Kentucky just forced through the ‘worst anti-trans bill in the US’. But its community won’t give up

A crowd of people hold up LGBTQ+ and trans Pride flags as well as signs in support of the community as they sit on the Kentucky state capitol steps to protest against the passing of SB 150

The Kentucky legislature has overridden the governor’s veto of a sweeping anti-trans bill – but the local community says the fight is far from over.

The Republican-dominated legislature voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday (29 March) to override Democratic governor Any Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 150, passing the horrific anti-trans bill into law. 

Described by LGBTQ+ activists as the most extreme in the nation, SB 150 will ban all gender-affirming medical care for trans under-18s and will require doctors to detransition minors currently receiving care.

The measure will also prohibit conversations around sexual orientation or gender identity in schools for students of all grades, ban trans students from using the bathroom for their gender identity and allow teachers to refuse to use a student’s correct pronouns. 

The Kentucky anti-trans bill was vetoed by Beshear on 24 March because he said it “tears away the freedom of parents to make important and difficult medical decisions for their kids”.

Hundreds of LGBTQ+ people, young and old, and allies showed up to the state capitol on Wednesday in a last ditch effort to convince state lawmakers to let the veto stand.

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However, their pleas were ignored when the state House and Senate, where Republicans hold super majorities, overrode the veto.

A crowd of people, many of whom are young, hold up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community and trans youth as they protest the passing of SB 150 at the Kentucky state capitol
A crowd of people, many of whom are young, gather to protest the passing of SB 150 on 29 March 2023 at the Kentucky state capitol. (Getty)

ACLU of Kentucky executive director Amber Duke denounced the passage of the bill as yet “another shameful attack on LGBTQ youth” in the state. Duke said the bill was “rushed through the legislature in a deliberately secretive process at the 11th hour” despite passionate testimony from trans Kentuckians and experts. 

“To all the trans youth who may be affected by this legislation: we stand by you, and we will not stop fighting. You are cherished. You are loved. You belong,” she said. 

“To the commonwealth: we will see you in court.”

Kentucky drag queen Poly Tics says the state’s LGBTQ+ community is ready to ‘fight for our existence’

Like many other Republican states, Kentucky is waging war on the LGBTQ+ community with a full slate of restrictive legislation.

On 10 March, its state senate passed a bill that would prohibit public drag performances, though it’s highly unlikely it will become law due to time restraints.

Drag queen Poly Tics was among those who stood before lawmakers to fight the bill, and has passionately spoken out against concerted efforts by Republicans to attack the LGBTQ+ community. 

They told PinkNews they were cautiously optimistic after the drag ban seemingly stalled, but suspected lawmakers had “sacrificed that bill to make room for another one”.

Kentucky drag queen Poly Tics, who is also an LGBTQ+ activist, wears a sparkly top and blue dress as she poses for a picture
Poly Tics spoke out against Kentucky’s proposed drag ban before lawmakers. She’s also fought against the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-trans bills in the state. (Instagram/@poly_tics)

“Because there were still a few bills that we were watching that could have gotten leeway and one of those was the very ominous anti-trans bill that unfortunately did pass,” they added.

“And so once we got news of that passing, it made victory bittersweet because we had defeated the anti-drag bill, and we have honestly defeated a plethora of other bills – I mean this session had some of the most insidious anti-LGBTQ+ bills we’ve ever seen in Kentucky, and not just the sheer type of bills but just the number of bills. 

“We have never seen this many anti-LGBTQ+ bills in one session… but the one bill that we didn’t beat was probably the most harmful. It was the most insidious. It was the most evil.”

Poly Tics says the bill hits especially close to home because she’s “helping raise a child” who is LGBTQ+.

“It was just devastating, and it was heartbreaking,” they say.

A crowd of people, many of whom are young, hold up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community and trans youth as they protest the passing of SB 150 at the Kentucky state capitol.
Poly Tics – like other LGBTQ+ advocates, allies and families of queer youth – fears the impact that anti-LGBTQ+ bills will have on young people. (Getty)

But the LGBTQ+ community is “no stranger to a fight”, Poly says, and she believes queer Kentuckians are ready to “fight for our existence”.

“We will fight back, we will organise, we will protest, we will march, we will do what we need to do to get these rights because they belong to us and ultimately you don’t have any other choice.”

“I like to remind people: This fight isn’t new. We’ve won this fight before, and we can win this fight again. 

“Their tactics to oppress and marginalise us may have changed, but our tactics can keep with us. As queer people, we can continue to fight.”

GOP lawmakers across the country have been fixated on prohibiting trans healthcare for minors

Kentucky’s anti-trans bill is part of a wave of legislation filed in recent years by Republican state lawmakers to diminish and regulate the lives of trans youth in the US. 

At least 10 states – including FloridaGeorgiaSouth DakotaArkansas and Alabama – have passed similar bans on gender-affirming healthcare for trans young people.

A crowd of people, many of whom are young, hold up signs in support of the LGBTQ+ community and trans youth as they protest the passing of SB 150 at the Kentucky state capitol.
Crowds of young people in Kentucky showed up to protest against SB 150, a trans healthcare ban and ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill, at the state capitol. (Getty)

Such bans go against the countless studies showing that gender-affirming care is life-saving. Studies have found the risks of increased depression, anxiety and suicidibility in trans people can be mitigated with gender-affirming care. 

These treatments have been endorsed by several major medical medical associations as safe and effective.

In other states, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly introduced bills banning gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth, amid other anti-trans bills, under the guise of ‘protecting children’ and are routinely raising the age on such measures to go after adults now too. 

This year along has seen over 470 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the US – a record-breaking number. The proposed bills range from trans bathroom bans and sports bans to drag bans and ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bills. 

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