Editorial | UI is a safe space for trans students

The United States is undergoing a wave of homophobia as Republican lawmakers push anti-transgender legislation all across the country

These bills come in various forms, ranging from restrictions on health care to self-expression and free speech. The underlying commonality is that they are all attacks on the transgender community and, by extension, the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

During the discussion of this editorial, we wanted to highlight the privilege that we have as students at the University of Illinois — a progressive university in a progressive state. This university is, in many ways, a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

To that end, we will be amplifying the voices of the LGBTQ+ community at other universities who feel targeted by this legislation.

Recently, the Republican Party has focused its attention on the banning of drag shows alongside attacks on health care rights

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At least 11 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah — have passed laws or policies restricting gender-affirming care for minors. 

School newspapers at the Universities of Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi and South Dakota have reported on how the LGBTQ+ community at these schools feel targeted and unsafe. We encourage you to read about the struggles of our colleagues who live in states whose state legislatures are pushing hostile legislation.

In Florida, there exists legislation that makes it more difficult for transgender adults to receive gender-affirming surgery by blocking Medicaid from covering it.

Transgender students at the University of Florida experience difficulties in getting the care they need due to this lack of coverage. This legislation was met with protest from UF students. Students at Ole Miss and the University of Utah organized similar protests.

Another kind of anti-transgender legislation being pushed would allow or require teachers to use students’ deadnames in school. Additionally, legislation is being pushed to allow or require teachers to out students to their parents of their child’s gender identity. 

Transgender children will die if their access to health care is blocked.

Gender-affirming care saves lives, and not all gender-affirming care is permanent. A study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that 86% of transgender youth have had suicidal thoughts, and 56% of youth have undergone a previous suicide attempt.

School belonging is a major factor in trans youth suicides, the study said. Transgender students who felt safer and more accepted in school were more likely to report good mental health.

In the wake of the Nashville shooting, some used the shooter’s alleged transgender identity as a way of spreading anti-trans rhetoric, claiming testosterone treatment causes aggression in trans men. These baseless claims are just attempts to dehumanize trans people and delegitimize their struggles.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of respect — this legislation is infringing on trans people’s right to exist and express themselves freely.

The school environment is already so hostile to students who do not feel as though they fit in. One can imagine that it is especially difficult for trans youth to navigate the stresses of adolescence while being the victim of a nationwide witch hunt.

Schools need to be safe spaces for trans people. However, transgender representation in schools has been suppressed.

High schools and universities should be spaces that provide an inclusive and accepting environment for trans students, especially when students need an escape from toxic households.

The University has many spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. In particular, the Queer Campus Coalition is a great starting point to find RSOs for those who identify as queer and want to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community on campus.

It’s a unique and special privilege to grow into adulthood surrounded by fellow young people. It’s equally special that we attend a university in Illinois — a blue state that has generally stood for trans rights.

The University isn’t totally safe for trans people — bigotry and hate exist everywhere. 

But in comparison to college students in states where the rights of the LGBTQ+ are being taken away, the University has acted as a bastion of safety. We hope that it continues to be a space for community despite the onset of hostile legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community.


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