In a groundbreaking report released last month, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) connects the dots on the varied ways that LGBTQ people are under siege from a targeted and coordinated campaign to undermine equality and ultimately erase them from public life.
The comprehensive report, Under Fire: The War on LGBTQ People in America, is the first in a new series from MAP. Together, the series makes clear that, despite significant policy advances for LGBTQ equality over the last decade, LGBTQ people are facing an unprecedented firestorm of attacks on all fronts.
While public attention often lands on a particular type of anti-LGBTQ legislation or handful of hostile states, the report outlines the ways that opponents of LGBTQ equality are working systematically across the country, in legislatures, schools, and in the media to erase LGBTQ people from society.
Last year saw a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills (315 bills) introduced in state legislatures, and 2023 has already exceeded that number. For comparison, the number of anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in just the first two months of 2023 is more than the anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in all of 2012, 2013, and 2014 combined.
“The sheer number of fronts on which LGBTQ people are experiencing attacks, alongside the breadth, speed, and cruelty of those attacks, make this current moment incredibly challenging for LGBTQ people and their families,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project.
“Individual policy issues like school censorship bills and bans on transgender youth playing sports have captured national attention, but seeing these as individual flash points misses the larger context of the furious and coordinated attacks on LGBTQ people,” said Naomi Goldberg, Deputy Director and LGBTQ Policy Director at MAP.
These attacks are resulting in hostility, harassment and violence targeting both LGBTQ people and supporters as they move through their daily lives.
The report provides a comprehensive look at hundreds of political attacks—such as mass censorship efforts to erase LGBTQ youth and content from schools; criminalizing medical care and transition for transgender people; a viscous public narrative that falsely demonizes LGBTQ people as “groomers;” and government tactics that silence, financially penalize and even criminalize those who support equality for LGBTQ people.
Snapshots from the Report
- Rapid spike in political attacks since 2019: The past three years alone saw the first-ever legislative bans on transgender youth participating in sports and the first-ever bans on best practice medical care for transgender youth. In 2019 there were no state laws banning transgender youth from participating in school sports, but by the end of 2022 these bans existed in 18 states.
- Banning even social transition: states are seeking to ban parents and schools from supporting transgender youth when they socially transition, which can include name or pronoun changes and clothing changes. In 2022 the Texas Attorney General called for child abuse investigations into the parents of transgender youth who supported their child’s social transition.
- School censorship: The first “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” laws emerged in the 1980s, but states began rescinding those laws in 2005 for a downward trend until last year. Now, more LGBTQ school censorship bills are currently on the books than in 1991, and bills to censor what schools can say about LGBTQ people and issues have now been introduced in every state.
- Criminalizing and banning health care for transgender youth: Since 2020, 37 states have considered banning transition-related care for transgender youth. Four states currently ban this care. In Alabama a doctor could face felony charges for providing or even making a referral for transition care for transgender youth, even though this care follows the best practice care guidelines from the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization.
- Banning gender affirming care and refusing care for LGBTQ people: Nine states explicitly ban coverage of gender-affirming care in state health insurance plans, including Medicaid. These bans are in direct conflict with nondiscrimination protections in the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, one in eight LGBTQ people live in a state where a doctor can refuse them health care if the doctor says it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Several states are now considering bills that would prohibit transition-related health care for transgender adults between the ages of 18-25.
- Barriers to accurate identity documents: Several states are making it more difficult for transgender and non-binary people to obtain accurate identity documents. In Montana, Oklahoma and Tennessee, transgender people are not allowed to update their birth certificate to match their gender identity. Twelve states require proof of gender-affirming surgery in order to change the gender marker on a birth certificate, even as gender-affirming care is under attack.
- Eroding democracy: Politicians are working to change the rules of our democracy that make it more difficult to have free and fair elections where anti-LGBTQ politicians can be held accountable. With voting rights rolled back in too many states, it becomes more difficult to elect leaders who reflect the values of the majority of Americans in favor of LGBTQ equality. The states with the fewest protections for LGBTQ people also have the most limitations on voting rights.
- Impact of political attacks: Efforts to dehumanize LGBTQ people have real world consequences. A 2023 study from The Trevor Project found that 86 percent of transgender or non-binary youth said that debates about anti-transgender bills have negatively impacted their mental health. A violent plot to attack a pride event in Idaho was thwarted by law enforcement. Hospitals that provide gender affirming care to transgender youth have faced bomb threats and individual doctors have been threatened. A mass shooter killed several people at an LGBTQ bar and community center in Colorado. Overall LGBTQ people face high rates of harassment and violence because of who they are.
“An overwhelming majority of Americans consistently support LGBTQ equality but aren’t yet aware of the scope and scale of how that equality is being swiftly eroded. Despite the recent signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, it’s not just the ability to marry who you love that is at stake, it’s the ability of LGBTQ people to simply exist that is under fire,” said Mushovic.
Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) is an independent, nonprofit think tank with a mission to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communication to help speed the achievement of equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.