Guest Opinion: Trans rights are human rights: Advocating for equality and understanding

  • by Kollyn Conrad
  • Wednesday July 5, 2023
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Kollyn Conrad. Photo: Courtesy Kollyn Conrad
Kollyn Conrad. Photo: Courtesy Kollyn Conrad

Over the last few years, LGBTQIA+ community members have been hit with an onslaught of legislation aimed at silencing their voices, hiding their identities, and stripping them of their rights. The transgender community may be the most maligned, with over 500 anti-transgender bills introduced across the nation, according to

This recent deluge of anti-trans sentiment is mobilizing the affected community and its allies. So much so, in fact, that the U.S. may be on the cusp of the greatest human rights movement for LGBTQIA+ people since Stonewall.

It is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to keep up with all of the proposed bills that have emerged in the last few years. The trans community has become "Public Enemy No. 1" in a renewed culture war spurred on by far-right politicians fueled by the unfounded "Save the Children" sentiment reminiscent of Anita Bryant's anti-gay agenda from the 1970s. This time, however, the majority of anti-trans legislation is primarily concerned with ending gender-affirming medical care. At the same time, other bills — such as Florida House Bill 1521 — legislate the movement of transgender people and their ability to use the bathroom or changing room that aligns with their gender identity or to play sports. Republican Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis signed HB 1521, a bathroom bill, in May.

None of this anti-LGBTQIA+ hate is new, but there is a heightened, palpable vitriol for the trans community this time around. Far-right talking heads such as Michael Knowles have even called for transgender "eradication." These are indeed frightening times for the trans community, and getting the message across to those in Congress that trans rights are human rights has been a frustrating hill to climb for advocates and allies alike.

The trans community may have a bleak future if something is not done to ward off the oncoming storms. With access to gender-affirming medical care being contested in so many red states, it is possible that transgender people could lose the ability to have life-saving medical attention that is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association. I write "life-saving" because studies have shown that upward of 40% of trans adults have attempted suicide in their lifetimes. Further studies have indicated that those who receive gender-affirming care, especially trans youth, have fewer instances of depression and suicidal ideation.

Outside of medical care access, GOP lawmakers are also attacking the trans community's right to live in the world as themselves. Bathroom bills and bills claiming to "save women's sports," target the same thing: human rights. So do anti-drag bills in several states, though in Tennessee a federal judge ruled it was unconstitutional. Many of these bills restrict where transgender people can go, what sports they can play, or how they can dress. The basic humanity enjoyed by everyone in the United States is being stripped from the transgender community in real-time.

The truth is that the general U.S. population overwhelmingly supports the LGBTQIA+ community. According to polls, about 8 in 10 Americans support legislative protections for LGBTQIA+ people. However, it is the transgender community that needs boosted support in the here and now. It has become necessary to pull supporters and allies from the sidelines and urge them to use their power and their voices to protect the "T" in the LGBTQIA+ group they claim to support.

In these times of overwhelming hate, many leaders in the trans community — as well as their allies — have already started taking action. Additionally, a significant number of trans individuals — from trans youth to well-known trans advocates such as actor Laverne Cox and Zooey Zephyr (D), a member of the Montana House of Representatives — have given testimony about their experiences. Putting a face to the word "trans" helps everyday people humanize those who are often targeted and treated so inhumanely.

In addition to testimony, a majority of these anti-trans bills are currently being challenged in court. Legal challenges in Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee have effectively slowed the adverse effects of some of these anti-trans bills — at least for now. There is no time to rest with the legal pushback, and there are many more bills that need to be targeted with legal force.

Supportive groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have gathered lists of gender-affirming medical providers. GLAAD has even compiled a list of trans-centered resources for trans people in crisis, those who are looking to move from an oppressive state, or those needing legal services. Publicly Private, a nonprofit that I founded, is also catering to the community with discrete access to online resources.

This is a time for allies to come off of social media posting and make their advocacy real and heard with boots on the ground. There's a well-known quote that says, "If you want to be someone's ally, but haven't been hit by the stones being thrown at them, you are not standing close enough."

Now is the time for allies to stand closer than ever before — to be a shield for the trans community.

Kollyn Conrad, a gay man, is the founder and executive director of Publicly Private, a nonprofit organization offering supplies, support, and empowerment to the LGBTQIA+ community.

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