Transgender adults in red states fear for the next generation as political attacks accelerate

As she got older, her senses and emotions dulled. Moving through life as the man the world saw, rather than the person she knew she was, meant performing rather than living. Her “soul was dying.” 

Of the nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills proposed so far this year, more than 80 have become law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. New laws targeting transgender rights include requirements that schools tell parents of any changes in a student’s appearance or behavior that could be construed to be an exploration of gender identity, and restrictions on bathroom use and sports participation. There have also been bans on gender-affirming health care for minors — including puberty blockers and hormones — even though such care has been widely endorsed by the medical community. 

Trans people who came of age during a time when pop culture was rife with negative depictions of them, transition-related care was unavailable, and reliable information and safe spaces were largely nonexistent, are fearful the current political environment is condemning new generations of trans youths and young adults to the same marginalization, bullying and mental health challenges that they and many of their peers experienced.

Rejection, bullying and despair

Allison Scott endured bullying from teachers and classmates in her North Carolina hometown. Her mother largely rejected her, suggesting she was “gay,” although Scott had no idea what that meant. Her father regularly threatened to kill her, once pinning her against the wall and choking her because she wasn’t the ideal son. 

“I didn’t make a conscious effort to be anything other than myself. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what he was talking about,” she said. 

No place was safe for the awkward kid who didn’t exactly understand her feelings but didn’t try to be anyone other than the boy people saw.  

Allison Scott, left. and Jessica Gritton.Courtesy Allison Scott, Jessica Gritton

“I was a child. You know, home and school and my neighborhood were my life. That was my entire universe, and none of those people allowed for anything other than conformity,” said Scott, now 49.

The summer after she finished the fourth grade, Scott was sent to conversion therapy camp, where, for hours on the first night, the children were forced to sit painfully close to a raging bonfire. 

“They told us that was the fires of hell and that we would all burn in that for all of eternity,” Scott recalled.  

She mentally disassociated from her body that night and for the rest of the week, unable to bear the constant barrage of threats and condemnation.

After she was returned to her parents, and anticipating a new school year sure to include more bullying, Scott attempted to end her life. She was 10.

Similarly, Texas resident Jessica Gritton, 47, was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said the only messages she received about LGBTQ people were that they were “sinful” and bad.

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