Transmissions: The closing of the year

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday December 27, 2023
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

As we close the book on 2023, my mind keeps going back to one number: 589.

This is, according to the Trans Legislation Tracker at, the number of anti-trans bills that were introduced in 49 states in 2023. Of those introduced, 85 passed into law. Thirty-eight additional bills were introduced at the federal level.

That's more than one bill a day, all designed to rob transgender people of our freedom, our dignity, and our humanity.

These are bills that make our health care a felony for a provider to administer, including simply allowing us to be acknowledged as a member of our gender, or by a name we have opted to use. Many of these are attempts to force others to refer to us by our birth name or pronouns, or "wean us off" any care we have received. Some treat our care as child abuse.

A lot of the bills introduced in 2023 have focused on schools, with a large number of them either prohibiting schools from allowing access to anything that includes mention of transgender or nonbinary identities or expression, such as Florida's infamous 2022 "Don't Say Gay" bill that was expanded this year, or so-called parental rights bills designed to prevent a transgender or nonbinary youth from accessing affirming care or even acknowledging their own gender identity in a school or similar setting.

This year, too, we have seen bills attempting to call drag performances — including simply reading age-appropriate picture books to an audience of kids and their parents — an inherently adult action. We've also seen the continued attacks against LGBTQ books, including a growing number of trans-specific titles.

Additionally, there are other bills such as U.S. HR 115, the "Women's Bill of Rights," which seeks to narrowly define "man" and "woman" in federal law.

Of course, we continue to see bills targeting transgender people in sports, regardless of age, or care, or any other practical matter. This has come hot on the heels of anti-trans voices such as Riley Gaines, a swimmer who came in fifth place behind trans swimmer Lia Thomas and three non-trans women in the 2022 NCAA Division I Championships. Presumably, she's going to ignore the fact that even without a trans woman in the pool, she would not have been on the podium at the end of the match.

Speaking of sports, an ever-widening number of competitive activities are apparently under threat by the dominance of transgender people. Not just swimming or track and field, but chess and Irish folk dancing are apparently in this category. It's almost as if the issue never was some supposed advantage a transgender person may have, but simple bigotry.

I feel it worthy to note that few of the arguments about sports even acknowledge that there are transgender men in the world, and that some of them, too, are in sports.

I can't speak of 2023 without also discussing how deep anti-trans animus went in corporate America. Target was forced to remove merchandise from some of its stores after facing violence against its employees, and much of the ire was focused on items created by or for transgender people. Likewise, Anheuser-Busch faced bomb threats and boycotts all for the act of making a single beer can featuring the face of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

One of the bigger stories, given how much of this is politically motivated, is how poorly anti-trans attitudes helped out at the polls. Instead, in off-year elections across the country, trans-friendly candidates won, trans candidates won, and attempts to bait people to vote against abortion rights by claiming it would benefit transgender people didn't work.

I want to tell you that this may be a turning of the tide, when the arguments against transgender people have gotten so shrill, so constant, and yet, so powerless that all those shouting about transgender people will move on to a different victim — but I fear not.

Former President Donald Trump is running again to regain the presidency and, as I type this, he still very much has a chance and is dominating the Republican field. He's made it clear that transgender people are one of the groups he intends to come after — and it is high time we finally begin to take his threats at face value. Meanwhile, the majority of those running on the GOP side are also trying their best to be more transphobic than the others.

We can only assume that this will only get worse as we get closer to the November election.

Meanwhile, much of the left wants to pretend that this isn't an issue, and not the threat that it is. It's frustrating to me because they truly have ceded the argument to the right, and it has made transgender people out to be akin to the devil themselves.

Remember, 589 bills were introduced in 49 states this year. Thank you, Delaware, for not going with the trend. That is 415 more bills than in 2022.

How many will it be in 2024, and how many of those will make it into law? We will eventually face a challenge of some of these laws at the United States Supreme Court and, given how the conservative-majority court ruled on abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization last year, I can only hold my breath.

Now is the time we, as a community, need to come together with every ally we have at hand and make our demands. We need to take the narrative from the right and make all of our voices heard. We cannot do it from the shadows. It's time to make our voices heard like never before.

If 2023 belonged to the transphobes, let's make 2024 ours.

Gwen Smith is holding out hope. You can find her at

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