State Capitol building in Arizona

By Andrés Bautista

In the past few weeks, we have seen major attacks on trans students in Arizona. Most recently, state Rep. Nancy Barto released a proposal, co-sponsored by 22 other Republican House members, that would prevent trans women from playing on female sports teams. This would affect trans feminine students at the K-12 level, as well as in state universities. 

Republican lawmaker, Rep. John Fillmore, introduced three anti-trans bills; one of which seeks to damage trans students in the public school system. House Bill 2082 would allow for school employees to misgender and deadname students without repercussions, encouraging teachers to only use pronouns that correspond with a student’s birth certificate. Additionally, Sen. Sylvia Allen tried to introduce a bill banning discussions of homosexuality in sex education for youth under 12. These proposed bills are a continuation of attacks made on queer and trans students in Arizona and across the United States.

These attacks come as no surprise, and remind me of my own journey coming into my trans identity as a timid high school senior. That year, I had an openly homophobic teacher that would constantly challenge anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination policies in class, making statements like “Gay people are already protected by the Constitution. What more do they want?” and “Marriage is an archaic concept, I don’t know why gay people would want to get married anyway.” His behavior normalized anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments in the classroom, encouraging non-queer students from engaging in microaggressions against their queer and trans peers. They would make jokes about trans people, and how they believed we were mentally ill. 

These dynamics created an environment where I did not feel safe to come out and resulted in feelings of alienation. And I was not alone. 

According to a 2017 GLSEN School Climate report, 70% of LGBTQ+ students experienced verbal harassment at school based on sexual orientation. More than half experienced harassment based on their gender identity or expression. These rates increase when a person holds multiple marginalized identities, as seen through the significantly higher rates of suicide that multiracial trans people have

While Sen. Sylvia Allen’s portion of removing homosexuality from sex education was dropped, the attacks on queer and trans youth in public school continue. Moving forward, LGBTQ+ youth need more allies to step forward and do the brunt of the work in this fight. It is not on queer and trans youth alone to challenge homophobia/transphobia when they see it. We need more straight and cisgender people who are willing to put their bodies on the line when it comes to stopping these bills from progressing, as well as hold our political representatives accountable to end the violence against queer and trans students.