Moral panic about the LGBTQ+ community is nothing new, and the latest targeting of the transgender and genderqueer communities is only the latest extension of it. Conservatives are making plays in communities across the country to roll back rights for gay and transgender people, and the movement is slowly expanding into unexpectedly liberal communities.

Focusing on Transgender Communities

The current rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ+ people has focused almost exclusively on the transgender and gender queer communities, for understandable reasons. They are the low hanging fruit of the gay community, when it comes to legal and social protections and understanding.

Source: Wikimedia/QueerUpTheHistory

Many people, excluding far-right evangelical groups, have come to understand gay men and lesbians, and for many, the choice to accept these minority groups is a no-brainer. Transgender individuals and people who identify as gender queer, though, are significantly stranger to the majority of the population, making them an easy target for those looking to fearmonger about the LGBTQ+ population. 

Mostly in Conservative States

These pushes against the trans community have largely been restricted to states with conservative majorities, as well as conservative trinities in their government. States like Missouri and Florida have been passing anti-trans legislation in spades, seeking to restrict rights for trans people.

Source: Wikimedia/Phil Roeder

Of course, none of these laws are explicitly about restricting rights, if you hear conservatives explain them. Many of them seem relatively benign on the surface, but have significantly more dire consequences when looking a little deeper into the text of the bill. 

Changes in Florida

In Florida, one of these changes comes out of the DMV. A recent rule change by the DMV disallows Floridians from formally changing their gender or name on their license, if it doesn’t match their birth certificate.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

While this might seem like an ostensibly benign rule, crime statistics have shown that individuals who present as a different gender than their formal state paperwork are at higher risk of being attacked in anti-trans hate crimes. Additionally, it can cause significant gender dysphoria for these individuals, which can cause unforeseen mental health problems.

And in Missouri

In Missouri, more than 50 anti-trans laws have been passed since the beginning of the 2024 legislative session. The far-right majority in the state Congress has fallen victim to the moral panic surrounding trans people, and many of the bills that have been introduced have horrific potential consequences for transgender individuals.

Source: Wikimedia/KTrimble

One bill would allow pharmacists and nurses to refuse to dispense medication for individuals seeking gender affirming care. Another bill would force transgender youth who are already transitioning off their medication. Yet another bill would end all legal recognition of transgender individuals in the state altogether, echoing anti-trans laws that have passed in Russia and Hungary.

A Long Time Coming, Sadly

These moves against the trans community in America are horrific, but they’ve been coming for some time. Since gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court in 2015, some of the moralism surrounding gay men and lesbians have settled, leaving anti-LGBTQ+ activists looking for a new target.

Source: Wikimedia/Miyin2

These bills are not only being passed in conservative states, either. Members of the federal government have found themselves in far-right pockets spreading anti-trans rhetoric, and even in liberal states, there are conservative individuals doing their best to spread their bigoted rhetoric to stir up conservative bases.

Anti-Trans Rhetoric in California

The last place that anyone would expect anti-trans rhetoric to be spread is the deeply liberal state of California, but alas, it’s still happening. On March 16, a coalition of conservative organizations joined forces at Glory Church, a Korean church in downtown Los Angeles.

Source: Wikimedia/Downtown Los Angeles

The Pastor took the pulpit and preached. “America was a dream country to most Koreans, including me, 40 years ago. It was a country of freedom, a country of peace. Now America has changed a lot. Our child discusses about transgender with counselors, but parents do not know it. When parents know their children’s transgender operation plan, and they try to stop it, their child could be taken away.”

Supporters of “Parental Rights”

There were many leaders from a variety of faith-based organizations and groups that support so-called “parental rights” at this meeting. Outside, in the parking lot, there were a handful of right-wing organizers dressed in black, including some members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys.

Source: Wikimedia/Brainy J

The gathering was called the Time to Stand Rally, and the goal of the gathering was to collect signatures for a series of anti-trans initiatives that conservatives hope will make it onto the California ballot in November. 

Banning Gender-Affirming Care

The three initiatives, which conservatives have referred to as the Protect Kids act, would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth statewide, bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports and using the girls’ restroom or locker room, and require schools to notify parents if a child says that they’re transgender.

Source: Wikimedia/Quinn Dombrowski from Berkeley, USA

Each initiative needs a total of 546,651 signatures by the end of April for the proposals to qualify as ballot measures in the general election. As of this writing, it’s unclear the amount of support that any of the measures have, but the committee sponsoring the initiatives had gathered $82,629 as of January.

Pushing False Narratives

Supporters of the initiatives have pushed common false narratives espoused by conservatives across the country in advocating for the measures. They claim that students are being allowed to secretly undergo medical gender transitions at schools without parent’s permission or even their knowledge.

Source: Wikimedia/Esquerda

“You cannot wait until it is your child being ripped away from your arms by the California government, so get out there and promote the Protect Kids ballot measures, and speak up,” said Chloe Cole. 

Long-Shot Initiatives

Cole is a 19-year-old anti-trans advocate, who came to regret undergoing gender-affirming care after transitioning as a minor. She’s become a huge advocate of the anti-trans movement as a whole, and has spoken at various meetings across the country in support of anti-trans legislation.

Source: Wikimedia/Dirk Hansen

These anti-trans initiatives are a long shot in deep blue California. The Golden State has some of the strongest civil protections for its citizens, particularly for LGBTQ+ people and those seeking gender-affirming care and abortion from out of state. Of course, there are conservative pockets across the state, and it’s these groups of conservatives who are looking for loopholes to roll back protections for gay and transgender people across the state.

Conservatives Losing Big in Local Elections

The effort to push anti-trans legislation in California comes after conservatives in Southern California saw significant losses in local school board elections recently. Local elections have become the battleground for culture war fights, and in California, conservatives are losing.

Source: Wikimedia/Federico Mata

Various conservative individuals lost school board elections, and are facing recalls in various counties after facing criticism for bigoted policies. Despite not winning seats on school boards or local office, these individuals still have support of disgruntled conservative Californians, and they’re seeking to achieve their goals another way. 

Ballot Initiatives Have Worked Before

The ballot initiative strategy for shoving through bills to the California public is not a new playbook. Back in 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state shortly after it had been legalized and signed into law earlier that year.

Source: Wikimedia/Charlie Nguyen from Berkeley

Many gay advocates believe that Prop 8 passed due to confusing language on the ballot, which is a mistake that LGBTQ+ advocates vow won’t happen again. Rob Bonta, California’s Attorney General, has referred to the proposed measures collectively as the “Restrict Rights of Transgender Youth” initiative, making clear what the campaign strategy will be regarding these potential ballot measures.

A Chilling Movement

Whether or not these propositions ultimately make their way onto the general election ballot in California, the movement is one that pro-LGBTQ+ advocates should be on the lookout for. Despite the fact that they’re pushing false narratives that have no basis in fact or evidence, anti-trans groups and advocates don’t appear to be going anywhere, even in California.

Source: Wikimedia/Willow Taylor Chiang Yang

Anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric might not be popular at the polls, according to data, but they’re still having a chilling effect on queer youth. Protecting them means looking out for their rights and lives before said rights are taken away, which means that advocates have to buckle up, and dig deep for the youth.