Michigan trans youth need solidarity in struggle against Republican attacks
Confronting the Trumpites: Torin Hodgman talks to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during her visit the Museum School at the Grand Rapids Public Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich., on May 29, 2018. Hodgman wore the transgender flag to stand up for transgender people and send a message that public schools are a place for all students. The Michigan trans community is facing a fresh legislative assault from Republicans in the state capitol. | Neil Blake / The Grand Rapids Press via AP

The Michigan LGBTQ community needs solidarity from activists in the struggle for equal rights, bodily autonomy, and gender-affirming healthcare. In the state of Michigan, Republican lawmakers have recently proposed a new anti-trans bill that is a direct threat to transgender people, children, and families, as it would see parents and medical professionals possibly face life in prison for providing gender-affirming care to minors.

This legislative attack is a cruel attempt to maintain the dominance of a patriarchal and heteronormative agenda. This bill not only blocks gender-affirming and transitionary procedures, but would also apply to hormone treatments and puberty blockers. If passed, providing such treatment would be a punishable offense classified as child abuse in the first degree, which is a more severe punishment than intentional neglect and harm to minors.

Teens already undergoing treatments would be forced to stop upon passage and be mandated to de-transition, a situation almost guaranteed to increase mental health problems, crises, and the possible suicide attempts among transgender children, teens, and people. As for those who offer compassionate care, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Beyond the health front, there is another attack on transgender students in a budget bill—banning trans athletes from competing on K-12 school sports teams in accord with their gender identity. This assault on civil rights targets mostly transgender female athletes, as it is not only rooted in transphobia, but patriarchal violence as well. Children should not have to face bullying, segregation, and oppression from the adults who are supposed to accept them and care for them.

A movement is needed to pressure elected officials, such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, to oppose and veto these transphobic bills and to stick up for vulnerable students. That means community activists, equality organizers, and the left have to hold them accountable.

White supremacy and anti-gay rhetoric are built into so many of our systems—from healthcare to education—and they leave little room for the freedoms and basic rights that all people should have, including gender nonconforming people. It should never be a criminal offense to enable children and teens the ability to enjoy the freedom to be who they are and to accept them and love them as such.

These legislative efforts will not stop queerness or transgender people from existing, but they will contribute to a world of panic exposing the LGBTQ community, especially Black trans women, to the possibility of further harm, brutality, and even murder.

The Michigan proposal mimics the efforts of anti-trans politicians in several other states who’ve passed their own similar laws, including Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas. It also coincides with the anti-choice movement’s assault on reproductive freedom, which affects not only women, but gender non-conforming people as well.

These two struggles are interconnected, which is why both movements must show up together to confront such neo-fascist efforts of oppression and elimination politics. The far right demonizes women, the LGBTQ community, and the right to bodily autonomy as a strategy to mobilize its base. Evangelical Christian legislators are weaponizing racism, transphobia, male supremacy, and misogyny against marginalized groups of people as a tool to win elections.

This war on women and the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender women, is all part of a game plan to incite further violence and disunity. Since the defeat of Trump and the Republicans in the 2020 election, right-wing leaders will stop at nothing to reclaim power nationally and hold onto it locally where they already have it.

Instead of prioritizing the needs of the people amidst the ongoing pandemic and rising inflation, Republican lawmakers use bills like the one in Michigan to distract from the work they’re doing on behalf of the ruling class. To combat their divisiveness, it is vital to build solidarity in the form of a united front within the people’s struggles and to understand where each struggle intersects, such as the fight for reproductive freedom and the fight for equal civil rights for the LGBTQ community.

In 2021, a record number of anti-trans proposals made their way into law around the country, some 110 bills in 37 states. Often, Republicans never even use the word “transgender” in their legislation, as naming their target would take away from their goal to erase whole group of people.

Playing defense and fighting to block anti-trans bills is necessary, of course, but it’s not enough. There also has to be a fight to pass protective legislation, such as the Equality Act, for the LGBTQ community, including transgender minors. If this law was enacted, it would provide the necessary protections to fight against prejudice in many different systems, such as employment, education, and housing.

Oppression must be resisted with a united struggle anywhere and everywhere that it arises—that’s what’s required to save democracy for the working class and all marginalized peoples. To truly win the working class struggle, the movement must be committed to fighting and mobilizing against transphobia within communities and workplaces; in legislation statewide and nationally; and within unions, mass organizations, and all other shared spaces.

To win equal rights and civil liberties for all, activists cannot sit back in silence as these dangerous forces initiate attacks on transgender people. There is an extreme need to support the right to exist, to gender self-determination, and to gender-affirming healthcare. Transgender people deserve equal rights, protection, and a life free of discrimination and violence.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


Sammie Lewis
Sammie Lewis

Activist Sammie Lewis is a member of the Detroit CPUSA. She organizes and speaks on local struggles over housing and racist policing, as well as against U.S. imperialism and U.S. military intervention abroad.