Gratuitous Cruelty

Photo by Armando Franca, AP

Gratuitous cruelty. That’s how my friend Barb characterizes the profusion of anti-trans bills that are surging across the country. I call it legislative terrorism. While both are fitting, I believe Barb’s language is slightly more apropos. Gratuitous cruelty is at the core of all these horrific measures.

Legislative harassment of transgender and nonbinary people is nothing new. However, the present proliferation is unprecedented. There are currently 422 active anti-trans bills across forty-four states. So far, twenty-six have already passed. While a large number of these bills involve blocking access to gender-affirming care, both for youth and adults, the rest run the gamut, from prohibiting trans athletes from participating in their chosen sports to regulating bathroom usage, a longtime conservative favorite. It is also important to note that although transgender citizens are being viciously targeted, this wave of hateful bills extends to the greater queer community as well. The goal is to diminish, degrade, violate and destroy. Gratuitous cruelty.

Denying gender-affirming health care is violence. Full stop. Once more for those in the back:


Needless to say, this hateful campaign is driven by GOP lawmakers. For a party that eschews government regulation in personal affairs, the fixation on the lives of transgender Americans is ironic at best. I’m going to guess that most of the proponents of these anti-trans policies have never known a trans or nonbinary person. Nay, they fervently embrace otherism, spin horrendous narratives and blast ahead with unbridled animus. They ignore gender science and disparage experts in endocrinology. They deny individuals the agency to make critical choices about their own lives and bodies (sound familiar?). They interfere with the ability of parents to support their children as they see fit, while criminalizing medical professionals who assist these families. And they’re killing people, especially kids.

  • LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth are 2-2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender LGBQ youth.
  • One in four Black transgender or nonbinary youth attempted suicide last year.
  • Native/Indigenous youth who are Two-Spirit/LGBTQ are at the highest risk for suicide.

These figures are from The Trevor Project, as is the following statement:

LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.

On a more promising note, research shows a 60% decrease in severe depression in youth who receive gender affirming care and a 73% decrease in suicide attempts. (This study was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Convention.) These numbers are staggeringly optimistic, and one would think research such as this would influence policy. But the same party that obstructs reasonable gun control measures to prevent children from being slaughtered in their classrooms is certainly not going to be swayed by peer reviewed science, especially if it is beneficial to people they’re trying to erase.

For the most part, the GOP is simply pandering to its deranged MAGA base of Christian nationalists and white supremacists. But I believe there is a larger factor at play: The GOP’s got nothing. They have no concrete platform of any kind. They’re void of helpful ideas that better the lives of their constituents. Because they don’t have meaningful policies that appeal to the majority, they resort to gerrymandering, voter suppression and culture wars to hold on to power and fabricate relevance. Culture wars, in particular, provide the perfect smokescreen for a lack of substance, and appeal to the lowest common denominator of eligible voters. In some ways the modern GOP reminds me of the WWE professional wrestling we watched as kids. All faux rage and over-the-top performances. These GOP freaks would almost be funny, except for the fact that they’re pestilent, brutal and dangerous.

For transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming folks everywhere – especially young people and those living in red states – I want you to know that we see you. We are allies. We hate what is happening and all the pain it’s causing. They’re doing this because they’re terrified of your power. They’re terrified by your courage to live your truth. They’re terrified by the glorious possibilities you present. They suffer dire deficiencies of mind and heart. And so, they turn on you. Do what you must to survive, but please never let your spirit capitulate to their meanness. We see you. We’re holding you in our hearts and doing everything in our power to stop this merciless attack. These are the darkest of days. But their gratuitous cruelty is no match for our boundless love.


Please consider donating to one of the following:

Lavender Rights Project

Gender Justice League

The Trevor Project