How this Southern Team Defended Trans Rights

March 28, 2023

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.

More You might like

REPORT: Preempting LGBTQ+ Rights: How States Undermine Local Leadership and Innovation on LGBTQ+ Equality

In a new paper from A Better Balance, Local Solutions Support Center, and Equality Federation, we trace the local roots of LGBTQ+ equality in the United States and highlight the different types of abusive preemption that target local authority to protect LGBTQ+ individuals.

April 23, 2023
Our Growing Team

We are no longer the scrappy organization we once were. I am proud to say that Equality Federation is now an organization of 17, with the plan to have a staff of 20 by the end of the year.

April 23, 2023
State and National Equality Groups Condemn Selection of Extremist Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to make Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana the new Speaker of the House. Equality Federation, Forum for Equality, and Louisiana Trans Advocates — national and state organizations advocating for LGBTQ+ equality — join advocates across the country in condemning this selection, pointing out Johnson’s vehement anti-LGBTQ+ history as a lawmaker.

April 23, 2023
A young man looking up, smilingA young man smiling straight at the camera
Confident young woman standing with crossed arms.

Want To Make A Difference? Support Our Work

With your support, we'll be able to continue our work to build the leaders of today and tomorrow, strengthen state-based LGBTQ+ organizations, and make critical progress on the issues that matter most—like protecting transgender people, ending HIV criminalization and ensuring access to care, and banning conversion therapy across the country.