In response to record numbers of anti-trans bills introduced in 2023, you may have seen statistics about the impacts of this legislation, and state-sanctioned hate in general, on trans and nonbinary peoples’ mental health: for example, that “86% of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have negatively impacted their mental health,” and more than half seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Anti-trans legislation also negatively impacts parents of trans/nonbinary youth and trans/nonbinary adults, who may be experiencing increased hatred, emboldened by these legislative attacks.
But even without diving into this data, most trans and nonbinary people have likely already felt the impacts of these waves of anti-trans legislation. To an extent, every trans and nonbinary person can feel the way these shifting attitudes and political dialogues touch our lives, even in small ways. It might be thinking twice before wearing a trans pride pin in public when you would normally wear one with confidence, or wondering about your safety when attending a pride event or drag show. Or it might mean facing legislation in your state that prevents you from accessing the healthcare you need, using the bathroom that aligns with your gender, or comfortably expressing your gender in public.
It’s important that we recognize these negative impacts on trans and nonbinary people. At the same time, hearing over and over that anti-trans legislation hurts us can be an unhelpful repetition of what we already know and experience.
I also know some trans people who have chosen not to engage or keep up with anti-trans legislation, and instead focus on what’s right in front of them in their lives. In many ways, I think this can be a helpful coping mechanism. And while disengaging may be challenging or impossible for some, we can all benefit from taking breaks from consuming media about anti-trans legislation, unplugging from the news for a short time, and focusing on meeting our basic needs.
In some ways, it feels like raising awareness about the negative impacts of anti-trans legislation is more directed toward non-trans folks and supporters who are less “in-the-know,” rather than trans and nonbinary community members. While we may all follow these events to different degrees, it’s hard not to be aware in some way about what’s going on around us, and how these developments hurt those in our communities.
Sometimes, these types of “awareness posts” may feel like they’re placing responsibility on trans and nonbinary people to cope with these negative effects, instead of calling on supporters and loved ones to advocate for larger, systemic changes.
This is why we’ve assembled a landing page of resources both for trans communities and non-trans supporters/loved ones (with more of a focus on non-trans folks who want to become more informed advocates) to learn more about the current challenges facing trans and nonbinary people, and some of the ways we can counteract these challenges.
So while we should raise awareness about these harmful effects on trans and nonbinary communities, I also want to consider how we can take care of each other and create community during this difficult time, and how we can let go of some of the burdens of feeling responsible for “fixing” the negative outcomes we experience as a result of state-sanctioned hate.
Your emotional responses are valid.
Whatever you feel about anti-trans legislation, you are not alone with those feelings. Especially for folks who don’t live in urban areas with active, in-person trans communities, and folks who are not connected to online networks, experiencing the impacts of anti-trans legislation while surrounded by people who aren’t impacted themselves, who may be unaware of what’s going on, who may support this legislation, or who may be unsupportive or hostile to trans people themselves, can feel incredibly isolating.
Connect with trans community.
One strategy for reducing this isolation is connecting with others in the trans community. You might do this by looking for events at your local LGBT center, connecting with folks online, or attending a local trans- or LGBT-oriented event. Check out these FORGE videos on connecting with community: https://forge-forward.org/connecting/
Let your rage/grief/fear/emotions out.
For me, one of the most helpful strategies for coping with anti-trans legislation has been finding an outlet that allows me to discharge what I’m feeling so that it becomes external, instead of carrying it around inside me all the time.
There are so many outlets you might use to express/release emotion. Some people enjoy physical movement, which could be anything from walking/rolling in a park or in your neighborhood to exercising vigorously (“sweating it out”), which can feel cathartic for some people.
Others might use a creative practice to release or express emotion. This could be something like painting, collaging, playing/writing music, making things with clay, or dancing (and so many other options…)
For me, creative writing has been a very helpful outlet. Because some of my writing has been inspired by the emotions that boil up in response to anti-trans legislation, this has also given me a push to work more seriously toward publishing my stories. It feels important to me that trans voices become more widely visible, particularly in expressing the ways that state-sanctioned hate impacts our lives.
Sometimes we also just need to vent. This could mean talking with a therapist, commiserating with a trusted friend, or writing out your feelings in a journal.
Venting should be distinguished from problem-solving; it’s a way to express emotions, not fix the problems in the world. If we’re venting to/with another person, it’s sometimes helpful to clarify what we are or aren’t looking for in return. Saying something like, “I want to express how I’m feeling, but I’m not ready to problem-solve right now” can be helpful.
Stay informed – not just about the bad stuff.
Some people find that staying up-to-date about new developments in anti-trans legislation feels empowering, and helps to establish a sense of control. At the same time, constantly hearing the bad news can be overwhelming and heavy, and sometimes it’s difficult to see anything positive coming out of the current political debates surrounding trans rights.
One way to counterbalance this is to also stay informed about positive developments around anti-trans legislation, for example: constitutional lawyers challenging gender-affirming care bans across the US, legislation passing in some states to protect healthcare access, and court victories against anti-trans legislation.
Erin in the Morning regularly shares updates about anti-trans legislation and the lawyers and legislators taking action against it.
Savor moments of joy.
In past blog posts, we’ve talked about the importance of Trans Joy: how it resists a culture of anti-trans hate, counteracts the negative messages we often hear in the media, and reminds us of the hope shared by trans communities, even while facing challenges.
Trans joy can be a powerful antecedent to feelings of hopelessness and fear that result from anti-trans legislation and attitudes. While joy may feel out of reach sometimes, hearing how others experience and celebrate trans joy can help to uplift hope and community connection.