know about trans people is whatever their inner circles and the media that they consume tells them. Nobody wants to think they’re the bad guys of history. Is it worth talking with these people and trying to explain ourselves to them? Should our goal be to get these people to listen? 

Reed doesn’t think so. “I think the struggle right now isn’t to convince people who hate us. There will always be that group of people that hate us and hate LGBTQ people,” she said. “The struggle right now is convincing people to care. My job is to get people to care. That’s why I am on TikTok right now, showing the most emotional moments, that’s why I am sharing the biggest stories that make emotional impacts. That’s what I want to do, I want to humanize us to people, because right now we are just this ephemeral other, the trans people.” 

She goes on to bring up earlier victories that LGBTQ+ people had. “This same thing happened in the early 2000s with gay marriage. In the early 2000s there were 30 constitutional amendments passed against gay marriage at the state level. It felt like we would never ever get to overturn these constitutional amendments. It felt the same way it does right now back then for gay people. I remember fighting this back then, I remember fighting so hard. And we got people to care.” 

In June 26, 2015, gay marriage was legalized at the federal level. Is the struggle for trans rights on the same path as gay rights was once on? Will we have to fight for our rights every 10 years or so, with our opposition becoming more extreme and more violent?

So I think, for better or for worse, people don’t care about trans people. We don’t occupy the minds of the vast majority of everyday people.

Trans activist Erin Reed, uses feminine pronouns

Reed keeps her head high and sees light at the end of the tunnel. “I have to believe that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, and that it does so because we are the ones that bend it. And there are so many people that are so active in this fight right now, that I do not see a future in which we are always oppressed. I see a future where we do get liberation. It might be hard. We might lose people along the way. I have lost people along the way and so many trans people have lost people along the way. But we want to remember and hold those people as we build a better world from the pieces.” 

This is where our allies at the citizen level and at the legislative levels come in. As citizens, we have the power to bring in those that will pave the way for progress and liberation, and we also have the power to kick out those that corrupt our government. 

My friend Victoria Wiecko has an idea on who can help bring positive change. “I truly believe that if we had more young people in political positions, we could find a middle ground because all we have are old people that want to keep things the way that they grew up with,” she said. It’s already a sign of change with younger politicians like Maxwell Frost, Justin Pearson, and Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez in office. However, voting alone won’t bring us a better future, and it’s not the only option we have. 

Gen-Z and Millenials are no strangers to activism and advocating for our rights, our planet, and our justice. We’ve grown up to a world of decay. Our economies, our country, and our planet crumble before us. My generation has already made headlines by protesting and voicing our anger.

Reed finds hope in my generation’s attitudes to speak up and speak loud. “The rich tradition of activism is something that Gen-Z has truly inherited, and I am loving everything I see, am loving the school walkouts, the energy on college campuses and the creative ways in which they are fighting back,” she said.

“This seems ridiculous, but I saw in Florida, as they passed a bill that detransitioned trans youth, the people in the galleries threw underwear with ‘Stop Fascism’ and they landed on the lawmakers’ heads. This is creative! And you can’t rail against that on the other side because it just makes you look stupid!”

With many state representatives being from an older demographic, they naively view being transgender and nonbinary as some sort of “social contagion.” Many will say “if only children were kept safe from ‘gender ideologies’ and didn’t know about being trans, they wouldn’t be trans.” 

This woefully ignorant belief ignores the lifelong feelings and interpretations about ourselves that we’ve carried with us. What people mistake for social contagion is actually a part of the human experience for a minority group of people. It’s a part of our very being. Therefore, someone doesn’t need to hear about trans people to get some idea or feeling that they might be trans. It’s a lifelong process of self-scrutinization and discovery. It’s painful, and devastating, but it’s also liberating and beautiful.

Photo by Victoria Wiecko
Victoria Wiecko believes young people can change the course of legislation being passed on trans people.

Silva was raised as a girl and knew from all those years of experience that he was not a girl. He discovered, for himself, his true nature. “I grew up not really given the chance to think about what I want. After a while of living my life as a girl and being treated as a girl, it was easy for me to decide to not want to be a girl in society. It was easier for me to know this was not what I want but it was still hard for me to know who I am if it’s not this. After another while, I’ve come to the realization that I’m a trans man, and I really enjoy living my life like this.” Silva is now living as a man and he’s learning that’s what he is, a man.

Living as your true gender isn’t just being able to live in a way that makes you happy, it’s about living out your authenticity. It’s about living in a way that’s beyond this shell you were born in. It’s hatching from the shell. And allowing your true self that has always existed within, to come out. Some trans people don’t want any surgeries or gender affirming care, these people find beauty that these bodies have, and so, they are perfect just the way they are.

Some of us, myself included, find it incredibly painful to live in our bodies. No matter how hard we’ve tried, no matter how we try to think about it, we still cannot rid ourselves of the pain these bodies bring us. We alleviate this distress by shaping and molding a vessel that allows us peace. Living as how we truly are is freedom, plain and simple. 

Often, the greatest parts of being trans can come from other trans people. Dody finds comfort when around others like them: “I think that the most trans joy I’ve felt came from just simply being around other trans people who understand what I’m going through.” Many of us don’t get to fully understand whatever we’re going through until we meet others like us. 

I truly believe that if we had more young people in political positions, we could find a middle ground because all we have are old people that want to keep things the way that they grew up with.”

Victoria Wiecko, uses feminine pronouns

For closeted trans and nonbinary people, as well as for those who aren’t accepted at home, community is all they’ve got.  Erin noted community with other LGBTQ+ people as being the most powerful way we can live: “Even if these laws do get passed, this is not the first time the community has been marginalized and targeted, we have thrived in the margins of history and that is the story of queer resistance. The way we do that is finding our community. We have gathered at queer clubs, at queer bars, we have gathered queer spaces, we’ve made friendships, they can take away all our care, but if we provide that care to each other, they will never stop us.” 

I ask those who are not trans to reexamine what conservative politicians and media tell you about trans people. If you know someone nonbinary or trans, ask “Does what they say match this person I know?”

If you are nonbinary or trans, take Erin’s advice to find others like you online or in real life. Support each other and know that we have it in us to survive anything thrown our way.

Today the health care of almost half of trans youth is threatened. Trans kids around the country are suffering as I have suffered. We have advancements in health care to properly treat trans people, but what’s in the way? Political ideology, close-mindedness, hate. The far-right won’t stop at our healthcare or our social acceptance. Now, they’re coming for our civil rights, for our parental rights, they’re trying to regulate our lives, even if we’re in prison. Now more than ever, is the time to preserve and protect the progress that has been made for and by transgender people.

For after hours and 24/7 crisis and prevention of suicide contact:

  • The Trevor Project at (866) 488-7386​. ​The Trevor Project is a toll free suicide hotline that focuses on people who identify as LGBT*QIA+​.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a another toll free suicide hotline for people in distress. 
  • Crisis Text Line at 74174. The Crisis Text line provides suicide prevention text support from a volunteer crisis counselor.​