Idaho passes harmful law allowing students to sue schools if they see a trans child in the bathroom – Screen Shot
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Idaho passes harmful law allowing students to sue schools if they see a trans child in the bathroom

States across the US are currently implementing some of the most anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation the nation has ever witnessed. 2023 is officially shaping up to be one of the most restrictive, conservative and anti-progressive years in the past decade.

At an alarmingly fast rate, Republican lawmakers are weaponising political rhetoric and actively ignoring the advice and opinion of medical professionals. Moreover, conservatives are taking advantage of mounting anti-trans public opinion and diverting people’s attention away from the issues that matter.

For example, after authorities revealed that the perpetrator of the shooting on a Nashville Christian school on 27 March identified as a trans male, the hashtag #Transterrorism began trending on Twitter. Right-wing politicians immediately jumped at the opportunity, placing fault on what they deemed to be mental instability intrinsically linked to the transgender community, rather than address the common denominator in all of these tragic events: guns.

House Representative—and prolific anti-LGBTQIA+ politician—Marjorie Taylor Greene stated: “How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking? Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”

Gender identity has become one of the most divisive topics in the US and while The Violence Project has categorically stated that 98 per cent of mass shooters are male (a vast majority of which being cisgendered), Republican politicians are still finding ways to blame the trans community for events which could’ve been completely avoided had there been appropriate gun laws and reform in place.

Public opinion is moulded and influenced by legislation, and as we continue to witness such vitriol and hate towards the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s important to stay up to date with the most recent action taken to further erode the rights of anyone who refuses to conform to conservative, right-wing standards.

Over the past few weeks, mainstream media has been focusing predominant attention on the anti-drag show bills in Florida. However, we also need to recognise the recent laws passed in Idaho, which are going to completely destroy the trans community’s visibility and human rights, as well as demolish their access to health care.

Cisgendered students could sue for “emotional damage” if they see a trans child in the toilet

On 23 March, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a Senate Bill 1100 into law which effectively bans trans youth from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender. According to PinkNews, lawmakers have used an antiquated definition of “biological” sex as its justification. The new bill allows students to take legal action against public schools that allow trans students to use facilities aligned with their gender.

Schools found in breach of the law could be forced to pay up to $5,000 in damages to plaintiffs for each person “of the opposite sex” found in the facility.

A 2018 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law empirically proved that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity does not in any way increase safety risks. While conservatives persistently argue that allowing transgender people to choose the bathroom they use puts women and children in danger, this rhetoric has never been accurately backed up with substantial evidentiary data—it’s simply a political football.

Governor Little also signed a bill into law in March 2022 modelled after the highly controversial Texan “fetal heartbeat” bill, which bans abortions after about six weeks, making Idaho the first state to follow the controversial statute which allows private citizens to enforce the restrictions with lawsuits.

Gender-affirming care for trans youth will now be criminalised

The Idaho Senate has also moved to pass a bill which will criminalise gender-affirming care for trans youth. On 27 March, the Idaho Senate voted 22-12 to pass an amended version of House Bill 71 with all seven Democrats and five Republicans voting against it, as reported by the Idaho Capital Sun.

Coined the “Vulnerable Child Protective Act” by its sponsors, the bill would ban puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries. It would also make it a felony for any medical practitioner to help a minor seek gender-affirming treatment.

Democrat and Senator Melissa Wintrow, told the publication that House Bill 71 is the “hardest bill” she has seen on the Senate floor. If passed, the politician said that the bill would harm the mental health of transgender youth.

Wintrow also noted that she has spoken with several physicians in the state and who’ve explained that the legislation would result in them having to move elsewhere, out of fear of helping their patients.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently tracking 435 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills in the US.

Gender Recognition Certificate cost cut from £140 to £5. How will it impact transgender citizens?

The UK Government has today, 4 May, delivered on its pledge to reduce the fee of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) from the hefty price of £140 to just £5. The GRC means that for certain things that are controlled by law (such as pensions, marriage and prisons) you may be treated as the gender of your birth certificate regardless of your actual gender identity. Gender recognition allows you to change your legal gender from male to female or from female to male. Here’s everything you need to know about the recent change and how it will impact transgender citizens.

In response to recent consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, the minister for women and equalities, Liz Truss, decided upon modernising the process of applying for a GRC, reducing the price being one big change—as data had shown from the National LGBTQ survey, the price of application in the past, was one issue holding transgender people back from obtaining their GRA.

As publicly announced by Truss, “In the National LGBT Survey, 34% of transgender people told us that the cost of applying for a certificate was holding them back from doing so. Today we have removed that barrier, and I am proud that we have made the process of getting a certificate fairer, simpler and much more affordable.”

What will people applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate have to do now?

The existing rules state that to legally change one’s gender, a two-year waiting period is still required as well as a review by a specialist panel, and the additional £5 fee. Many LGBT campaigners still believe that the current system needs to change further, and have called for it to be replaced entirely with a simpler declaration and self-identification system instead. The application process is also due to be moved online, saving travel and unnecessary complications as well. That being said, there is a price to paperwork—even if the fee is £5, trans people will still be paying for gender changes on the documentation such as birth and marriage certificates.

Cara English, the Head of Public Engagement at trans awareness charity Gendered Intelligence said that the process still needs to be made “less invasive,” and that “Anyone applying for a GRC is still going to need to get a statutory declaration overseen by a solicitor, which can cost from £5 anywhere up to as much as £200,” she told inews, continuing that “there are medical reports from doctors and surgeons detailing any and all healthcare interventions taken to date are prepared at cost, and then shared with a panel of strangers who judge your application.”

Since 2005, a total of 5,871 GRCs have been granted, according to the latest official figures. The government has also estimated that there are somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 transgender people in the UK.

While the government is taking its first baby steps in making the process easier and cheaper, which in turn will welcome more applicants, there is still a lot more than needs to be done. Lee Clatworthy  from national transgender charity Sparkle told the BBC that the process remains “overly long-winded” and a reduction in cost “won’t compel more to apply.”

What gender changes can legally be made now?

Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004, UK adults can legally change their gender if they meet certain criteria. They are required to declare that they will live permanently in their acquired gender, they need a medical report of a gender dysphoria diagnosis and a medical report of any hormone treatment or surgery, including any planned treatments. They must also provide evidence that they have lived full time in their acquired gender for at least two years, such as copies of their passport and driving licence, and be over the age of 18.

The recent changes to the Gender Recognition Act bill will not affect laws in Northern Ireland, and Scotland will also make its own decisions. Much of the debate surrounding the decisions that are due to be made are in regards to women-only spaces such as toilets, changing rooms, domestic violence refuges and prisons. Under the Equality Act 2010, no one should be discriminated against because they are transgender, and legally changing your gender may still not guarantee entry to these single sex spaces.

This is a fundamentally an incremental system within society today, and one that is (in the grand scheme of things) only just beginning to gain momentum, which means big changes are due to happen regardless of the government’s timelines. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes unfurl.