New Florida ban escalates the attacks on trans rights — what’s next?

Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles recently released a new policy banning transgender people from changing the gender listed on their driver’s license or ID card.  

The new rule is a frightening addition to an ever-growing list of escalating attacks on transgender people across the country — an arson attack on a gender health clinic in Georgia, a demand for patient records by the Texas attorney general and GOP lawmakers stating that their “endgame” is to ban health care for all transgender people.   

Increasingly, extremist politicians are making themselves loud and clear: It was never about the youth.  

Sure, targeting transgender young people has propelled the anti-trans movement forward. Banning medical care and sports participation for transgender youth were topics that resonate with a conservative voter base. 

But these coordinated afforts have always had the same goal in mind: limit opportunities for transgender people, of all ages, to participate in public life and prevent them from living as their authentic selves.   

Many bills introduced so far in 2024 are still largely aimed at restricting youth medical care, censoring K-12 curriculum and prohibiting trans youth participation in sports. But increasingly, state legislatures and administrative agencies are pushing bills and policies that restrict freedom and basic rights for transgender adults.   

Take, for example, the new rule in Florida. Identification cards are essential. We need them to drive, open a bank account, register to vote and sign up for health insurance, just to name a few things. But now transgender people in Florida are being subjected to fear-mongering tactics and extreme scrutiny by an agency threatening criminal and civil penalties for “misrepresenting one’s gender.” 

We all need legal documents that accurately represent who we are so we can navigate public life. For transgender people, accurate identification documents impact safety.

One survey revealed that 40 percent of transgender people have experienced harassment as a result of presenting an ID that doesn’t match their gender identity. Furthermore, transgender people feel more affirmed when they have an accurate ID, which reduces psychological distress. 

The new rule in Florida is an escalation, but not an exception. State officials across the country are limiting the rights of transgender people. In the health care realm, Ohio’s proposed restrictions on transgender health care would significantly delay and deter care for transgender adults, and South Carolina’s proposed health care ban would prohibit Medicaid from covering necessary medical care for anyone under 26 years old. Politicians are even using their power to legislate away the definition of gender and conflate it with sex.  

All of us should be alarmed at these blatant attempts to strip opportunities for transgender people to participate fully in our communities. And none of us should be surprised that these things are coordinated, planned and intentional. Just look at the handful of anti-trans experts testifying in states across the country, or the nearly identical language in these bills across dozens of states. 

It’s long past due that we call out this transphobic agenda and name the true end goal of this campaign. We must support local LGBTQ advocacy groups, like Equality Florida, that are building multidisciplinary coalitions to push back against these policies.

Politicians cannot be allowed to legislate transgender people out of public life. Transgender people, like all people, deserve to live in safety, in community, and with the freedom to participate fully in our society. 

Sara Mar is a Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project and AcademyHealth and the policy communications coordinator at Whitman-Walker Institute. 

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