With much of the country preparing for state elections, campaigns are in full swing for those competing for the governor’s office. It is no secret that the political climate has been especially heated in the past several years, and the hot-button issues being brought to voters are divisive and incredibly partisan. One of the most controversial topics being debated in this year’s election season is transgender rights and policies surrounding gender inclusivity and equality. While there is an increasing percentage of U.S. adults who know someone who is transgender or uses gender neutral pronouns, there are many in conservative politics who are fighting against all strides forward the LGBTQ+ community is trying to make.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also is a presidential candidate, has been among the most vocal politicians to speak out against transgender rights. Among his high-priority package of laws signed into legislation in May were restrictions on drag shows, bathroom usage and which pronouns are allowed to be used in school. These laws prohibit any trans youth from using their desired pronouns in public schools and made it illegal for schools to teach students about sexual orientation and gender identity. DeSantis is leveraging power as governor to further marginalize an already oppressed group. As proven throughout history, limiting access to knowledge, especially for children, is harmful and dangerous.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, running for re-election this year, has taken similar stances on transgender politics, implementing laws that prevent transgender youth from participating in sports in accordance with their gender identity and banning certain transition related transgender health care for minors, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery. It also bans public funding from institutions that provide this care to minors and can revoke medical licenses for providers that provide these services. This is yet another example of the backwards progress the far right in America is fighting for.
Republicans in politics consistently deny transgender citizens the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness laid out in our Constitution and continue to publicly bully anyone who dares to accept that people may not be born the correct gender. For decades, and sometimes even still, politicians argued that people were not born gay, and we have now lived to see the severe consequences of that belief system. Despite the very clear harm caused by not acknowledging people’s identities and truths, our lawmakers are repeating history and making the same mistakes with the transgender community.
These lawmakers try to hide their prejudice behind the false claim that they are protecting our children, yet none of them ever seem to do anything to protect children from the things that are actually causing harm and premature death. The politicians who warn about the “danger” of transgender rights are the same ones who don’t see any problem with loosening restrictions on firearms, shown clearly by DeSantis signing a bill to allow people to carry concealed guns without a permit in April. Florida has one of the highest counts of school shootings since 2012, yet DeSantis sees no harm in allowing easy access to firearms in his state. In 2020 and 2021, firearms were involved in more deaths of minors than any injury or illness, including motor vehicle crashes. The facts clearly show that guns are far more dangerous to American youth than learning about gender identities, but Republican lawmakers continue to hide behind the guise of protection when implementing harmful anti-trans legislation.
The unfortunate truth about American political history is that discrimination and bigotry have always been involved in decision-making. My hope for the future is that we learn to recognize when our politicians have our best interests at heart and when they are using our blindness to hypocriticism for political gain. Just because we have made mistakes before doesn’t mean we have to continue to do so, and I would urge all those voting in the upcoming state elections to consider how history will perceive the decisions we are making today.
Liv Briley is a senior integrated marketing communications major from Lemont, Ill.