How Georgia Fails to Protect Transgender Youth
Georgia lawmakers are creating legislation that targets, dehumanizes and terrorizes its transgender community.
On June 26, 2020, the Governor signed into law HB 426, more colloquially known as the Hate Crimes Bill. Georgia was one of the last states to adopt a hate crimes bill. While this bill was a step in the right direction for the rights of racial, gender, and sexual minorities, Georgia continues to violate the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, especially the transgender community.
Protecting the transgender community by designating them as a protected class under a non-discrimination bill remains a contentious topic in Georgia. Notoriously in 2016, a Georgia lawmaker opposed the inclusion of “sex” in a non-discrimination bill to deny transgender Georgians legal protection. The exclusion of terms like gender identity and sex in non-discrimination or hate crimes legislation omits transgender people from legal protection.
Transgender youth are an especially vulnerable demographic in need of legal protection. 77% of transgender youth have reported experiencing some sort of mistreatment at school. Transgender youth have also reported suffering from attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders, and depressive disorders at a higher rate than their cisgender peers. In 2019, The Trevor Project reported that 54% of transgender youth have considered attempting suicide and 29% have attempted suicide.
During the 2020 legislative session, two bills specifically targeted transgender youth: HB 747 and HB 1060.
HB 747, or the Student Athlete Protection Act, aimed to ban transgender athletes participating in individual sports– such as track and field and tennis– from using the public facilities at a sporting event.
This ban would have affected nearly all transgender student-athletes. According to the bylaws of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), if the sport is not co-ed, all student-athletes must play on a team that reflects the sex on their birth certificate. To change their designated sex on a birth certificate, Georgians must undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS). Few transgender youths meet this qualification as medical professionals do not recommend transgender youth get SRS until after they turn 18 and complete hormone replacement therapy.
The Republican State Representative who authored HB 747, told the AJC that he wrote the bill because he wanted, “to make sure every student had the opportunity to compete fairly.”
HB 1060, or the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, planned to further restrict transgender youth’s rights. The bill made it a felony for healthcare professionals to administer gender-affirming healthcare to transgender youth, including reversible treatments like hormone replacement therapy.
HB 1060 deteriorates the already substandard healthcare afforded to transgender people. According to the U.S. Transgender Survey, a third of transgender people who sought healthcare had at least one negative experience related to their gender identity. Additionally, 23% of transgender people do not seek medical care due to fear of being mistreated because of their gender identity.
Medical professionals are also not equipped to effectively provide gender-affirming care. 50% of respondents to a 2011 national survey on transgender discrimination said that they had to instruct their medical provider on how to provide appropriate care.
With the increased visibility of the transgender community, there is an increased need for accurate and effective gender-affirming care. The only other states that have introduced legislation similar to HB 1060 are Alabama and Florida., While progress on transgender healthcare and research has been made in the last 20 years, more progress is still needed.
Legislation like HB 1060 is a threat to the autonomy of transgender youth, their families, healthcare providers and medical researchers.
The Republican representative who authored HB 1060 justified its contents by saying, “We’re talking about children who can’t get a tattoo or smoke a cigar or a cigarette in the state of Georgia but can be castrated and sterilized.”
The representative ignores that medical doctors do not recommend SRS surgery to minors.
Georgia is home to one of the largest transgender communities in the United States. The transgender community deserves protection under the fullest extent of the law. While both HB 747 and HB 1060 died during the 2020 legislative session, they show a concerted effort to invalidate the lives of young transgender Georgians and the progress that still needs to be made in Georgia and across the country.