Unconstitutional Countdown: The Clock is Ticking for Anti-Trans Antagonists

This Pride, instead of celebrating the history of LGBTQ+ liberation, reveling in community support, or feeling joy at having found the courage, language, or visibility to embrace oneself, transgender Floridians are crowdfunding their moves out of state, staying home to avoid having to use a public restroom, and desperately attempting to arrange for continued healthcare amid a national debate on the validity of our existence. 

This year’s legislative assault on trans lives and futures is unprecedented in both volume and vitriol. More than 450 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed nationwide, with anti-trans initiatives seeking to ban access to healthcare, restrooms, sports, legal protections, identity documents, and even basic recognition while criminalizing supportive loved ones and healthcare professionals; over 70 of these bills have since been signed into law. 

In Florida, speech and education in schools have been censored or prohibited, including social affirmations like using a student’s correct name and pronouns, regardless of their parents’ wishes. Gender-affirming care for youth is banned, and the 80% of trans adults who previously received their care from nurse practitioners must now find new providers. Next month, a bathroom ban levying criminal consequences will go into effect. Taking stock, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that  the political endgame is persecution and erasure.

The ramifications are already dire. State and national advocacy organizations have issued travel advisories urging LGBTQ+ folks to avoid Florida at all costs—even during connecting flights—against the backdrop of a declared national emergency. Since January, trans Floridians have raised over $200,000 on GoFundMe to facilitate moves to safer states. A June Data for Progress survey found 8% of trans Americans have already moved from their home state because of new anti-LGBTQ+ laws, with an additional 43% strongly considering it—a potential for hundreds of thousands of domestic refugees. 

Our bodies and senses of self have become battlegrounds for political gain and community division. Self-righteously equipped with falsehoods, ardent hypocrisy, and the hollow determination to uphold the power structures they benefit from, politicians, pundits, and the droves they incite through fear-mongering, hate, and bigotry now feel an entitlement to arbitrate human nature and what should constitute an individual’s being and medical care. Religion and morality are being manipulated to serve prejudicial, unconstitutional ends. And despite the endorsement of every major medical association nationwide on the lifesaving benefits of gender-affirming care for youth, settled medical opinion is construed as experimental. 

In response to these nationwide attacks, the American Medical Association strengthened its commitment to protecting gender-affirming care, 13 states have passed transgender sanctuary laws, and court cases challenging anti-trans healthcare legislation have so far succeeded each time. 

In a landmark victory secured by the ACLU of Arkansas just this week, the state’s ban on gender-affirming care for adolescents was permanently blocked. The court  ruled that the Arkansas law violates the constitutional rights of trans youth, their parents, and their medical providers. Critically, in his decision, US District Judge James Moody Jr. made over 300 factual findings about the reality of trans care, debunking the unfounded narratives that have proliferated nationwide, concluding what we already know to be true: gender-affirming care is lifesaving, necessary medical intervention.

Notable court victories have also been secured in an initial West Virginia SCOTUS decision and lower court rulings in Indiana, Tennessee, and Florida

Deciding to medically transition requires surviving a most personal journey. The overt social risks are eclipsed by the determination to do right by oneself in this short and precious life. Accessing care is expensive; even when it is attainable, the path is riddled with hurdles.

While we have seen the rights to bodily autonomy and privacy whittled away in this post-Trump, post-Roe era, bans on gender-affirming care have already been struck down by federal courts as unconstitutional sex discrimination, in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. So too with drag bans, which have been held to violate the First Amendment right to free expression. 

In his federal ruling last week that temporarily blocks enforcement of Indiana’s ban on gender-affirming care for youth, Trump-appointed Judge Patrick Hanlon was unequivocal: preventing trans folks from accessing the affirming care they need results in “irreparable harm.”

And just two days ago, in a federal ruling that struck down Florida’s ban on Medicare coverage for gender-affirming care as unconstitutional, US District Judge Robert L. Hinkle declared, “the statute and the rule were an exercise in politics, not good medicine.” 

For anti-trans antagonists, the clock is ticking.