The 2023 legislative session is underway, and lawmakers are targeting trans and queer youth with harmful legislation across the nation. North Carolina is no exception, with bills like SB49 and HB43 aiming to take away the rights of LGBTQ+ youth. But no one can legislate the trans and queer community out of existence, and our youth deserve to grow up in a world where their identities are not constantly under attack. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is on the rise across the nation, with trans youth becoming lawmakers’ most frequent target. In fact, more anti-trans legislation was filed in 2022 than ever before in the history of the country. The trend continues in 2023, with more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the first two months of the year. Anti-trans bills target the rights of trans youth from every angle. Harmful legislation aims to stop trans girls and women from participating in sports, to ban trans youth from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender, and to block access to gender-affirming healthcare. 

From what we’ve seen this legislative session so far, it appears that North Carolina could be headed back down the route of HB2, the anti-trans bathroom bill passed in 2016. The bills introduced by Republican lawmakers this year are dangerous to trans youth and target their fundamental rights. 

For example, HB43 would ban trans youth from receiving gender-affirming care, which is vital to their physical and mental health and well-being. SB49 is another version of the notorious “Don’t Say Gay” bill introduced in Florida. This is the second time that North Carolina lawmakers have tried to get this type of bill passed, with the state’s first version HB755 filed during last year’s legislative session. The newly-introduced bill would ban instruction on gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms and subject trans students to forced outing in the classroom. 

Lawmakers frame any and all policies that would affirm the identities of LGBTQ+ youth as not “age appropriate” or as “sexualizing” children. Yet, they are the ones who want to stop queer and trans youth from living their lives like other kids. They are taking away the chance for these kids to have formative experiences in school and in sports. And they are trying to prevent them from living as their true selves by blocking access to gender-affirming care. 

For proof that the GOP is targeting queer and trans children, look no further than our schools, which are becoming spaces for elected officials to push their bigoted anti-LGBTQ+ agendas. In February, the New Hanover County school board reversed a trans-inclusive athletics policy. The amended policy bans trans middle school kids from playing the sport that matches their gender. 

We know that anti-LGBTQ+ policies directly harm the mental health and well-being of queer and trans youth, who are already disproportionately at risk for adverse mental health outcomes like suicidal ideation and depression. Recent polling from the Trevor Project’s found that 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health. When lawmakers come after our youth, they are inflicting direct harm and threatening their very lives.

Put simply, extremist lawmakers are trying to erase our communities in North Carolina and beyond. And they are targeting the most vulnerable in our community – our kids. That’s why no matter how many times lawmakers beg us not to “say gay,” we cannot and will not be silent. When they attack our youth, they attack all of us. Join us in the fight to protect queer and trans kids and to build a better future where they can live fully and freely as themselves. 

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