Transgender Awareness week: Rights, visibility and hate crimes
Transgender Awareness Week is devoted to raising the visibility of the trans community and addressing issues like military service.
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New York lawmakers counted New York among a number of states that introduced or announced legislation this week protecting access to care and rights for transgender constituents.
2021 marked a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. This year is even worse, according to New York State Assemblymember Harry Bronson. More bills prohibiting gender-affirming care, blocking trans girls from competing on women’s sports teams, among others, passed in several states already this year.
Bronson joined New York Sen. Brad Hoylman, in introducing New York's legislation, which is characterized as a "trans refuge" bill.
"As a society we must recognize the dignity and humanity inherent within others — especially our trans youth," Bronson said. "Our Trans Safe Haven legislation will send a strong message that LGBTQ+ rights will always be protected in the Empire State."
New York is one of three states that recently introduced a “trans refuge” bill, along with California and Minnesota. On May 3, several states passed more anti-trans laws, while 16 other states committed to bring forward similar legislation.
New York’s bill prohibits separating parents or guardians from their child because they allowed their child to receive gender-affirming care. That care includes hormone replacement therapy or puberty blockers, as well as performing medical procedures. Gender-affirming surgeries are rarely performed on people under 18, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
In Alabama, as of Sunday, health providers could be charged with a felony for giving gender-affirming treatment to transgender people under 19. New York’s bill does the opposite: it would shield health providers caring for transgender patients from arrest.
The bill protects patients as well, largely through securing health information.
Consider a family traveling to New York to receive such care. New York’s bill, if passed, would block law enforcement agencies within the state from cooperating with other states’ investigations into legal gender-affirming care. It further protects health information by barring subpoenas seeking details in order to criminalize people or remove children as a result of gender-affirming care provided in New York.
New York government officials have stressed that their state is a safe haven for LGBTQ people. Gov. Kathy Hochul tweeted out her commitment to “protect and champion our trans community.”
Hochul signed the START Act into law last year, which vacates convictions for victims of sex and labor trafficking. Hochul also voiced her desire for people imprisoned in New York to be housed in facilities that align with their gender identity, a protection measure many transgender groups have called for.
Last month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams launched a billboard campaign in Florida advertising the city’s acceptance of LGBTQ identities. Digitals sign boast phrases including “Come to the city where you can say whatever you want" — a direct call-out to a recently-passed Florida law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” It bars educators from teaching students in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity.
Bronson, the assemblymember who introduced New York's bill, said the legislation is "essential" because of these families who may flee states that ban gender-affirming care.
"The science and data are clear — for trans youth, getting this physician-recommended care is not a choice, it's life-saving," Bronson said. "New York will be a safe haven for trans youth and their families and we'll continue the longstanding tradition for protecting the LGBTQ+ community in our state."
The U.S. coasts have long been areas where young LGBTQ people migrate to when they feel unsafe in other states, said Kate Barnhart, who directs New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth in Manhattan.
With legislation like trans refuge bills, whole families are thinking about relocating, she said. She already noticed a recent increase in young clients showing up at New Alternatives who "felt they just had to get out of where they were."
"There's a surge of young people arriving in the sanctuary states including New York and that means that the service providers, such as New Alternatives, are having to cope with an increase in clients without an increase in funding," Barnhart said.
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These trans refuge bills are expected to appear in more one-third of the nation, California Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said in a press release. A bill he introduced set the framework for the other bills.
He collaborated with the LGBTQ Victory Institute, Equality California and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California to bring together LGBTQ legislators in 19 states to “push back hard against the horrendous anti-trans legislation we’re seeing in Texas and elsewhere,” Wiener said in a press release.
New York's bill awaits discussion in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Hoylman chairs. He and Bronson have introduced several bills protecting LGBTQ rights and education in New York, including one that proposes establishing an LGBTQ awareness curriculum.
Sammy Gibbons is a culture reporter for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Region How We Live team. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @sammykgibbons. For unlimited access to the most important news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.