Superficially, Americans and their lawmakers accept and understand LGBTQ+ people more now than they did ten years ago. The 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage is one of the most tangible and significant victories for LGBTQ+ rights, but the 2015 decision only directly protected lesbian, gay, and bisexual cisgender people.
At least 19 states in 2016 considered toilet bills, legislation that would require anyone to use the gendered toilet corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate. North Carolina passed this legislation, sparking conversations across the country and allowing lawmakers to draft similar bills in other states. But the sibling bills struggled to pass, and even North Carolina has since repealed its toilet bill.
Several congressional representatives have turned to gender legislation to target a new group: transgender youth.
Stacker reviewed state-by-state data on sexual orientation and gender identity policies that affect transgender youth from the Transgender Law Center.
The 50 states and Washington D.C. were then ranked by their total “political counts” (the number of laws and policies promoting equality for LGBTQ+ people), with #51 being the most restrictive state. and #1 being the most protective state of trans youth. Negative counts mean that there are more discrimination laws than protection laws.
TLC’s policy tally only accounts for legislation passed and does not account for the activism efforts, attitudes and feelings expressed by state residents, or the implementation of such laws. The main categories considered by TLC revolve around parental relationships and acknowledgment, non-discrimination, religious exemptions, LGBTQ+ youth, healthcare, criminal justice, and identity documents.
TLC’s findings show how trans youth remain protected or vulnerable by statutory law, but the legislation is elastic and lawmakers are constantly introducing new bills. One category of these rankings captures only laws relating to sexuality, as significant overlap exists within the queer community and within legislation. Many lesbian, gay, or bisexual people also identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming, which means LGBTQ+ people may identify with more than one queer identity.
Since 2020, anti-trans youth legislation claiming to protect children has appeared more frequently in state legislatures, entering the more mainstream lexicon in 2021. In the first three months of 2022, lawmakers introduced approximately 240 anti-trans laws. LGBTQ+, most of which targeted trans people. people.
Tennessee, the first state in anti-trans youth legislation, in 2017 signed a bill that would prevent trans children from receiving gender-affirming care. It was the fifth anti-trans law to pass in the state. Bills like these purport to protect parents and children, but Tennessee lawmakers are also considering a bill that would establish common law marriages in the state between “one man and one woman” while eliminating age restrictions for marriage.
While legislation against trans youth outnumbers legislation aimed at protecting trans youth, several states have passed or are considering legislation to protect trans children. California has gone so far as to introduce a bill to accept families who escape anti-trans youth legislation. Colorado, formerly known as the “Hate State” for its history of passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws throughout the 90s, passed legislation banning conversion therapy, banning bullying based on LGBTQ+ identities and ending discrimination against LGBTQ+ families adopting children. Hawaii passed a law in March that would require health insurance companies to pay for gender-affirming care, but not until 2060.
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