On April 4, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed legislation that classifies the provision of gender-affirming care to minors in Idaho as a felony.

On April 5, Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb signed legislation, effective July 1, which will prohibit doctors from performing gender reassignment surgery on minors.

On April 19, the Florida Senate passed SB 254, criminalizing the provision of gender-affirming care to minors. This bill blocks all public funds for such care and allows for children to be taken away from parents providing this care.

That was just last month.

In total, nearly 500 bills restricting LGBTQ+ rights have been introduced in federal and state legislatures in 2023. That’s over four a day since the start of the year.

It’s tempting to imagine a great distance between ourselves and a regressive legal agenda — we’re in California, with a house and senate controlled by Democrats. There’s no way our human rights will get voted away, right?

Living in Santa Cruz, a microcosm known for being home to liberal and progressive college students, it’s easy to feel distanced from the ongoing news. Unless we perceive an impact on ourselves and our own communities, we shrug and shy away.

Yet, as we turn a blind eye, another wave of anti-LGBTQ+ policies is passed. Another Black trans woman goes missing. Another teenager is barred from using a bathroom or joining a sports team. Another heart-breaking statistic breaks yet another record.

It’s disappointing, but never surprising.

When we detach ourselves from this news, we write off the people who are most impacted by anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. There are hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals whose human rights are voted and signed away by so-called democratically elected leaders.

Though California is reported to have the nation’s largest population of LGBTQ+ residents, it is no reason to be disconnected from LGBTQ+ legislation elsewhere. Despite the common belief that California is a safe haven for LGBTQ+ individuals, violence and anti-LGBTQ+ politics cross state lines, impacting us all — especially our youth.

Earlier this year, California assembly members Bill Essayli and James Gallagher introduced AB 1314, which would mandate public school employees to notify parents if their children are transgender. Although AB 1314 is unlikely to make it through California’s deep blue house and senate, the near-silence from California media on this bill and others like it is concerning. It’s clear that we need to do better.

Ironically, lawmakers cite “concerns” about children as reasoning for these anti-LGBTQ+ bills. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If they truly cared about children, we’d all have access to the life-affirming care we need. All of our children deserve to grow up in a loving and thriving society.

The majority of trans and nonbinary youth lack supportive families, which usually leaves them powerless until they become of age and can sign off on medical access forms themselves. Growing up is tormentous enough without entire state governments signing away your humanity.

A 2022 study from The Trevor Project found that trans issues being made the subject of political debate had a negative impact on 86 percent of trans or nonbinary youth. 

Within the last year, nearly half of them seriously contemplated suicide. 

Read that again.

That’s one in two trans or nonbinary children who have seriously considered taking their own lives. Because of societal pressures to deny and alter their sense of self, because their lives are the subject of constant debate, and because they can’t access life-affirming healthcare and support. Unlike microdosing hormone replacement therapy or going on puberty blockers, that’s an irreversible decision.

While healthcare, financial support, shelter, and food to eat are important needs, a supportive environment to grow up in is integral to how you develop and grow as a person, confident in yourself and your identity. But a good number of these bills promise to take trans and nonbinary youth away from families that want them to live truthfully and proudly. A government antagonistic to trans and nonbinary issues cannot provide a supportive environment for these kids.

These anti-LGBTQ+ policies don’t keep our youth from being trans and nonbinary. Instead, they sentence entire communities to a tragic fate: a life without support, care from loved ones, nor trusted doctors.

It’s a life without the ability to truly live.

If we want to support LGBTQ+ youth, there’s still work that can be done. All across the United States, there are networks of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies putting their safety and security on the line to acquire material resources for those who can’t access them.

Instead of resigning ourselves to feelings of futility, let’s follow their lead.

Community Resources:

The Lionel Cantú Queer Center located at UCSC’s Merrill College provides a list of all-gender restrooms on campus, information about LGBTQIA+ counseling services, and guides to using correct pronouns. The Cantú Queer Center also provides support and resources for trans students in need of medical care, on or off campus.

The Santa Cruz Diversity Center queer youth social/support group happens weekly on Saturdays from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at 1117 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz. The first hour is the queer youth social, and the second is reserved for queer youth support group.

The Queer Youth Task Force of Santa Cruz County provides resources for LGBTQ+ youth, families, and the community. Adult allies interested in volunteering can get involved here.

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth. The Trevor Project’s call and text lines are fully confidential and free.

Connect to a crisis counselor from anywhere in the U.S. by texting “START” to the Trevor Project number at 678-678 or call 1-866-488-7386. You can also chat with crisis counselors from their website here.

The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists is an organization of journalists, media professionals, educators, and students working to provide fair and accurate coverage of LGBTQ issues. They provide resources including a stylebook and journalist’s toolbox for covering LGBTQ+ communities.