Professors, GSD coordinator react to anti-trans laws


Ryan Meyer, Multimedia Reporter

On March 31, Transgender Day of Visibility, President Biden signed an executive order “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.” 

At the state level, discrimination through legislation against the LGBTQ+ community has been more prominent in 2022 than in any other year, according to NBC, and roughly half of the 238 proposed bills so far, as of March 20, are aimed at transgender people.  

Melinda Mueller, chair of Eastern’s political science department, said that conversations surrounding transgender rights are causing people to address such topics.  

“So whenever something was a non-issue, a lot of people could just look away and not have to face it,” Mueller said. “And now that they are confronted with thinking about it, then they’re going to push back and oppose it.” 

According to data from The Trevor Project from 2021, “at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S.” 

Mueller said that statistics like those are one of the most worrisome consequences of anti-transgender discourse.  

“I think I worry most of all about mental health and the suicide rate of LGBTQ youth,” Mueller said. “I think that that’s a real risk when we marginalize populations more and more, or violence against the LGBTQ people, because we kind of stir up this idea of animosity against them.” 

In order for change to occur, Mueller said, it is important to act if bills are being introduced so as to try and prevent them from being passed and to voice their dissent. 

“One thing is that just because these bills get introduced doesn’t mean that they get passed into law,” Mueller said. “And if they’re introduced it’s really important that people work to let legislators know that they’re not happy with them if they’re not happy with them, to vote, to get involved and to try to make that change.” 

A proposed law in Texas would require teachers and health professionals to report parents for helping their child receive gender-affirming medical treatment, referring to it as child abuse.  

Tanya Willard, the coordinator for Eastern’s Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, said a law like this is bad for both parents and their children.  

“That’s awful because those parents are doing everything they can to make sure that that kid gets to be who they are,” Willard said. “…Those parents are probably that kid’s strongest, biggest allies. They’re going to be their biggest cheerleaders, their biggest supporters. You’re taking that away from kids who already have a lot stacked up against them.”  

Karen Swenson, a political science professor at Eastern, said that opposition to such laws and efficient trial courts could stop the laws in their tracks.  

“Well, we do have pretty powerful interest groups there that have quite a bit of money like the American Civil Liberties Union,” Swenson said. “And I think they’re pretty quick to fight back litigation, and I think these laws are probably dead on arrival because the courts can act on them pretty quickly.”  

Swenson also described the approach a lawyer might take to defend families in court.  

“If you were a lawyer for those families, you’d take a two-pronged attack,” Swenson said. “You’d claim that these laws violate equal protection because they target a suspect class, they’re really motivated by animosity towards transgender people, and you’d also argue that it violates the due process rights of the parents to raise their children in their own best judgment.” 

Willard said the present does not feel great, but she is optimistic about the next generation’s rise to positions where change can be made. 

“I think there’s a lot of reason to be hopeful a little further down the road,” Willard said. “We just got to be patient and let some of these young people grow up and get into those positions of power.  

Mueller was also able to approach issues such as these as reasons to act and inspire people to make a change.  

“On the other hand, maybe it will encourage more people to run for office and more people to get involved in advocacy,” Mueller said. 


Ryan Meyer can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].