South Carolina’s War on Trans Rights: A Dangerous Wave of Anti-Trans Legislation

In a shocking and oppressive move, South Carolina’s Republican lawmakers have unleashed a series of anti-transgender bills, signaling a dire escalation in the state’s attack on the transgender community. Transgender activist Erin Reed is sounding the alarm, warning that these proposals represent a significant and worrying shift in the state’s legislative assault on trans rights.

The first of these draconian measures, HB4624, is an outright assault on the healthcare rights of transgender individuals. This bill, currently under committee review, aims to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and trans people under 26 on Medicaid. Alarmingly, it would also compel doctors to medically detransition trans youth already receiving gender-affirming care.

The second bill, HB4619, takes this attack even further. It not only mirrors the oppressive measures of HB4624 but also targets state and federal employees and any individuals, even those outside South Carolina, who might support gender-affirming care for transgender youth from the state. The bill’s broad language could be interpreted to penalize anyone sharing information about such care, creating a climate of fear and censorship.

Adding to this legislative onslaught, HB 4535 proposes a criminal transgender bathroom ban, prohibiting trans individuals from using public restrooms that align with their gender identity. The passage of this bill would place South Carolina alongside Florida as the second state to enforce such a criminal restriction, severely impacting the freedom and dignity of trans people.

As Reed warns, we are likely to see similar bills pop up in numerous states this year, curtailing the ability of trans people to travel and exist freely in public spaces. This wave of anti-trans legislation is not isolated to South Carolina. Ohio is considering a bill targeting transgender college students, and Kansas has already passed a noncriminal transgender bathroom ban.

Jace Woodrum, the executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina, voices the frustration and pain of the trans community, particularly in response to the proposed ban on healthcare for transgender young people. The ACLU sees these bills as unconstitutional attacks that threaten the rights of all citizens.

South Carolina has become a high-risk state for anti-trans legislation, with 20 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in the 2023 session alone. These bills have ranged from targeting schools and education to healthcare and the right to free speech. The broader landscape across the country is equally alarming, with over 500 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced nationwide, prompting the Human Rights Campaign to declare a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans.

Amidst these legislative battles, the transgender community faces an ongoing epidemic of violence. The Human Rights Campaign’s report for the Transgender Day of Remembrance highlights the grim reality: at least 33 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals have been killed in the U.S. since last November. Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, calls this epidemic a national embarrassment and urges the envisioning of a better future where transgender and gender-nonconforming people can live freely and equally.

As young, progressive readers and advocates for social justice, we must stand in solidarity with the transgender community and resist these oppressive legislative moves. The fight for transgender rights in South Carolina is not just a local issue but a critical battle in the larger struggle for equality and human dignity. The time to act and speak up is now.