Over the weekend, transgender advocates and elected officials appeared on MSNBC and CNN to debunk the right-wing misinformation fueling the rash of anti-trans bills that have been introduced in legislatures across the country. Media outlets often leave out trans guests when discussing issues that target their community.
According to a March 13 Human Rights Campaign report, state legislators have already introduced over 80 bills targeting trans people so far in 2021, the highest number of anti-trans bills in history -- and the count has only grown since then. The American Civil Liberties Union's Chase Strangio has found that at least 33 state legislatures have introduced anti-trans bills this year. So far, such legislation has been adopted in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, and South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has signed an anti-trans executive order.
These bills have been fueled by years of attacks from right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups, which demonize and spread misinformation about trans people. In particular, Fox News has aired a relentless anti-trans crusade to its millions of viewers. A Media Matters study found that the network aired 86 segments about trans issues from January 20 through March 18. Most of those segments fearmongered about trans athletes or lied about best practice health care for trans youth -- the two most popular targets of anti-trans legislation right now.
CNN and MSNBC’s segments featuring trans guests are exceptions to the trend among major media outlets of failing to include any trans people in reporting on issues facing the community. A Media Matters study of the period from March 30 to April 8 found that most broadcast and cable TV news networks -- including CNN -- failed to interview any trans people in their coverage of Arkansas’ ban on best practice medical care for trans youth. MSNBC aired two segments that featured a trans person.
Evelyn Rios Stafford on Republican lawmakers’ dangerous efforts to get between patients and their health care providers
On April 11, Washington County, Arkansas, Justice of the Peace Evelyn Rios Stafford explained on MSNBC that “trans people and the voices of trans people and their families were really sidelined” by the state’s Republican lawmakers, “while they allowed, you know, hate groups plenty of time to spread misinformation.”
Rios Stafford, who is the first trans person ever elected to office in Arkansas, met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson on March 30 and urged him to veto the state’s ban on best practice health care for trans youth. Hutchinson vetoed the bill on April 5 but was overridden by the state legislature the following day. He did, however, sign two other anti-trans bills into law this session.
During the Velshi segment, Rios Stafford noted that the state’s slate of anti-trans bills targeting trans youth are part of a “well-funded campaign by hate groups … doing it on the basis of junk science and fearmongering.” Media outlets have reported that extreme anti-LGBTQ groups, including Alliance Defending Freedom and the Heritage Foundation, have provided lawmakers across the country with draft legislation, and the Family Research Council advocated for and testified in favor of Arkansas’ ban.
Rios Stafford said, “Republicans were supposed to be the party of small government, and here we've got nine bills in all in our state that are ... reaching in between families and their doctors, they're reaching in between teachers and their students,” adding, “They're reaching into every aspect of life, and collectively they're just trying to make life impossible for trans people in this state, especially trans youth."
Veronica Ivy debunks the misinformation behind the right-wing campaign to villainize trans athletes
Professor Veronica Ivy joined CNN’s Smerconish to contextualize and debunk right-wing misinformation targeting trans athletes. Ivy, who is a two-time masters track cycling world champion, explained that efforts to ban trans athletes from competing in sports that align with their gender identity is “a culture war by the Republicans” and “a proxy war for having lost the bathroom bill fight.”
During the April 10 segment, Ivy explained that trans athletes do not pose a threat to women's sports, noting that though the International Olympic Committee has had trans-inclusive policies since 2003, “We’ve had over 54,000 Olympians, and zero trans athletes ever even qualified.”
Ivy also rebuked the idea that trans athletes should have to compete in a separate category of their own. She explained, “If we want to suggest a nonstarter, separate-but-equal category of trans-only, then I would literally be competing against myself at the world elite level.”
Chase Strangio and Del. Danica Roem explain that anti-trans bills are a dangerous assault on the wellbeing of trans youth
Virginia state Del. Danica Roem and ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, explained on MSNBC’s American Voices with Alicia Menendez how anti-trans bills harm trans youth, a group that already faces disproportionate rates of depression and victimization.
Roem, the first openly trans person to be elected and seated in a U.S. state legislature, said that banning health care for trans youth “is actually going to backfire to a point where you're going to increase suicidal among trans youth in the first place because you're trying to take away this little sliver of hope that they have.” Notably, after Arkansas’ ban on health care for trans youth passed the House, a pediatric doctor in the state reported that there were “multiple kids in our emergency room because of an attempted suicide.”
During the April 11 segment, Strangio noted that the bills are “absolutely a coordinated attack,” including “model bills that were drafted by groups that have spent decades attacking LGBTQ people and have shifted their focus to targeting trans kids.” He added, “What we're seeing now is the most extreme, sweeping, and dangerous assault on trans lives that we've seen in the past several decades,” concluding, “We need to have a national outcry over what we're seeing.”