It seems every day states are pushing new legislation and regulations intended to harm trans people, which is often combined with ableist and racist rhetoric and policies. It is particularly upsetting that during Autism Acceptance Month, regulations have been issued which use autism as a reason to deny gender-affirming care. I’m Elio McCabe, and as AWN’s policy manager, I want to reassure you that we are taking action to fight back. This fight is personal to me as someone who is genderqueer and neurodivergent, and living in a State where it is becoming increasingly hostile to people like me. I have a long personal history of being out and loud in not-so-safe spaces, which has equipped me with tools for resistance which I bring to AWN’s work.
The situation is indeed grim right now. Missouri just implemented a near-complete ban on gender-affirming care regardless of age. Equality Florida just issued a travel warning for trans people to avoid the state. And Georgia’s Senate Bill 140 weaponized ableism by naming the higher rate of autism among transgender people as a reason to prevent minors from receiving gender-affirming care.
We are closely tracking anti-trans legislation nationally. Organizations such as the Transformations Project provide up-to-date overviews of these bills as they move through state legislatures.
AWN is working collaboratively to develop effective strategies to challenge this legislation before it passes. AWN is working with our longtime partner, the Autistic People of Color Fund, urging State Governors to consider transgender justice as disability justice. We hope that Governors will follow in the footsteps of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who signed an executive order protecting gender-affirming care for all Minnesotans. While it is not fool-proof, Governors hold the power to veto legislation such as anti-trans bills and to issue executive orders that act as temporary legislation during the length of their term, without requiring approval by legislators.
We’re also pioneering new partnerships with organizations aligned with our mission to fight these attacks. We’ve already kicked off a collaboration with Divergent Minds and their President Oswin Latimer, who is an Indigenous autistic trans advocate. This week I’m meeting with Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities to discuss our action plan together. And finally we’re working with UNC Law’s Pro Bono Program to develop new ways for people to stay informed about and take action on anti-trans legislation.
We also want to encourage you to have hope and celebrate the recent victories we are seeing for trans rights. Several states have now passed bills to make them sanctuary states for trans people and their families fleeing transphobia. Washington state just passed a bill supporting homeless youth who flee unsupportive families to seek [trans]gender-affirming care and abortions. Also, Tennessee’s drag ban is right now being challenged in the State Supreme Court on First Amendment grounds. If that case succeeds, it will set a firm precedent to prevent any State from issuing a ban on drag performances, or to police “gender-appropriate” clothing. [link]. On Trans Day of Visibility, March 31, we saw some of the largest pro-trans demonstrations ever across the world. That same day, TikTok creators held a telethon which raised over $2 million for trans healthcare.
I want to take a deep breath here, and suggest you do, too. This is a heavy time. And if you’re struggling, I want to offer some resources here. If you or anyone you know is considering leaving one of the states enacting anti-trans laws, the organization A Place for Marsha is working to help trans people secure housing in states with supportive trans laws. There are also several crisis and support hotlines serving trans and LGBTQ people. Trans Lifeline, run by trans people, connects trans people to the community support and resources they need to survive and thrive. The Trevor Project has text, phone, and chat options for young LGBTQ+ people in crisis. And the national Suicide Crisis Hotline (988) has added an option explicitly for LGBTQ+ people under 25 (press 3). AWN also regularly posts new resources to our social media, including our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so check there for updates too.
At this tough time, I know AWN needs your support more than ever to keep expanding our work to support trans and neurodivergent people. And this month, Autism Acceptance Month, is a time that is crucial to fundraising for the fight ahead.
I’m so grateful to be in community with you.
Elio McCabe, Policy Manager
Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network