Opinion: Excluding trans girls will not keep our daughters safe

The Senate convenes at the State House in Concord in 2018.

The Senate convenes at the State House in Concord in 2018. Monitor file


Published: 01-27-2024 6:00 AM

Molly Brennan grew up in Weare. She is an artist, disability access advocate and anti-racist organizer.

I want to celebrate the sudden enthusiasm I’ve observed for girls’ sports, for keeping locker rooms safe, and for the health and dignity of the young people in school. Unfortunately, the interest in these topics is through the lens of attacking transgender youth, presented in SB 562.

I attended the hearing on Jan. 16 on the topic. To view it, search ‘NH senate judiciary committee 01/16/2024’ on YouTube.

Who is harmed by this bill?

Trans youth. Specifically, trans girls. (In the hearing, you can observe the differences in the way trans girls and trans boys are discussed.) The bill would allow restrictions on bathroom use, locker room use, and access to sports participation. This is othering, alienating, and dehumanizing. The data around self-harm and suicide paint a clear picture of how erasure, isolation and ostracism negatively impact all human beings.

Cisgender girls. Personal growth and education benefits from diversity. That opportunity is lost by outlawing expressions of difference, whether gender, belief system, ethnicity, ability or culture. There is also harm in the infantilization of women and the policing of womanhood. The message that “girls need to be protected” maintains the imbalance of gender roles. Girls don’t need to be protected more than children of any gender.

Cisgender boys. No one ever mentions “boys need to be protected” in the bathroom, locker room and sports field discourse. The message put forward is that girls are unsafe in rooms with boys, that penises are weapons and that boys are naturally and uncontrollably predatory. The notion that a girl seeing a penis can be traumatizing is not only perpetuating the stereotype of female fragility, it also projects harmful messaging to cisgender boys. A proponent of the bill mentioned penises can be traumatizing to girls who have experienced sexual assault. What does that mean for boys who have been sexually assaulted? What do we think their experience is of being harmed, erased, and then told their genitals are dangerous and threatening?

Boys and girls, transgender and cisgender, deserve to be supported, empowered, challenged and respected. Children of all genders deserve to be loved, guided, and protected.

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Who benefits from this bill?

Proponents of the anti-trans narrative mention “poisoning/ mutilating children’s bodies” with hormone blockers and seek to prevent children from accessing this treatment. And yet, the delay of the testosterone surge in puberty prevents the very secondary sex characteristics which the proponents cite as the reason for not tolerating the presence of trans girls.

It is in this hypocrisy I discover who benefits from this bill: Bigoted adults who already have the most power of anyone involved. Parents and politicians, and politicians who are parents, benefit from removing autonomy and empowerment from all children, including their own children.

They seek to maintain control so that they do not have to share the world with others who are different than they are. These arguments of what is “natural” or “abnormal” were applied by pro-segregationists in regard to Black children. The myth of hypersexuality in Black boys and girls is still maintained by racist parents and other adults. There was “science” that “proved” education was harmful to girls and women because our minds were not as strong as men’s. Discrimination is always based on ignorance, fear and misinformation, and its aim is control, not safety. Google image search “ruby bridges protest” to make the connection.

They seek to maintain a false narrative of what the problem is so they do not have to confront or be accountable to the failure of our systems to keep children safe and healthy. So they do not have to question the team tryout practice that allows only “the best” kids to play sports, and what would happen if we put more effort into making it so everyone can play?

They don’t have to question that maybe a young person shouldn’t have to rely on a swimming scholarship to get an education. They don’t have to be challenged by notions of sharing and generosity and learning and growth and what things actually might solve these problems of scarcity and sexism.

They don’t have to think about investing in robust systems of education and cultural shifts that insist on respectful behavior and provide effective accountability processes for addressing violence and bullying in all spaces toward any children, by any children.

They choose to scapegoat trans girls, weaponizing their own children as the righteous reason for their bigotry.

Getting rid of trans kids will not keep anybody’s daughters “safe.” If safety is truly our aim, let us focus on the real targets: lack of funding, lack of equity, lack of understanding, lack of cultural practice of care, and prevalence of misogyny.

Let us dismantle the harmful systems in place, and support spaces for youth to be empowered, guided and loved. Trans girls are our daughters, too.