Trans rights advocates grateful for Biden's support but say he must do more

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'I guess I appreciate the platitudes. But we need action. Things are desperate,' said the ACLU's Chase Strangio.

President Joe Biden offered his support to the young people impacted by anti-trans bills during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

"To all the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back," Biden said.

Biden also called for the passage of the Equality Act, a federal nondiscrimination bill that would clarify and expand protections for LGBTQ people in education, housing, public accommodations, and more. And first lady Jill Biden invited Stella Keating, a 16-year-old transgender girl who spoke in support of the act during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, to be a virtual guest of the address, meaning her name would be entered into the congressional record, according to Roll Call.

Although the president has taken a number of steps to protect the rights of transgender people in his first 100 days, transgender people and their advocates and families say they want more from him given the severity of the problem of anti-trans legislation introduced in the states this year.

Observers say the surge in the number of state bills limiting transgender children's participation in sports and banning their access to gender-affirming care is unlike anything they've see before. The Human Rights Campaign's April 22 update on legislation attacking equality says 2021 could see more anti-LGBTQ bills than any in recent history, blowing past 2015's record of 15 anti-LGBTQ bills enacted in the states.

Many of those bills have been aimed against the rights of transgender youth and their families.

Chase Strangio, staff attorney and deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union, tweeted, "I guess I appreciate the platitudes. But we need action. Things are desperate."

Florida's passage of a bill that would stop transgender girls and women from competing on the sports team of their gender made the issue even more urgent for many transgender people.

"While yet ANOTHER anti trans sports bill passes out of a state legislature tonight (Florida) Biden tells trans ppl he has our back. I mean that's swell but how about our front—state legislatures—where people are currently relentlessly and ruthlessly attacking us?" asked Carl Charles, a staff attorney at Lambda Legal, using his personal Twitter account.

The Texas Senate approved a bill this week that bans gender-affirming medical care for transgender young people, including hormone therapy and puberty blockers, and would change the definition of child abuse to include the provision of this care.

Kai Shappley, a 10-year-old transgender girl who testified before the Texas legislature this month, tweeted in response to Biden's address, "I'm very thankful for this. But, what does having my back mean? Like, if the bills pass in Texas will you keep them from putting my mom in jail?"

Her mother, Kimberly Shappley, tweeted, "Arkansas teens don't have time to wait. Kids are going to die @potus Please, help trans kids now. This is being watched by the world. It's a civil & human rights violation."

Molly Wills Carnes, the Texas mother of a transgender daughter, said that after four years of the Trump administration attacking transgender rights, she was happy to hear Biden's remarks. She listened to them Thursday morning after speaking at a rally for transgender rights Wednesday night.

"When I first heard the comments, I cried to hear the president say that his priority was trans kids. It was just overwhelming," Carnes said, adding, "It's a sad state that the little crumbs thrown to the LGBTQ community mean so much but tells you how diminished we have felt over the past four years."

She said she would like to see more from Biden.

"I'd like to see the president condemn coordinated attacks. I haven't heard enough from president on that — but to be fair, it's 100 days in — in a way that not only acknowledges the harm done by these bills but that this is vote-getter that is exploiting the LGBTQ community and Christian voters because they use this as a theological effort."

Carnes said she also wants to see agencies enforce Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bars sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.