Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV)
In the Worst Legislative Session Ever, Trans People Will Still Win
On the 14th annual Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), we celebrate the joy and the incredible community of transgender and nonbinary people everywhere. At the same time, we recognize that this year has been unprecedented in its fast, furious, and coordinated attacks against LGBTQ people broadly, and anti-transgender rhetoric in the U.S. has garnered significant traction within media, schools, statehouses, and newly enacted legislation.
These developments have been devastating, frustrating, and frightening. To provide more context and clarity on legislative trends affecting transgender people, we interviewed Logan Casey, MAP’s senior policy researcher and advisor — and a transgender man.
In this conversation, Logan shares his insight and great advice for moving through an incredibly difficult political moment. Logan reminds us that while things may feel scary and unrelenting, data prove that we have defeated harmful legislation before, and we can—and we will—do it again.
How do state legislative sessions in 2023 compare to last year? What trends are you seeing? How has the legal landscape for transgender people changed in the U.S.?
Logan Casey: This is the worst legislative session I have worked in, not just compared to 2022 but all five years that I’ve worked at MAP. It’s far and away the worst session in terms of the number of anti-LGBTQ bills, the number of anti-transgender bills specifically, as well as their scope, vitriol, and extremism. So, it is definitely a dark time and getting worse, in terms of what’s being introduced in state legislative sessions.
In our new “Under Fire” series, MAP reports the number of bills introduced and the number that have passed in recent years. Most legislative sessions are still either in progress or just getting started, but do you have a sense of what bills are passing this year so far?
LC: Our “Under Fire” reports include 2022 data from the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation, which tracked 315 anti-LGBTQ bills in 2022. According to MAP’s tracking in 2023, we’ve already doubled that number this year. We’ve surpassed 650 anti-LGBTQ bills already as of the end of March, and beyond that, we’ve seen more medical care bans in 2023 alone than in the last five years combined.
In terms of bills that have passed already, virtually all of them target LGBTQ youth — and particularly transgender youth. Nine medical care bans have been enacted in 2023, with many more still being debated. In January 2023, three states had medical care bans on the books, but two of those were being held up in court. So in this year alone, we’ve seen an increase to 12 bans and counting, as most sessions aren’t over yet.
Additionally, the number of states with bathroom bans for transgender youth has already more than doubled in 2023, and three of those bans became law within the same week. Another ban on transgender youth participation in sports was enacted in Wyoming in March, and there will be more bad laws enacted in the months to come.
What are some successful moments or recent wins you’ve seen for transgender people in 2023 so far?
LC: A number of things come to mind. In the context of drag restrictions, for example, we’ve seen how advocacy efforts have been able to get drag-specific language removed from bills. In Arkansas, activists and community members were very successful in pressuring the legislature to make the bills weaker and less harmful to the drag community.
This is notable in Arkansas, a state that has passed a bathroom ban, a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and a second attempt to restrict best-practice medical care — and advocates were still able to get that anti-drag bill defanged.
Successful advocacy is often harder for us to see in the news. We read all of these updates about the number of bills introduced and the things that become law, but we don’t see as much about the things that don’t happen. We don’t see much about the ability of advocates to stop a bill from moving or to amend it to the point where it isn’t what it was at the beginning.
There’s a lot of harm reduction work going on that I think is successful, whether that amounts to a bill no longer becoming a threat (like in Arkansas) or a bill that’s going to become law but is not as bad as it used to be (like in Missouri). There have been clear successes, too, like Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act expanding its nondiscrimination laws, and Maryland’s new Trans Health Equity Act. Those are clear legislative wins.
It’s also been a win this year and recently to see more and more trans leadership in the movement at every level — whether it’s local, state, or federal — leading these fights and leading discussions.
In a time that feels so daunting, what keeps you hopeful?
LC: Other queer and trans people keep me hopeful. I know that our community knows how to fight, to survive, to be joyful, and to build community outside of the state. And it keeps me hopeful that no matter what happens — even when the state doesn’t support us — we will always support each other.
It’s part of our historical lineage. We know how to take care of each other, and we will.
It also keeps me hopeful to remember that none of this has to be this way. These are choices that people are making. The laws don’t have to be this way. People’s ignorance or bigotry (or both) — none of it has to be this way.
One of the things I think that queer and trans people are so good and skilled at doing is imagining a different world and then working to make that world possible. I think that’s what we’re all trying to do right now. None of this is permanent; we are always working for a better world, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s here right now.
Why does visibility matter — especially right now — for the trans community?
LC: Visibility is empowering. Especially for young people right now, it’s important to see adult transgender people who are happy, who have received the care that they needed and deserved, and who have communities that are thriving.
The kids who are growing up today don’t have something to compare this to. They think this is what it is and what it always will be, to some extent, but visibility lets those kids know that there are other things that are possible. They deserve better things, to grow up, be happy, and thrive. Giving them some other world for them to imagine is so important.
But visibility can also be double-edged. It means many good things, but it also has broader concerns and implications we ought to at least acknowledge, like how visibility can also mean vulnerability. When trans kids (or adults) talk publicly about their experiences with gender-affirming care, for example, that opens them and their family up to a lot of attention and potential threats.
Still, so much of this moment is being talked about and dictated entirely by opponents of LGBTQ equality. People who are not transgender are really holding court about how people are thinking and talking about trans people, gender-affirming health care, etc. Visibility is also important to the extent that it allows us to tell our own stories and talk about our own experiences on our own terms.
What advice would you give to someone feeling scared, frustrated, or alone during this moment?
LC: I think I would tell them that they are not alone. They are not alone in how they’re feeling. They’re not alone as a queer or trans person in this moment.
You are part of a much larger community, and also a much broader history. We have fought these fights before, and we will keep fighting them until we win. It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be frustrated, but you’re not alone — not in this movement, and not in these feelings.
Remember the community that you’re a part of and all of the things that we have gone through before. Remember the deep strength we have and draw from each other. We’re going to get through this, and this is just for now.
What are some organizations or groups that individuals can look to for resources and support?
LC: I always recommend the Equality Federation and its state member groups, as well as CenterLink and its community of LGBTQ+ centers nationwide. Many of these centers also provide health services, including physical and mental health, which are often free of charge to local communities.
Some of these state and local groups may also be able to help provide support or at least information for anyone who is looking to relocate due to anti-LGBTQ laws in their current state—as well as for those planning to stay or looking to get more involved in the fight against these efforts.
For anyone seeking immediate support or someone to talk to, the following crisis hotlines and related resources are available 24/7:
(877) 565–8860 — Trans Lifeline
(866) 488–7386 — The Trevor Project
Anything else you want to mention?
LC: It’s normal to feel anxious and scared in a time like this, but it’s important to remember that we have fought and overturned harmful legislation before.
According to a 2022 report from the Human Rights Campaign, 91% of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced last year were defeated. Even as we see record year after record year, in terms of bad bills, the data proves that we defeat the vast majority of these bills. If you look even further out, even the bad bills that become law eventually get overturned. We continue to fight with every tool that we have.
So yes, this may be the worst legislative session ever, and yes, the numbers in our bill tracking have doubled. But we still beat these laws, we still beat these bills, and this isn’t the end of anything. Even if a bad bill becomes law in your state, there’s still tomorrow — there’s still more to do.