On Nov. 19, the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a man entered an LGBTQIA+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and opened fire on its patrons. Five people were killed. Anti-LGBTQIA+ violence is on the rise, and those promoting queerphobic hate speech—from political pundits to media outlets—share responsibility for the escalation. The promotion of hate speech is stochastic terrorism, the deployment of rhetoric demonizing a marginalized group and calling for their elimination to the point of inciting violence against them.
By fearmongering about gender-related care for trans and nonbinary youth and crafting conspiracy theories that paint queer and trans people as “groomers” who prey on children, the conservative right weaponizes concern for the safety and well-being of children to fuel stochastic terrorism. But the language around protecting children is merely a smokescreen to obscure their true aim of further oppressing minors through a Christofascist rule.
Theologian Tom F. Driver describes Christofascism as “the political direction of all attempts to place Christ at the center of social life and history.” These attempts to impose conservative religious views and values on society are done through the creation of social, medical, legal, and carceral consequences for those who deviate from conservative Christian standards.
Since 2020, hundreds of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have been drafted and proposed by religious right legislators around the country. Trans-eliminationists and conversion therapy advocates have used anti-LGBTQIA+ propaganda to draw in more evangelical voters and elect more ultra-conservative lawmakers who will appease white Christian nationalists. The majority of these anti-LGBTQIA+ bills have targeted trans and nonbinary youth because targeting children is the most opportune way to garner support and secure political power for adults vying for totalitarian control of minors.
Children are an oppressed class in our society, and religious spaces operate in large part through the indoctrination, control, and subjugation of children. It remains a common evangelical strategy to focus on protecting children from sexual exploitation and impropriety to advance their political agendas, even as the church continues to harbor known sexual abusers. Having no political power and very little recourse against parental or institutional abuses, minors are convenient targets—both as abuse victims and political fodder.
In early November, Texas State Rep. Cole Hefner introduced a bill to criminalize gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary minors, classifying it as “family violence” and a form of criminal child abuse. Under the proposed law, providers and parents in Texas could face up to 20 years in prison for facilitating evidence-based gender-affirming care to improve children’s lives. It’s the latest in a string of anti-trans bills emerging nationwide, leaving at least a third of minors at risk of losing gender-affirming care.
According to House Bill 672, “administering or supplying, or consenting to or assisting in the administration or supply of, a puberty suppression prescription drug or cross-sex hormone to a child, other than an intersex child, for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment” will be considered child abuse and banned. The intersex exception here is significant. The bill notes that intersex children have characteristics that “are not suited to the typical definition of male or female or are atypical for the determined sex of the child.”
The same medical interventions that are life-saving for trans and nonbinary children—lowering the odds of suicidality and improving health outcomes—are detrimental when imposed upon intersex youth. While legislators seek to ban trans and nonbinary children from having autonomous access to gender-affirming care, these same medical interventions are not only freely allowed for intersex children but often forced upon them before they are old enough to consent.
Most intersex surgeries are performed on children younger than 2 years old. These medically unnecessary procedures are done to align children’s genitalia and reproductive anatomy with gendered social expectations, creating “life-long harms [such as] scarring, chronic pain, chronic incontinence, loss of sexual sensation, sterilization, inaccurate gender assignment, and trauma,” according to the National Health Law Program, an organization that works to protect and advance the health rights of low-income and underserved people. House Bill 672 defines gender-affirming and life-saving care for trans and nonbinary children as child abuse while specifically and strategically permitting the continued systematic harm of intersex children.
As intersex advocate Amanda Saenz wrote for Prism, intersex children often grow up under parental and medical surveillance to ensure their alignment with societally defined gender and biological sex norms. Those “who grew up to be gay or trans were understood as ‘diagnostic failures’ by their doctors because their goal in ‘treating’ intersex children was to render straight cisgender adults through hormonal and surgical interventions,” Saenz wrote. The goal of these “treatments” is to support the control and obedience of children, not to support the well-being of children.
The specification of “for the purpose of gender transitioning or gender reassignment” included in the language of the bill is as significant as the intersex exception. This is a cisgender exception, meaning the bill specifically bans hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria but permits the same hormone therapy for children who conform to their assigned gender. The “puberty suppression prescription drug[s]” that legislators want to restrict for trans and nonbinary youth are regularly used to treat precocious puberty in cisgender children.
As pediatric endocrinologist Jason Klein explained to VICE, “Puberty blockers have been used for decades in cisgender kids who either are going through puberty too early, or, in some instances, kids who are going through puberty very quickly.” According to VICE, the lies claiming that puberty blockers “are inherently dangerous and suffer from a lack of long-term, longitudinal data” are pervasive throughout the proposed legislation to ban hormonal therapy for trans and nonbinary children, contributing to the larger goal of codifying legal discrimination against any form of queerness. “Their use has been FDA approved, well-studied, well-documented, and well-tolerated for a long time now,” Klein said to VICE. “And it’s the exact same medication that we use in trans or nonbinary children to basically put a pause on pubertal development. Exactly the same medications, at exactly the same doses.”
The push to ban gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth and force medical interventions on intersex children is driven by the Christofascist desire to eliminate queerness and force strict societal adherence to the mythological gender binary.
The Christofascist intent to prosecute parents and providers who facilitate care for trans and nonbinary children is rooted in the subjugation of children and the hatred of queerness. It is made possible by our collective denial of children’s bodily autonomy and narrative authority over their identities. We exist in a culture where adults regard children as blank forms that can be molded into whatever they deem appropriate.
Proposed bans on gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth are about children’s rights as much as they are about the right to trans and nonbinary existence. Acknowledging that children are an oppressed class reveals how anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation and rhetoric targeting trans and nonbinary youth takes root and flourishes in a society that does not understand children as human beings deserving of rights.