* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.The United States will be stronger when everyone is welcome, safe and can contribute and succeed.
Emily Tisch Sussman is the host of the podcast ‘Your Political Playlist’ and Sarah Kate Ellis is president and chief executive of GLAAD
This Pride month marks six years since marriage equality was legalized across the whole of the United States. A record number of Americans now support it. A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that LGBT+ workers should be protected from discrimination. Members of Gen Z – or people born after 1997 – identify as LGBT+ at higher rates than any previous generation.
These are undeniable signs of visibility, acceptance and progress. But progress is rarely a straight line forward, nor is it permanent.
Opponents are focusing their efforts on legislation that undermines equality for transgender Americans and put their lives — especially the lives of trans youth — in danger. Together, we recently sat down on Sussman’s podcast, Your Political Playlist, and broke down the far right extremists’ newest culture war on trans kids and the importance of passing the Equality Act, a pro-LGBT+ rights piece of legislation, as a federal solution to these state level attacks.
Already, 2021 is on track to be the worst year in history for legislative attacks on LGBT+ people. More than 250 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, including 144 anti-trans bills. Already, eight states have enacted discriminatory bans against transgender children participating in school sports.
Lawmakers in those states perpetuate the lie that if trans girls are allowed to play sports, women's sports as we know it will cease to exist. This leap in logic holds no truth. Trans people have already been included in sports in more than a dozen states, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and will take part in this year’s Olympics.
Research shows MORE girls participate in sports in states that include trans participation. Lawmakers introducing these bills failed to identify a single instance in which a trans girl athlete competed unfairly. Every major medical association has issued statements against these bills, that gender-affirming care is safe and saves lives, that trans students should be allowed to play sports, that all kids benefit when all are included.
As the lead lobbyist working to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell 10 years ago, Sussman saw how the rights of capable individuals who serve openly were ignored as opponents focused on the repeal’s potential impact on straight people. Too often, so-called conservatives advocate on behalf of the majority normative society and not for the marginalized communities at risk for simply being who they are.
Transgender youth must be protected and supported. An overwhelming majority of Americans already believe it is illegal to discriminate against LGBT+ people, despite it still being legal in nearly 30 states. This need for protection and support for laws that provide it make an ironclad case for the Equality Act. It secures into law the core American value and founding promise of equal treatment. Every Senator should hear from constituents urging them to pass it. Senators must hear from all of us that the time for equality is now.
Just as our military was strengthened when LGBT+ people could finally serve openly, our country is stronger when all are welcome, safe and can contribute and succeed. Passing the Equality Act not only protects LGBT+ youth, it is a step toward a more just and more prosperous future for all of us.