Featured Article: “G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push a Growing Wave of Anti-Transgender Bills” by Maggie Astor (Note: You can also listen to this article.)
Over the past three years, Republican state lawmakers have put forward a barrage of bills to regulate the lives of transgender youths, restricting the sports teams they can join, bathrooms they can use and medical care they can receive.
But even by those standards, the 2023 legislative season stands out for the aggressiveness with which lawmakers are pushing into new territory, writes Maggie Astor.
In her piece, published Jan. 25, she reported that there were more than 150 anti-transgender bills proposed in at least 25 state legislatures. By mid-April, there were more than 400 bills in at least 45 states. At least 29 of those bills have become law.
What is in these bills? Why are they being introduced? Who is behind them? And what are the implications for the lives of transgender people? In this lesson we invite students to explore these questions broadly and then share their reactions in our related Student Opinion forum.
Part I: What’s going on in these maps?
Take a close look at the maps below from a Times article that was published on April 15. You can use the following questions to analyze them:
What do you notice? If you are making a claim, where in the graph is the evidence to support it?
What do you wonder?
How does this relate to you and your community?
What do you think is going on in this graph? Write a sentence to capture the maps’ main idea.
Part II: What have you seen or heard about this issue?
These maps show states with laws banning transition care for transgender youth, but there are a number of different laws related to transgender issues being proposed and passed in state legislatures across the country.
What are some of the laws you have heard about, if any? What do you know about them? In which states are they being introduced? Have any been proposed or passed in your state?
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read or listen to the article and then answer the following questions:
1. Ms. Astor writes that a “flood of legislation” regulating the lives of transgender youths has been put forward by state legislatures since the beginning of 2023. What are some of the subjects of these bills?
2. Why, according to the article, are these bills being introduced now?
3. Why does Ms. Astor characterize the potential consequences for transgender people as “profound”? Can you give an example from the article of how one of these bills might affect transgender people?
3. Who are the people pushing these laws? According to them, what is the motivation for this legislation? What evidence have they given to justify the need for these laws? How solid is their reasoning, in your opinion?
4. What do opponents think this legislation is about? What evidence do they have? How solid is it, in your opinion?
5. Casey Pick, who is now the director of law and policy at The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for L.G.B.T.Q. youths, said the political rhetoric among state lawmakers around transgender issues “filters through a constant media cycle on down to dining room tables and family holidays.” Have you witnessed the type of rhetoric you read about in this article in your own family, friend groups, school or community? How has it affected you, if at all?
Option 1: Learn more about the experiences of transgender Americans.
What is it like to live as a transgender person in the United States as these laws sweep across the country? To find out, you might want to read this conversation with 12 transgender Americans in the Opinion section or the article “Transgender Americans Feel Under Siege as Political Vitriol Rises” from December 2022.
Then journal about what you learned. What in these articles stood out to you? What challenged any assumptions you might have had about what it’s like to be transgender in America right now? What affirmed what you know? If you or someone close to you is transgender, you might write about your own experiences and the extent to which what you read in these articles resonated with you.
Option 2: Explore the legislation further.
Since Ms. Astor’s article was published on Jan. 25, hundreds more bills that seek to regulate the lives of transgender people have been proposed in state legislatures across the country and dozens have become law.
Where are we now? You might look at how legislation related to a particular issue is playing out across the country, or focus just on what it looks like in your local community. If you would like to start with Times coverage, we’ve provided some links below, but we encourage you to expand your research and make sure to consult your local news as well as a variety of other sources that feature a range of perspectives. You can find more on the Times Transgender issues topics page.
Here are some questions that might help you track what you’re learning:
What is happening around this issue? Who is affected? What are the implications?
What did you learn? What, if anything, surprised you? What questions do you have?
Who is making decisions related to this issue, nationally, in your community or both?
How are you seeing this issue show up in your own family, school or community, if at all?
What is your opinion of what you have learned? Why?
In March, Kentucky passed a bill that bans access to transition care for minors and puts limits on discussing gender and sexuality in schools. A ban on transition care also passed in Utah in January, and similar bills have been proposed in Nebraska and Montana. Here is an explainer on states’ moves to ban transgender health care for young people.
Missouri this month became the first state in the country to severely restrict gender-transitioning care for people of all ages. It follows a series of quieter moves across the country that have been chipping away at transgender adults’ access to medical care.
Participation in sports
The Biden administration on April 6 proposed a rule change that would allow schools to block some transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identities.
North Dakota on April 12 became the latest state to bar transgender girls and women from joining female sports teams, from kindergarten through college.
House Republicans on April 20 approved legislation that would bar transgender women and girls from participating in athletic programs designated for women, though the law has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed by President Biden.
Policies on discussing gender in schools
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida last year signed into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, known by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law constrains instruction on gender and sexuality, and it has been at the center of debate as book bans in schools surge across the country.
In March, the House approved legislation that would require schools to obtain parental consent to honor a student’s request to change gender-identifying pronouns. It has no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate or being signed by President Biden.
A bill signed into law in March in Tennessee makes staging “adult cabaret” on public property or anywhere a child could see it a criminal offense. While the bill doesn’t use the word “drag” explicitly, many in the state are still trying to grasp how the measure will ultimately affect drag events, theater performances that involve drag, and even transgender and gender nonconforming people as they go about their lives.
Option 3: Respond to our student forum.
Finally, once you’ve read one or more of the articles above, you might share your thoughts on our Student Opinion question: What is your reaction to the recent wave of legislation seeking to regulate the lives of transgender youths?
We invite teenagers to tell us what they have seen and heard in their own communities and to share how these bills could affect them and others their age.
Find more lesson plans and teaching ideas here.