The Ohio Republican party is engaged in an assault on the rights of transgender people that should terrify all Ohioans, regardless of gender or sexuality. But there is hope.
Republicans are attacking transgender rights with the same strategy the party used to erode abortion access prior to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. And that means that we can beat them.
But I won’t lie, the situation is grim. On Dec. 18, the Ohio legislature passed a bill banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors and preventing transgender women and girls from competing in women’s sports. The Republican-backed bill, misleadingly named the Saving Adolescents from Experimentation Act, represented a new climax in years of legislative efforts to strip transgender Ohioans of their most basic rights, granting the state control over what should be private medical decisions.
Then things got weird.
In what first appeared to be a massive win for transgender advocates, Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed the bill, citing concerns raised by the parents of transgender children. “I’ll never forget what so many of them told me,” DeWine told reporters. “They said, ‘Governor, but for [gender affirming care], my child would be dead by now. My child would have committed suicide.’”
But few politicians are better than DeWine at grabbing credit for saying the right thing while, in fact, doing the opposite. In short order, DeWine issued new administrative guidelines placing restrictions on gender affirming care that went far beyond the original bill.
DeWine authorized temporary regulations to prevent any transgender minor from accessing surgical care – a move aimed at grabbing headlines, as minors are almost never offered gender affirming surgeries. He also proposed additional regulations that would create new barriers to gender affirming care for trans people of all ages.
Under the proposed guidelines, all trans people seeking transition-related care would be supervised by large treatment teams, including an endocrinologist, a bioethicist, and a psychiatrist. They would be subjected to “lengthy” wait times and forced to make a “de-transition” plan.
Health care providers would also be required to meet regular reporting mandates that some advocates said could constitute privacy violations. Worse, the proposed reporting requirements are so onerous that many health care providers lack the resources to meet them. Many could be forced to shut down their transgender health programs.
DeWine’s new regulations could bring transgender health care in Ohio to a screeching halt.
“All of the proposed rules are unnecessary, harmful, and cruel,” said Dara Adkison, board secretary of TransOhio. “They contradict current well-established medical guidelines backed by national and international standards. These rules stand to harm all trans, nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people in the state, but particularly those who are Black and/or in the rural portions of Ohio.”
DeWine’s strategy is straight out of the regulatory playbook Ohio Republicans used to curtail abortion access before the fall of Roe v. Wade: If you can’t ban it, make it all but impossible to access.
From there, the plot thickened further.
After DeWine issued his veto, Donald Trump waded into the discourse. “DeWine has fallen to the Radical Left,” he wrote in a post on his website, Truth Social. “Legislature will hopefully overturn. Do it FAST!!!”
The Ohio House rushed to give Trump what he wanted, overriding DeWine’s veto on Jan. 10. The senate may also vote to override the veto when the chamber reconvenes on Jan. 24.
Now trans Ohioans are facing a terrifying level of uncertainty. Many have started to make plans to access health care in other states. Others are contemplating moving away from Ohio altogether. Many, however, lack the resources or ability to do so.
While trans people struggle to figure out what these new laws and regulations could mean for them, Republicans are moving forward with a bill that would restrict bathroom access – a law that constitutes a naked attempt to make it more difficult for trans people to exist in public.
But I said that there is hope, and I meant it.
Republicans are attempting to foment fear and hatred toward transgender people by turning us into a wedge issue that they can use to consolidate power.
But the polling shows that this strategy may not be working.
Most of our neighbors are more concerned with actual problems. Rather than restrict our health care, polls indicate that most Americans would prefer politicians to protect transgender rights or ignore us all together. Just 17 percent of Americans, and 29 percent of Republicans, said politicians should focus on restricting gender-affirming care.
Public opinion could be turned to support transgender communities, if transgender people and our allies mobilize.
Republicans may be attacking transgender people using the same strategies they used to restrict abortion access, but ironically, that should encourage and embolden transgender advocates. In November 2023, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment that enshrined abortion and contraception access as a right. When they don’t have the support of the public, the Republican playbook is a losing one.
Trans Ohioans can defeat the Republican agenda, if our allies join us. But so far, few people seem to understand what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argued so well: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Too many people, including cisgender members of the LGBTQ+ community, don’t understand that bigots and fascists won’t stop with us.
What were you doing while Republicans attacked the rights of transgender people like me? And what will you do when they come after you?