Shane Burley: This group is using ACT-UP tactics to make the fight for trans rights more urgent

Tear It Up plans to make trans activism louder—and more controversial

Xtra, March 30, 2022

When Kat Enyeart was growing up in Portland, Oregon, there was little affirmation, let alone support, for her identity. “I knew that I was trans with 100 percent certainty when I was in kindergarten,” says the 35-year-old multidisciplinary designer. But living with her unsupportive evangelical family left her feeling hopeless. “I really set my sights on just dying.”

Enyeart struggled for years in her early adulthood, surviving financially through sex work until she finally found a supportive LGBTQ2S+ community in Oregon, centred on radical activism. They showed her the support necessary to access competent health care, start a new career and build the future she believed impossible as a closeted trans kid. These experiences have echoed through her head as conservative legislators across the United States unleash what has become a multi-year legislative attack on trans people. Anti-trans bills have been travelling through state legislatures, often framed by lawmakers as a form of “protection” for kids. Critics, however, argue these laws are acutely harmful to trans children who are already at a heightened risk of depression, suicidal ideation and transphobic attacks.

This year has already seen the introduction of almost 240 anti-LGBT state bills, many targeting trans people by blocking trans students from participation on sports teams, disallowing access to school bathrooms that best align with their identity and denying them access to health care. Under a recent Idaho bill, for example, practitioners who make trans-related care accessible to youth could face a life sentence in prison. Alabama legislators want to prohibit not only trans students from restrooms, but also deny gender-affirming care to anyone under 19 and force teachers to “out” trans kids without regard to their safety.

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