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To Stop Anti-Trans Legislation, Abolish the Settler State

Covid-19 is providing cover for other forms of violence. While mutual aid projects (and calls for housing and health care for all) spring up across the country, conservatives in state legislatures remain fixated on regulating trans bodies. Last week, the Idaho Senate passed one bill banning gender changes on birth certificates and another prohibiting trans girls from competing in women’s sports; a third bill that would have made it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to trans youth died in committee.

Each of these measures can be traced back to South Dakota, long a testing ground for anti-trans legislation. In 2016, the state introduced one of the first “bathroom bills” which, while vetoed, paved the way for a chain of legislation seeking to prevent trans people from using the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Soon after, South Dakota Republicans began targeting trans high school athletes. (This “sports bill” also failed, but has been followed by nearly identical measures in more than 15 other states.) At the beginning of this year, House Bill 1057 sought to criminalize medical care for trans youth. (In almost a dozen additional states, including Idaho, legislators have proposed similar laws.)

But these bills, according to indigenous activist Candi Brings Plenty, are pieces of a larger puzzle: For centuries, the gender binary has been tied up in white supremacy. The regulation of gender was even part of the genocidal conquest of the Americas. In 1513, Vasco Núñez de Balboa set his dogs on 40 Cueva Indians for “sodomy,” believing them to be men assuming the roles of women. Beginning in the 1870s, over 100 state-sponsored boarding schools sought to forcibly assimilate Native American communities, which included eradicating “two-spirit” identities—a modern, umbrella term coined in the early 1990s to refer to LGBTQ+ people across Turtle Island (First Nations folks from Canada, indigenous people in Mexico, and Alaska Natives and American Indians from the United States).

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