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Anti-Trans Bills in the U.S

Written by Finnialla, one of our current world events writers, and edited by Stephanie O., our editor-in-chief!

The word transgender has gained popularity in the English lexicon lately, with the rise of social media and spread of information at rates not thought about even twenty years ago. Some call it a fad, or a mental illness, but the history of trans and gender non-conforming peoples is long and storied. The United States is on the precipice of anti-trans legislation. This article is to explain one thing, why? What does this show about the history of trans people in the States and why it seems so suddenly we see the rise of these sentiments?


Pre 1960’s

Many historians will agree that transgender and non-binary people have existed in multiple cultures throughout time. From the earliest civilizations, there were records of humans living their lives as their opposite gender, or as no gender at all. From the ancient society of Mesopotamia to many Native Indigenous cultures of the North American continent, different swaths of life have been quite accepting of the notion of a fluid gender.

We can trace gender non-conforming individuals all the way back to Babylon, with reports of transgender FTM (female to male) priestesses who lived as women for Inanna, or Ishtar, as they are combined in later myths. In ancient Greece and Italy, there are reliefs of men dressed in traditional female clothing and women with both female and male reproductive parts. Even Elagabalus, a male leader in the Roman Empire, used female pronouns and wanted a basic type of bottom surgery. His reign did not last long, however, as he would be killed at 18 and thrown into a river.

The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten.

Even the Egyptian pharaoh and his queen, Akhenaten and Nefertiti, are portrayed in different ways. Akhenaten reliefs, unlike the ones that came before by other pharaohs, were androgenous. The wide hips and women-like features in the face suggest they might not have such strict gender binaries. Nefertiti was portrayed in both female and male dress, something not seen in any other wife of pharaohs. While many historians do think that the reliefs were made to show Akhenaten as a descendant of Aten, the god he made up to replace the polytheistic gods of the past, it is also argued that as the pharaoh and his queen were descended from gods, gender was a secondary thing to them.

Cultures that still exist in some of the same capacities today as they did in ancient times have gender non-conforming individuals, and in most, are at least somewhat accepted in their society. In multiple Native American tribes, they have two spirit people, who are what they sound like. Their body is inhabited by two souls, one male and one female. In their cultures, they are respected and enlightened in their society. In the same vein, many South Asian Hindu religions, primarily based in India, have third genders; the most common is Hijras. Hijras do not identify themselves as transgender, but as a different gender altogether. As of 2014, there were over 3 million third gendered people living in India alone.

As it is, most transgender and non-binary people were not written about, as it is the case with most marginalized groups throughout time. The texts and artworks are argued by historians time and time again, some believing it shows gender non-conforming people and others arguing it was just an expression of the artist or writer.

Throughout the Middle Ages, there are multiple transgender individuals living in society, most as priests and monks, shown in old manuscripts and texts. They use pronouns interchangeably and are drawn with multiple or no sex characteristics in paintings. Stories still exist today of transgender people in multiple empires who lived their whole lives as another gender. Even in early Christian studies, there are stories, like Mary/Marinos. Marinos was a Christian monk who was born a woman but was regarded as a male monk until his death, where they found out he was born female. This is not an isolated story. Many monks were considered cross-dressers, or even transgender.

In the 1700’s to late 1800’s, Europe saw its fair share of transgender people and, more frequently, crossdressers. The Chevalier d’Eon was born a man, but lived most of her life as a woman and as a French spy and diplomat in the mid 1700’s. In other cases, women dressed up as men to fight in wars, such as the French revolutionary wars and the American revolution. Some other women dressed up as men, just because, like Mary Hamilton, dubbed ‘The Female Husband’. In this rise of puritanism and modesty in most of Europe at that time, the parts of society seen as ungodly and immodest were relegated to the shadows.

The early 1900s in the United States and Europe brought forth a new wave of understanding in sexology and gender ideology. In 1920’s Germany, the famed sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld started performing sex reassignment surgeries until the Nazis targeted the homosexual, Jewish doctor. In the UK and US, there were pansy balls in the early 30s that featured drag performers, crossdressers, homosexuals, and of course, transgender people. The tides seemed to turn towards progress until the rise of fascism in WWII.

