a row of small trans flags along a curb
Trans pride flags. (Photo/Flickr-Ted Eytan CC BY-SA 2.0)

Trans Day of Visibility: Legal protections for trans people are long overdue

This Friday, March 31, is Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to uplift the accomplishments and stories of the trans community. And yet, this year as we face vilification, I am reminded that while visibility is important, it is not enough.

This Trans Day of Visibility arrives amid a storm of anti-trans legislation nationwide. Hundreds of proposed bills restrict access to basic human rights for trans and nonbinary people, many targeting youth. Legislation like this makes living in the U.S. increasingly dangerous for trans people.

In more than 20 states, anti-trans bills have been signed into law. There are health care bills preventing trans youth from receiving care despite the evidence that receiving gender-affirming care is life saving. There are public performance bills, also known as “drag bans,” that place restrictions on people who are gender nonconforming and push trans people out of public spaces.

There are also schooling bills, which force schools to misgender students and ban instruction on gender identity; sports bans that prevent athletes from playing on the team consistent with their gender; and sex-designation bills that make it harder for trans people to obtain legal documentation that matches their gender identity.

The Trans Formations Project updates a database daily with the movement of these bills, including by category, state and status. Every single one of these bills manifests hate.

In February, AB1314, which would amend section 51101 of the Education Code, was introduced in California. It would require that parents and guardians be notified within three days of school staff noticing a student identifying as a gender different from their sex assigned birth or using single gender facilities that appear to differ from their sex assigned at birth.

The claim by the right-wing lawmakers who introduced AB1314 is that it will build trust between schools and parents.

We know the truth: AB1314 disregards the safety and autonomy of trans, nonbinary, and gender-expansive students and forces them to suppress their identity, or worse. According to the Trevor Project, last year one in five transgender or nonbinary youth attempted suicide, with fewer attempts by youths who found their schools and communities to be LGBTQ+ affirming.

So what do we do? Pushing back against anti-trans legislation is crucial, but we also need to work for legal protections of trans people.

Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota recently signed an executive order that requires state agencies to protect people seeking gender-affirming health care within the state, as well as those who provide it. Several other states like New Hampshire, West Virginia and Maryland have bills in process that seek to help trans people, such as protecting those receiving or seeking gender-affirming care, making it easier for trans people to change their gender marker on legal documents so that it matches their gender identity, and making gender-affirming care more accessible and affordable.

We need to combat the onslaught of anti-trans bills in California and across the U.S. We must put in the work now, so that the bills that violently target trans people will fail. This means applying pressure to advance legislation that will increase safety and access for trans people.

We are long past neutrality, status quo and complacency. We must rise against sinat chinam, or  baseless hatred, in all its forms.

This Wednesday, March 29, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco is hosting a virtual event from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in honor of Trans Day of Visibility. A panel will discuss the power and importance of pro-trans legislation. Sha’ar Zahav trans and nonbinary committee member Franco Martinez will moderate. Cecilia Chung of the Trans Law Center, California State Sen. Scott Wiener, Rabbi Reuben Zellman, a local trans rabbi, and myself will make up the panel. Before the discussion begins, a brief gender-neutral evening service will take place, and we will hear personal stories of visibility.

This event will hold the duality of the moment: celebration and action. Let us come together as a community of trans and nonbinary people and allies in honor of Trans Day of Visibility to create sustainable change in a time that urgently needs it. There is power in showing up and learning. That, in and of itself, is a great first step toward being proactive in the movement to protect trans and nonbinary people.

So please, join us in community. We need all hands and all hearts on deck.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Rabbi Eliana Kayelle
Rabbi Eliana Kayelle

Rabbi Eliana Kayelle (they/them) is Keshet’s Bay Area Education and Training Manager. They believe in collective power and radical listening in order to work toward a future where there is liberation for all people.