Statement on Anti-Trans Bills in Kentucky and Tennessee

We are outraged and deeply saddened by the anti-trans bills that have passed in the Tennessee Legislature  and in Kentucky’s House of Representatives. Shame on the legislators who passed these bills and on Governor Bill Lee, who signed Tennessee’s into law. We urge Kentucky’s Senate and, ultimately, Governor Andy Beshear to oppose their state’s harmful bill as it progresses through the legislature.

Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. They have the right to the health care they need to survive and thrive. For transgender young people, this might include specialized health care, called gender-affirming care, that has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and proven to help mental health and wellbeing. Gender affirming care is age-appropriate, life-saving, medically necessary care that is only provided after the consent of parents and doctors. Families work with medical professionals for a long time and in great depth to identify a path of treatment for their transgender youth. 

Bills put forward in both states not only ban gender affirming medical care, but require youth already receiving such care  to medically detransition. It’s cruel and deeply harmful to young people’s health and well-being. These politicians are harming children and standing between families and their chosen medical care.

Tennessee has also adopted a “drag ban” that outlaws “male and female impersonators” where minors might be present. The bill uses vague language that adds to the danger of discrimination and violence which transgender and gender nonconforming people already face. It stigmatizes all gender non-conforming people as inappropriate for children. It could put LGBTQ people at risk of being arrested at a Pride celebration or anywhere they perform.

Drag performances aren’t dangerous. In fact, around the country we’re seeing violence directed at drag performers and at venues where folks have performed for years and even decades – violence often led by white supremacists. Too many politicians are furthering these extremists’ agenda by spreading misinformation and fear-mongering about drag and about many other aspects of LGBTQ identity. 

Young people understand that drag is a powerful form of self-expression, celebration and resistance that has allowed generations of LGBTQ+ advocates and artists to express themselves and to encourage others to follow suit. In Tennessee, it is also a longstanding source of employment and a testament to the LGBTQ+ community’s refusal to bow to hate and intimidation.

For all of these bills, the goal isn’t to protect the public, but instead to vilify transgender and gender non-conforming people.  Already,  LGBTQ youth experience violence and bullying at higher rates than non-LGBTQ youth. Gender-expansive youth (those who are trans, gender queer, and gender nonconforming) are at greatly increased risk of suicidal behavior

As a society, we need to make sure these young people are safe, supported, and celebrated. We need to work on ending violence and discrimination against trans youth.  We should be celebrating our trans youth and affirming them for who they are, not erasing, endangering, and vilifying LGBTQ young people.

Youth activists support gender affirming care, freedoms for drag performers, and queer joy. They aren’t going to let homophobic and transphobic extremists take away the rights LGBTQ people fought for and continue to fight for.