Children Deserve Better: Policy Attacks on LGBTQ+ Children Violate Their Rights and Harm Us All

We all want children to be happy and healthy. Fortunately, research has confirmed what families already know about how to promote healthy and happy children. Children need access to affirming, supportive, and inclusive health care; to caring adults who fully support and honor their development; to schools that promote their growth and learning; and to communities and friends that respect and support them. Unfortunately, despite knowing what children need, policymakers in many states have done the exact opposite, and are doing so at a staggering rate. Part of supporting our children is protecting them from harm, and when the health and happiness of some of our children are at risk, we are putting the health and happiness of all of our children on the line. Policymakers across the country are bucking research, best practice, and human decency by passing law after law that targets the children, youth, parents, teachers, and health care providers who are supporting the health and development of trans youth. In the state of Tennessee, legislators passed laws allowing K-12 teachers to discriminate against students based on sexual orientation, requiring teachers to notify parents of any accommodations requested by a student to affirm the student’s gender identity, and allowing prospective adoptive and foster parents with religious beliefs to discriminate against queer young people. At the same time, Idaho has banned gender affirming care for children and adolescents under age 18, which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Missouri has introduced laws that attack parents and professionals by threatening felony charges if they support a student in their “social transition.” In places like Ohio, despite harmful and oppressive decision-making by the state legislature to implement a ban on gender affirming care for youth, a local court of common pleas has temporarily blocked this action.

These policy actions are not isolated and are not only happening in conservative communities. Actions like this are taking place across the country—in states and counties—from New Jersey, to Oregon, to Kentucky, to Alaska. According to the anti-trans bills tracker, in 2023 the total number of anti-trans bills considered surged more than 3 times from previous years. In 2024, there have been 544 bills under consideration in 42 different states: 21 have passed, 130 have failed, and 393 are still active. At the same time, an unprecedented number of bills—37—were introduced at the federal level in 2023. These bills attack the civil rights and access to education and health care of children. They penalize parents, teachers, and health care providers who are seeking to support and provide caring environments for children by threatening them with criminal actions—sometimes felonies—and forcibly separating children from their parents.

We owe it to our children to do better. This is not a conditional statement—all children deserve to be supported and loved unconditionally. Identity development is critical to a child’s future happiness, health, and success. For transgender and non-binary children and youth, facing daily and constant attacks on who they are is harmful in the short and long-term for them, their families, and their communities. Children should not be sacrificed for political gain or personal agendas.

We must do better.

We owe children and youth support and care as they are growing up—there is nothing radical in that idea. What is radical is 544 bills aimed at preventing children from being healthy and supported in accordance with all we know about what children and youth need. By not standing up and creating inclusive communities, all of our children are at risk.