Professor Toby Beauchamp is interviewed by Jody Heckel for the Illinois News Bureau about the rise in anti-trans legislation across the United States.
Why are we now seeing so many states with proposed bills seeking to restrict the actions of transgender people or regulate issues related to them?
We are living in a time of rising authoritarianism, in the U.S. and globally. When organized white nationalist and fascist groups converge on Pride events with weapons and threats – as in Dallas and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, this summer – it is an overt, violent reminder that authoritarian systems operate in part through strict gender and sexual norms. Those norms are inextricable from white supremacist ideologies of racial purity. Because queer and trans people disrupt norms like the heterosexual nuclear family and the binary gender system, we represent a threat to authoritarian control.
Other factors may further explain the specific focus on trans people. First, with increased visibility comes increased scrutiny and targeting. Second, the surge of anti-trans bathroom bills began shortly after federal recognition of same-sex marriage, which suggests that as non-trans lesbian, gay and bisexual people gained broader support, opponents pivoted to attack trans people specifically. Additionally, during its focus on marriage and military rights, the mainstream gay movement largely refused to prioritize trans communities, leaving them more susceptible to attack. Finally, there is a massive amount of misinformation and disinformation being weaponized against trans people.