About 200 people gathered at the Ohio capitol building on Nov. 6 to protest against proposed anti-transgender legislation. Transgender activists with Party for Socialism and Liberation – Columbus organized the gathering in response to the recent introduction of House Bill 454, which its authors call the SAFE Act, standing for “Save Adolescents From Experimentation.” HB 454 would effectively outlaw any and all gender-affirming care for minors in the state of Ohio.
Adult members of the LGBTQ community showed strong opposition to HB 454, along with dozens of supportive families raising LGBTQ youth who depend on gender-affirming medical care. The assembled crowd marched around the capitol building in numbers sufficient to fill more than a city block, with virtually zero counter-protesters showing opposition.
“Which system is attacking trans kids? Which system is leading an assault on people’s healthcare?” asked Shenby G of PSL Columbus. “It’s the same system that is waging war against the poor … the same system that is bombing, starving and attacking the children of other nations. This capitalist-imperialist system does not value the lives of kids.”
Specific language in HB 454 includes:
- prohibition against hormone blockers for gender dysphoria prior to the age of 18
- prohibition against cross-sex hormones for youth experiencing gender dysphoria prior to the age of 18
- prohibition against counselors and educators from concealing or encouraging adolescents to conceal their feelings of gender dysphoria from their parents
- prohibition against referrals for medicalized treatments for minors with gender dysphoria
- prohibition against Medicaid from covering the cost of sex reassignment surgery for minors
- prohibition against any requirement for private insurers to cover medicalized treatments for gender dysphoria in adolescents
The bill and its proponents claim that adolescents are being harmed by a new “transgender ideology” and are being subject to “experimental” treatments. In reality, gender-affirming medical care for minors is well studied, and providing gender-affirming care for adolescents is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and most other relevant organizations.
Long-term studies show that gender-affirming care for minors is safe and drastically improves short and long-term outcomes. Under some circumstances, transgender youth are up to 50% less likely to commit suicide if they receive gender-affirming healthcare. Pediatricians, pediatric psychologists and endocrinologists overwhelmingly agree that gender-affirming care is necessary and life-sustaining for transgender youth.
HB 454 paints a picture to the contrary; however, almost none of the bill’s sponsors and co-sponsors have any relevant expertise in medicine or in gender-affirming care. One of them is a former school principal, one is a wealthy real-estate mogul, many are capitalists who employ small-town Ohioans at near-poverty wages and several others have degrees in Bible studies from religious colleges. With the exception of two politicians who have degrees in nursing, none of those whose names are attached to the bill have any experience or expertise that would qualify them to contradict a near-unanimous medical consensus.
A number of the sponsors have received campaign funds from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing lobbying group controlled and operated by conservative politicians and private sector executives. This organization drafts “model legislation” for right-wing movements and has opposed LGBTQ liberation movements since the 1980s. A number of anti-trans bills around the United States, as well as many of the abortion bans currently in the works in states like Texas, have been authored by ALEC.
Underneath a facade of faith-based extremism, which they use to justify their anti-LGBTQ beliefs as “religious freedom,” these politicians are driven by the interests of profit and capital. In addition to receiving funds from ALEC and similar conservative lobbying groups, there is long-term economic incentive for capitalist politicians to deny LGBTQ youth access to healthcare. In a society like the one in which we currently live — a capitalist society based on inequality — rigid gender roles serve to create a hierarchical structure within the home that emulates the hierarchical structure of society at large.
Whereas many pre-modern societies recognized some forms of gender variation or non-conformity as a natural and normal form of human expression, capitalist society seeks to restrict gender expression in order to restrict the freedoms of women, children and non-men in general. Within a Marxist framework of analysis, HB 454 can be best understood as a reactionary attempt to reinforce a binary concept of gender and the hierarchical society that necessarily stems from this binary.
Despite the attempts of reactionary politicians to enforce their hateful agenda, Columbus remains a stronghold of LGBTQ culture and organizing. The message protesters sent to the State of Ohio was clear: LGBTQ workers stand in solidarity with LGBTQ kids, and won’t allow vulnerable children to be neglected and erased.
Feature photo: Protesters rally against anti-trans legislation in Columbus, Ohio. Photo credit: Paul Becker