OPINION | To protect trans rights, America must fight fascism and discrimination

Trigger Warning: Includes accounts of suicide, abuse, transphobia, mass shootings and genocidal rhetoric.  

In recent years, conservative politicians and pundits have launched an increasingly destructive assault on trans people. Conservatives have introduced hundreds of anti-trans bills; in 2023 alone, the American Civil Rights Union is tracking 469 of them. Unfortunately, their actions have claimed the lives of too many innocent people. 

One such individual was Eden Knight. On March 12, Knight, a Saudi trans woman, posted a suicide note to Twitter outlining the background behind why she wanted to take her own life. Soon after her message was published, her parents confirmed her passing.

Knight was a victim of transphobic abuse from her family and their associates. She outlined how her parents hired people to coerce Knight into de-transitioning and returning home in her note. 

Even after de-transitioning, Knight still wasn’t enough for her parents. “My mom kept telling me to repent or I was going to hell and I did, I repented. I believed I was going to hell so much that I read the entire Quran front to back in a couple of days, crying the entire time about what a disgusting thing I am, and I didn’t sleep,” she said in her note. 

Her parents called her a freak, a failure and an abomination. 

“I wanted to be a leader for people like me, but that wasn’t written to happen. I hope that the world gets better for us. I hope our people get old. I hope we get to see our kids grow up to fight for us. I hope for trans rights worldwide,” Knight said. 

She wanted to be an activist for trans rights. She tried to accomplish wonderful things in her life. Now, all hope for a brighter tomorrow has been extinguished. 

There is no other conclusion to reach: America failed Eden Knight. But, unfortunately, America continues to fail trans people.

In a Dec. 2022 report from The Trevor Project, 50% of LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. considered suicide in the past year. Such a statistic is heartbreaking – and it is no accident.   

Like Knight, trans people, in general, are under constant threat of cultural genocide from fascist Republicans. 

Some may dispute the term “genocide;” such a term evokes images of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. However, understand the point of conservatives’ unrelenting assault on trans people: they want them to disappear from the public.

Through propaganda and legislation, conservatives have stopped at nothing to make being a trans person in America as unbearable as possible. 

A clear example of propaganda is the moral panic conservatives started with the goal of breeding hate and disinformation over trans people. The ongoing panic centers around the relentless and baseless accusation that trans people – and by extension, all queer people – are all groomers and pedophiles.  

The moral panic is supplemented with legislation meant to “protect children.” Yet, despite this claim, their actions reflect little to no genuine care for kids. This year alone, Republican state lawmakers have supported child labor laws and opposed banning child marriage. 

No such accusations from conservatives of grooming and pedophilia toward like-minded lawmakers who want to preserve child marriage. How strange. 

Their constant attacks on trans people aren’t out of some stoic duty to children’s safety; instead, it’s an old euphemism meant to veil their disdain for them and inspire extremists to enact violence against them. 

Unfortunately, violence occurred during the Club Q shooting, when a gunman entered a Colorado Springs, Colo. queer nightclub, murdered five people and injured 19 others. 

Conservatives displayed little sympathy for the victims following the tragedy. Tim Pool, a prominent online right-wing pundit, implicitly supported the shooting. 

Pool said, “We shouldn’t tolerate pedophiles grooming kids. Club Q had a grooming event. How do we prevent the violence and stop grooming?” Once again, by falsely calling the victims of a mass shooting “groomers,” Pool and conservatives like him show they support deadly violence against queer people. 

An example of the utilization of legislation to oppress trans people is the abundance of anti-trans bills introduced and passed in state legislatures. These bills cover a host of topics; all meant to limit or outright ban trans people’s ability to function in public life. 

Many attempts to ban trans youth from playing in sports over the false notion trans athletes, specifically trans women, have a biological advantage over their cisgender peers; Louisiana became the eighteenth state in the union to enact such a ban in June 2022. 

Gender-affirming care is also a massive target for conservative legal ire. Republicans regularly lie about the healthcare trans youth receive, often likening the care to “child mutilation.” 

Republican-majority legislatures continue to pass bans on trans healthcare for youth; Louisiana recently joined this club of repugnant lawmakers after a House committee passed HB463 earlier this month. 

In states such as Texas, Oklahoma and South Carolina, lawmakers are considering bans on care for trans people as old as 26. Lawmakers who wanted to “protect children” wouldn’t try to limit the rights and freedoms of fully-grown adults.  

Gender-affirming care saves lives. By removing their human right to access life-saving medical resources, conservatives lay bare their desire for trans people to perish. 

These bills serve to uphold the “cultural” half of cultural genocide. If conservatives cannot have all trans people die from fits of right-wing violence, they will utilize legal avenues to worsen their lives until they can no longer bear it. 

The inhumane treatment of trans people is inarguable and utterly detestable. Regardless of your political disposition, we as humans should collectively recognize how abhorrent these pieces of legislation are. 

Through their propaganda and proposed legislation, they’ve made the message to trans people clear: remove yourself from public life, or they will have you removed.

If there is still doubt over the severity of conservative attacks against trans people, conservative pundit Michael Knowles soundly put them to rest. During a speech he gave at the Conservative Political Action Conference – a mainstream conservative meeting of prominent party members – in March, he unambiguously called for the destruction of trans people. 

“There can be no middle way to transgenderism. It is all or nothing. …Transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely,” Knowles said.  

For the sake of trans people, we need to fight this evil. Participate in local protests and donate anything you can here to organizations such as the National Center for Transgender Equality. Join LGBTQ+ organizations on campus or in your local community and educate yourself on their needs and struggles; SLU students can join the Lavender Lions

As individuals, though, our efforts will not be enough. Lawmakers need to take up the mantle as well. Therefore, I implore Congress to adopt and President Joe Biden to sign into law the Transgender Bill of Rights, a bill proposed by Democrats Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), which would codify trans rights and protect their access to vital resources such as healthcare, housing and economic security. 

To Knight, my trans and queer friends and loved ones, and all queer people in America, I want to apologize. I harbor such despair and anger for the way you all are treated by society, so much so I’ve had to put this story down multiple times while writing it because the constant misery became too much for my mental health. If I feel this way, I cannot imagine how you all persevere daily.

However, as awful as the current landscape for trans rights is, we must cling to any potential sliver of hope. The majority of Americans favor protecting trans people from discrimination and oppose the ridiculous number of anti-trans legislation. If we fight for trans rights, we can turn a sliver of hope into a brighter tomorrow.   

America, please: we need to correct our mistakes. We need to combat fascism head-on. 

Eden Knight and many like her died because we failed to give them the protection they deserved. We cannot afford to make the same mistake ever again.