The fifties saw a rise of queer and transgender communities, most of which were underground. Any stories that included gender non-conforming people were relegated as mentally unbalanced or corrupted by other queers to follow the same lifestyle. In Europe, there were underground clinics where gender reassignment surgery were performed, including with Christine Jorgensen. Jorgensen was a WWII veteran who went to Denmark to get gender reassignment treatment and surgery. She would spend the rest of her life as a nightclub performer and became famous as one of the first truly known transgender people in the United States.

Before the big Stonewall riot that gained national fame and started the gay movement, there were more riots that didn’t get the recognition. Cooper Donuts in 1959 was a spot for the gay and transgender community in the “gay ghetto” of L.A. When the cops came to break it up, the customers fought back, throwing donuts and other things at them before getting arrested. In the 60’s, there were sit-ins in many restaurants and clubs and magazines/newsletters getting passed around queer communities until it all culminated at the Stonewall Inn in 1969.


The Stonewall Inn in the 1960s.

The Stonewall Inn was one of the most popular queer bars in New York City. While it was owned by the mafia, the bar would be raided at least once a month by the police. In June of 1969, after the bar had been raided earlier that week, the patrons finally had enough. Queer people and black trans women stood on the front lines, fought with the police, and threw bricks while the police tried to arrest the patrons and bartenders. When the fighting and demonstrations ended after six days, many people still got arrested. Two trans women, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, became early leaders of the pride movement and started the first transgender rights organization in the U.S. While it took a longer time for trans people to be accepted by the queer community, it was because of trans people consistently speaking up and asking for acceptance. For the next decade of resistance and progress, the 70’s seemed to be relatively quiet in terms of big parts of trans and gay rights, but queer people persisted.

In 1981, the AIDS crisis arrived in the United States, and it hit the gay community the hardest. Throughout the decade, HIV/AIDS was pushed into the mainstream as the “gay” disease. The pushback from heterosexual communities made gay and transgender people come together as the seemingly indifferent government and CDC let queer people down. When straight people eventually started to catch HIV, years after hundreds, even thousands of “undesirables” had already died, the government started to act.

An entire generation of queer and transgender people died from a disease that isn’t a death sentence now. Ronald Reagan and the government choosing to not acknowledge what was happening caused so many more people to die than needed. While gay people had horrible experiences with the medical field with HIV/AIDS, transgender people had it even worse. Multiple times, trans people are turned down medical care, repeatedly misgendered, and even buried with dead names. They felt isolated from communities they helped create.

Even throughout the 90’s, it was still a time of revolution for transgender people. They still found prejudice in both straight and gay communities and had to find their own places to be. It wasn’t until 1999 when the transgender flag was designed and wasn’t until the late nineties until trans people were more accepted by gay and lesbian groups.

In the 2000’s and 2010’s, it was all about showing people transgender individuals for acceptance from mainstream society. The mainstream media seemed to be more receptive towards trans people, and it even culminated with the supreme court passing Obergefell v. Hodges, sanctifying marriage equality.


During the lead up to the 2016 election, fringe evangelical churches threw their support behind the Republican primaries and candidates. Their influence might have helped many get elected. In this, we see the same anti queer sentiments and rise of a satanic panic not seen in over forty years back in the mainstream. The rollback of protections, like Roe v. Wade and protections for trans individuals are already seen. In 2023 alone, there have been over 550 anti queer bills introduced, 220 of them focusing on transgender people alone. 70 of them have passed.

A group of Evangelicals at a service.

To understand how fringe groups have gotten popular in the past three years, we do have to talk about evangelicalism in the United States. Its roots run back to the founding of the country, but it ebbs and flows in and out of mainstream society. The last big appearance came in the ‘80s, during the HIV/AIDS crisis. With the prominence of televangelism, or as most people know it, pastors who host programs promoting miracles for the exchange of money, and the founding of Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal revival conglomerate of churches around the world, the far right led anti LGBTQ+ sentiments and marches, brought about the satanic panic, and even started the hearings on immoral music in Congress, which led to the creation of the parental advisory sticker. While its popularity went down in the 90s and 2000s, the evangelicals rose back into power during the late 2010’s.

The Trump administration helped make transphobia more mainstream in the United States. In his four years in office, his administration helped pass or wanted to pass over 75 anti-trans laws alone. In the past five years, there has been an increase in discrimination of queer people, mostly transgender individuals. Trans women are statistically more likely to face violence than other members of society, and it’s raised by number if the woman is a person of color. While in 2017, more than 75% of people asked in a UCLA study believed that transgender people should have protection from discrimination, it’s not the reality.

