How State Power Perpetuates Transphobic Violence

[Hear an in-depth discussion on this article and its topics in this episode of The Enragés]

The human rights of transgender people, and specifically of vulnerable transgender youth, are being systematically denied and dismantled all over the United States. To advance this violent oppression, the states and politicians in question use more than merely legislation and executive orders. Political actors who fear the freeing and transformative power of gender nonconformity employ pervasive propaganda which misleads the public about transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.

If you’re not especially familiar with the range of experiences transgender and non-binary people go through, now might be a great time to familiarize yourself with their struggles; as I’ve written about before, gender hierarchies in society are a form of coercive social control, and people who hold political and social power will be trying to deceive you about the lives and goals of trans people. If you wish to protect vulnerable people from abuses of state power, you should arm yourself with the information needed to combat insidious, state-funded, transphobic propaganda. People you love and trust may be taken in by this fearmongering, convinced to clamor for government to “protect” transgender youths from proven, effective medical treatments which drastically improve their medical outlook and life quality.

False assertions will be made, claiming that gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are being inappropriately prescribed at the behest of overzealous parents or rogue doctors. You’ll be told, without evidence, how young children are being “disfigured” in “sex change operations.” Self-interested politicians may even convince your friends or family that their own child has been forced or manipulated into adopting “ridiculous” pronouns or expressing a preferred name other than their given name.

These powerful manipulators want to obfuscate the truth: You can’t change someone’s experience of gender through force or manipulation — they’ve been trying for a long time — and viewing your child’s identity, pronouns, and expression as “ridiculous” will significantly increase their risk of death by suicide. As it has been established in study after study, receiving gender-affirming care such as HRT improves the quality of life of trans people. We know the effects of puberty blockers are completely reversible, and going through changes in puberty that match assigned gender rather than experienced gender can be an extended traumatic experience which stays with many trans people for a lifetime. Worse yet, if any entity is forcing transgender youth to undergo procedures they don’t really want, it is those states which require surgery as a condition of changing one’s state-mandated gender identifier.

A recent and egregious example comes from the state of Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are currently threatening the use of overwhelming state force to steal transgender youths away from their supportive families and deny them scientifically proven and safe medical treatments. The opinion from the Attorney General’s office declares that puberty blockers and HRT cause “mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning,” yet cites no scientific or medical basis on which to make this judgment. Without evidence, the opinion seems to assume treating gender dysphoria “can” cause such harm, and thus should always constitute “abuse” — a patently absurd reading, considering this law is not interpreted to categorically label spanking, circumcision, or refusal of lifesaving medical procedures as “abuse.”

If this opinion is enforced, it will have the effect of creating new law by interpretive fiat — law which specifically targets transgender youth for removal from their families, and placement in a foster system likely to kill them. This attempted mass-kidnapping is not informed by evidence, nor law, nor compassion. In truth, the reason this directive exists can only be this: both men are facing primary elections within the week. Politicians, their appointees, and their talking heads will continue to manipulate the public with unfounded fears about gender-affirming medicine as long as the strategy works. In order to prevent such manipulative abuses of power, it’s crucial to equip yourself and your loved ones with facts to counter the lies propagated by power-hungry tyrants. You may well save a life.

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