How this Southern Team Defended Trans Rights
On February 25, 2023, Virginia’s General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. Virginia was one of the few legislative sessions that only spanned weeks, leaving little time to organize against highlighted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation from our up-to-the-minute legislative tracker. However, advocacy organizations like Equality Virginia and Virginia residents defeated all 12 anti-trans laws presented during this session!
Equality Virginia had this to say regarding the monumental win: “With pride, gratitude, and relief, we can officially say that all 12 anti-trans bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly this year are DEAD. Two bills that crossed over, HB 1387 (a trans athlete ban) and HB 2432 (a forced outing bill), were killed this morning in the Senate Education & Health committee.
❌ DEFEATED: 3 gender-affirming care bans
❌ DEFEATED: 4 forced outing bills
❌ DEFEATED: 5 transgender athlete bans
We hope you can celebrate this moment and what it means for you and your loved ones. We hope you are able to feel some peace after a very turbulent time. #TransYouthBelongVA, now and forever.”
But amid a historic fight for human rights nationally and globally, how do we achieve victories as decisive as this? Here’s some of what we saw in Virginia:
A strong network: Equality Virginia is a partner of Equality Federation, an advocacy accelerator rooted in social justice, building power in our network of state-based LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. Equality Federation provides legislative support, coaching, funding, and more to assist state partners in addressing critical issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community nationwide. Equality Virginia is a powerful organization, serving as Virginia’s leading advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ people since 1989. Having a solid foundation and being part of a strong network allows for quick adaptations for strategy, stronger partnerships, better policy proposals, and access to the latest national data.
A clear set of strategies: Equality Virginia takes multiple organizational approaches to achieve their goals. These include (but are not limited to) investing in deep relationships to educate elected officials on both sides of the aisle, empowering people to tell their stories and advocate for themselves and others, and responding to the needs of our community, particularly those experiencing multiple forms of oppression.
Strong Testimonies from People Directly Impacted: In February, more than 20 students spoke at a Virginia Beach City school board meeting, pleading for their representatives not to implement Youngkin’s proposed regulations. During public comment, one nonbinary student offered: “I’m at a point in my life where I’m completely comfortable with my name and gender identity, but these new model policies would rip that safety and stability away from me along with hundreds of other students.” These contributions from students helped illustrate the real impact of the legislation proposed and allowed legislators to make decisions with the actuality of their constituents in mind instead of the narrative created by opponents to stoke fear.
Our legislators make many decisions that impact millions of lives in their constituency. It’s hard to interact with them and get a holistic understanding of the intersections of people’s lives and the policies that are up for discussion. But the presence of a dedicated network of people, the deep investment in calling everyone together, and the power of first-hand testimony from trans people infused throughout the deliberation process all created a well-won victory in early 2023 with hope for better to come.