The swift backlash from members of society has gotten worse. Many TERF communities, more in the UK, have taken their stance against trans people, falsely claiming narratives of trans women assaulting cis women in the bathrooms, trans women taking chances away from cis women, and trans men being forced to change under the patriarchy. They refuse to acknowledge non-binary people at all, calling them “confused”. None of these statements are true. While a small amount of trans women have attacked cis women, it’s more likely to be the other way around. Most cis and trans women are attacked by a cis male in the bathroom, not trans.

One of the biggest known TERFS to make herself known is popular children’s author, J.K Rowling. Her relation to popular anti trans feminist groups and penchant to tweet false transphobic claims has led to a massive backlash online and boycott of her books. Another anti trans community would be the LGB. They are gay, lesbian, and bi people who want to separate themselves from trans communities, even though trans people are the reason we have many of the rights as queer folk. These two groups grow in popularity, but still represent a small fraction of the anti-trans rhetoric right now.

In the glimpse of the country, politicians have more sway, and many choose not to hide their extremist and religious views. Since the 2016 election, more and more far right-wing politicians have been elected to both state and federal elections. Some prime examples, like Margorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebart, and much more to count.

One politician that has done some of the most damage is Ron DeSantis. As the current Florida governor and possible presidential candidate, his anger towards anything “woke” has done irreparable damage. With multiple laws denouncing queer people in Florida, mostly trans people and trans youth, he has made a platform of hurting others. Florida has some of the most anti LGBTQ+ laws in the past five years. His most controversial and well known “Don’t Say Gay” bill was to attack queer youth in classrooms.

With his new burgeoning presidential campaign, he spoke his political mind in late June with an extreme anti LGBTQ+ commercial, speaking that former president Trump is the most pro-gay president in history, which is a lie. He promises going back to a “simpler time”, which just means the criminalization of queer and trans bodies.

With this hate of queer spaces, it has called for boycotts of pro-LGBTQ+ products. One of the biggest in recent times was Bud Light. When the company Anheuser Busch paid for an ad featuring Dylan Mulvaney, a trans TikTok star, and sent her a personalized can, the backlash was intense. The calling of a boycott and destroying Bud Light was first. Second was replacing the Bud Light with Coors Light, which is ironic. Coors Light has been a sponsor of Denver Pride for over twenty years. Death threats and calls to violence flooded Dylan’s social profile. Right-wing Bud Light knockoff beers came out of the woodwork, either to pray on the angry audience, or to turn a profit from controversy. Politicians even got in on the trend. The hashtag, #gowokegobroke trended on Twitter.

Did it really do anything? Not really. Bud Light was surpassed by Modelo as the top bought beer, but both are owned by Anheuser Busch. They didn’t really lose any money. Dylan Mulvaney’s mental health took a toll. She posted a video addressing the backlash, stating she had to log off from the multiple threats against her life. The company basically left her high and dry to face the mob herself.

Another big one from last month was Target. Baseless claims about satanic displays, child tuck swimsuits, and indoctrination flooded TikTok. In response, Target pulled some of their pride items that these people deemed too mature for kids. When it was pointed out that the child swimsuits claim was all but false, the creators were just local queer artists, and that they didn’t have to buy pride for their kids, the far-right evangelicals dug their heels in the sand. While Target did keep up most of its pride merch, it didn’t protect these creators they chose to partner with from the onslaught of hate speech and abandoned some of them altogether.

Where does this leave trans people? It’s been an uphill battle for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Once one of our rights gets taken away, who’s to say they won’t come for the rest. If queer people get complacent, then the carpet can be dragged out from under us.

Trans people have been in the community since the beginning. They have been instrumental in the modern gay rights movement and haven’t been able to reap the benefits the rest has. Transgender individuals deserve better, and we need to fight with them. The LGBTQ+ community has to stick together, or the far right will come for us all, and we can’t fight their power separately. Support trans people and stand up for what’s right before it’s stripped away from us all.



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This piece was written by one of our current world events writers, Finnialla. Reach 'em at @finni_all_uh on Instagram!

This piece was edited by our editor-in-chief, Stephanie O!


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