This year’s legislative session has issued some severe challenges and devastating losses. With the recent passage of Senate Bill 20, an egregious 12-week abortion ban that includes near-insurmountable barriers to abortion at all stages, we are feeling the impact of increasing attacks on our civil rights and liberties.
The attempts to limit bodily autonomy and personal freedoms do not stop with abortion. Those same politicians who are trying to erase our access to reproductive health care are also targeting the rights of transgender people to exist in public spaces and receive critical gender-affirming health care.
The “crossover” deadline was May 4, meaning that all bills introduced in one chamber had to pass in that chamber and cross over to the other by that date in order to be considered in this legislative session. Among those bills that crossed over are several targeting transgender youth and adults. Here are the ones to watch out for:
Limitations on Gender Affirming Care
House Bill 808 would make it illegal for doctors to perform gender-affirming surgery on minors. While the most harmful provisions of this bill — ones that blocked trans youth from accessing critical health care services, such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy — have been removed, this bill relies on misinformation about transgender health care and serves only to stir up transphobic rhetoric. Additionally, legislators added an amendment banning state funding for any “gender transition procedures,” which could prevent trans youth from accessing broader gender-affirming health care if they have state-funded insurance.
Gender-affirming care is evidence-based and medically necessary. Transgender youth who are affirmed in their gender through supportive families and medical providers have health outcomes comparable to their non-transgender peers. By contrast, when denied treatment and affirmation, transgender youth experience high rates of suicidality and negative health outcomes. Trans youth deserve to access the health care they need to lead full, healthy lives.
Restrictions on Transgender Participation in Sports
Several different bills have been introduced in both chambers that would require participation in school team sports to be based on “biological sex,” essentially preventing transgender students from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity, including Senate Bill 631 and House Bill 574. Each of these bills defines “biological sex” as “based solely on the student's reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”
HB 574 also bans trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, but goes even further as it extends the biological sex requirements to higher education, including the UNC system, community colleges, and private universities in North Carolina. Additionally, while SB 631 only forbids trans women from participating on women’s sports teams, HB 574 also excludes trans men from participating in men’s sports.
Senate Bill 636 included a similar ban on trans students’ participation in sports, but that section has been removed from the current version. However, the bill changes the way high school sports are governed. Currently, official rules and standards for high school sports are determined by the NCHSAA, a nonprofit with a Board of Directors made up of school and athletic administrators statewide. This bill would remove authority from the NCHSAA and give it to the state Board of Education, allowing the state to implement harsher rules for trans athletes.
Trans students participate in sports for the same reasons other young people do: to challenge themselves, improve fitness, and be part of a team. Efforts to ban trans students from participating in sports that align with their gender identity jeopardize their mental health, physical well-being and ability to access educational opportunities comparable to their peers.
Transgender Discrimination in Schools
All students, including LGBTQ students, just want to be safe at school. Senate Bill 49 forces educators to push children who confide in them to share that information with their parents, and in some cases requires the teachers to notify the parents, even if they know the parents will not be supportive. It specifically requires school officials to notify parents if their child is choosing to go by a different name or pronoun at school, effectively outing students against their will. The bill also unnecessarily stigmatizes conversations about gender and sexuality in primary schools, which are already not in the curriculum.
Building trusted relationships with teachers is a foundational part of a child’s education. Requiring school employees to categorically out students who question their gender identity is a serious violation of student privacy. While many parents are supportive, this bill puts students at risk who fear mistreatment from disapproving parents. It also drives young people away from trusted adults with whom they may feel more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects.
These bills demonstrate a coordinated campaign to ostracize trans youth and push them out of public life. But they won’t stop youth from being trans, they will only make it harder for trans kids to access the support, education and community that all young people deserve. The combination of these attacks — in schools, in sports, in healthcare — leave many trans youth with few places to turn for support.
We will continue to monitor the progress of these bills and push back against anti-transgender discrimination in the legislature. The ACLU of North Carolina is part of a national movement to prevent further harm to the LGBTQ community. We believe in a person’s right to bodily autonomy, and we will work in the courts, in the legislature, and in the streets to secure these fundamental freedoms.