It’s a sickening national trend causing much pain and suffering to our community’s most vulnerable: trans youth. All across the country, state legislatures are enacting anti-trans laws — HRC reports that so far this year over 300 such bills have been proposed — with an emphasis on trans youth.
These laws often ban trans youth from participating in sports that match their gender identity, forbid them from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity, deny appropriate medical treatment, and forbid the mention of gender identity in classroom instruction and school library books.
Michigan neighbor Ohio just passed one of the most heinous of these laws, requiring “genital inspections” for girls and women suspected of being trans who wish to participate in school sports. Michigan, itself, is not immune to this evil epidemic. Last year, the Michigan Senate discussed a bill that would allow only “biological boys” to play on boys’ teams and only “biological girls” from playing on the girls’ team. It ultimately never made it out of committee. But just last month, the House passed a school budget bill with a last minute add-on banning boys from participating or playing in girls sports and vice versa.
“It’s another way to say, ‘Hey, trans girls, you’re not allowed to play in a sport that matches your identity,’” said Erin Knott, executive director of the Equality Michigan Action Network and spokesperson for Hate Won’t Win, a new coalition of 13 Michigan LGBTQ+ organizations aimed at building political power in Lansing and responding to anti-LGBTQ+ legislative attacks. “So far, the Senate hasn’t taken up that [issue]. But the coalition stands ready if they do.”
The coalition’s first project is a TV spot called “Emily.” The commercial tells the story of Emily Majko, a Republican who has a transgender daughter.
“My daughter and other kids are being used to score political points,” Majko says in the spot. “And I can’t be silent while they attack my child.”
Of the commercial and the formation of the Hate Won’t Win coalition, Knott said “The rhetoric around LGBTQ+ rights in Lansing has grown increasingly hateful. Not since the days of Anita Bryant have we seen such craven attempts by lawmakers to build political power by targeting and demonizing LGBTQ+ people.”
The “Emily” spot is part of a larger strategy to raise alarm about the impacts of the numerous anti-LGBTQ+ attacks that are emerging from the Michigan Legislature. The commercial, according to Knott, will be seen by 3.1 million Michiganders.
Like Majko, Roz Keith, founder of Stand with Trans, has a trans child and knows the pain of seeing that child attacked.
“The groundswell of anti-trans legislation around the country is sickening and has no merit,” she said. “Let’s talk about trans youth who need cross sex hormones to alleviate gender dysphoria and get them out of the deep depression and thoughts of suicide that many experience.”
Keith said suicide rates for trans youth are already nine times the national average and she called that population “the most marginalized of the marginalized. … We wouldn’t deny access to other life-saving treatments such as insulin. Why attack the transgender community? The government should not get in the way of family medical decisions that follow protocol established by experts.”
The group also profiles Michigan families on its site and social platforms. Here, a mother named Dawn shares her story:
Emme Zanotti, a vice chair of the LGBT and Allies Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, is watching what’s happening in Lansing closely. She called the add-on to the house bill “a little bit of a reflex from those who are ideologically opposed to science, the facts and what medical professionals and psychological professionals are telling us is good for these students. It’s just another way for the Republican party to wage ideological, religious warfare.”
Zanotti came out as trans eight years ago. She said that since that time she has seen the LGBTQ+ community make a lot of headway in changing hearts and minds.
“We fought for that acceptance and tried hard to carve out a world for young kids who might be going through the things that I was going through when I was 9 or 10 years old,” she said. “That took a lot of effort from the community and to see Republican trying to make loving your children illegal… It’s disgusting and it’s heartbreaking and the last thing I think about before I go to bed and the first thing I think about when I wake up.“”
Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project, said there is still a sliver of good news here in Michigan. “So far, we have not seen a similar Senate budget proposal,” he said. “Governor Whitmer has indicated that should this end up in the proposed budget that she could either do a line-item veto or declare the particular budget provision as unenforceable.”
This, however, is an election year. Currently our top three state officials — Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — are all LGBTQ+ allies. But should any of the three not be reelected, it could be disastrous for the state’s LGBTQ+ community.
Kaplan said it’s important to recognize that the rationale for this type of legislation is not based on science or facts but, instead, it’s “a cynical political calculation on the part of some politicians to raise money for their reelection campaigns and solidify their conservative political base. That they would target and harm one of the most vulnerable populations in their quest for power says a lot about their cruelty and lack of humanity.”
For more information about the Hate Won’t Win coalition, visit hatewont.win.