Here’s How a New Wave of Legislation Aims to “Legally Erase” Trans People

A new wave of legislation is targeting the very legal existence of trans people, leaving LGBTQ+ advocates across the country to grapple with the implications.

Over 35 bills have been put forward in 2024 that seek to define trans people out of public life, according to an analysis from the Transformations Project, a grassroots nonprofit tracking anti-trans legislation. These right-wing bills are predominantly intended to change existing laws (or implement new ones) to redefine sex based on biological characteristics, thereby excluding trans and gender nonconforming people. This kind of legislation would impede trans people’s ability to move through daily public life, from using public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas to accessing domestic violence shelters and updating their identity documents.

Taken together, the bills would effectively require that trans and gender nonconforming people be misgendered in order to move through the world. This legislation also seems to be an early step at chipping at legal protections for trans people that already exist. When examining the wide swath of these bills, LGBTQ+ advocates believe the intent is to chip away at the gains made in the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which held that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under the definition of “sex” in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By redefining what that word means at the statewide level, lawmakers potentially have the ability to limit the scope of that decision, thereby slowing the LGBTQ+ equality movement’s pace.

Of the 19 states that have introduced such legislation, Mississippi and Oklahoma are currently leading the pack: At least five different proposals tabled to each state’s legislature seek to redefine words like “sex” to refer to one’s “biological sex at birth.” For instance, Oklahoma’s HB 1449 defines the word “female” to mean a “natural person whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and says that a man is any individual whose “biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.” The legislation also goes onto redefine other gendered terms, such as “man,” “woman,” “boy,” “girl,” “mother,” and “father,” in ways that intentionally exclude mention of the lived realities of trans people.

Some of these bills are rapidly advancing through their statehouses: Mississippi’s HB 1607 has already passed its House of Representatives, and Alabama’s HB 111 is likely headed for a House vote within the coming weeks following favorable notices in committee hearings. These proposals, which are virtually identical to one another, also go out of their way to legally erase intersex people. Their respective bill texts state that “individuals with differences in sex development, also known as ‘DSDs’ or ‘intersex conditions,’ are not a third sex.”

Jose Vazquez, communications director for the ACLU of Alabama, notes the heteronormative framing of these bills also ties legal manhood and womanhood to the act of biological reproduction, which could have direct impacts on LGBTQ+ people and individuals whose bodies don’t conform to those standards. For example: Is a gay man not fertilizing an ova then a lesser man, legally speaking? Vazquez believes the open questions left unanswered by HB 111 are “fully intentional.”