“Everything is bigger in Texas”—words that were etched into my childhood. And even as I moved across the country, I carried those words with me with a small sense of pride. But, those words took on new meaning as I embraced a life of activism and advocacy.
No longer conjuring up images of Big Tex, I now reflect on the bigger barriers set by our state to cast a ballot, the bigger hurdles imposed on women and minority communities in order to obtain health care, and the bigger obstacles imposed on all of us for simply being who we are.
In 2023, the Texas State Legislature led the country in transphobic legislation; 52 bills so far to be exact. From prohibiting lifesaving gender-affirming care for trans youth to banning transgender athletes from competing as part of teams that align with their gender identity—everything might be bigger in Texas, but it seems that also applies to hate and bigotry.
As a civil rights attorney, I rely on precedent, on how our history can inform our present and future. One case that comes to mind, Robinson v. California, details how the 1962 Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Lawrence Robinson, who was criminalized for being labeled a drug addict in the state of California. The Court upheld that it was unconstitutional, and in fact “cruel and unusual,” to punish an individual based on “status” or who they are.
In the recent case R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court upheld that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. And while few may have expected it to apply to discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, SCOTUS affirms that the language prohibiting discriminatory practice is unambiguous.
But despite these precedents, there are still 52—and counting—instances of discriminatory legislation being considered in the Texas State Capitol.
Last month, the Texas Senate voted in favor of passing bills to criminalize drag shows and defund public libraries that host Drag Story Hour. Proponents for these bills fallaciously argue that they protect children from overtly sexual content, without recognizing that classifying any and all queer expression as sexual is inherently discriminatory. Should these bills be signed into law, donning a robe and glasses to read Harry Potter or performing Shakespeare could be considered and penalized as “drag.” But this isn’t the Texas legislature going after our favorite childhood series or summer reading list (at least this time); this is a direct and discriminatory attack against people who share these, and other stories, with us.
It may be easy to view these attacks as mere political differences, things not to be brought up at the family dinner table. But when trans Americans are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime and nearly half of LGBTQ+ youths had seriously considered suicide in the past year, stopping these attacks become all of our responsibilities.
The ACLU currently tracks over 460 bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights in 46 states. So we should be clear on what these pieces of legislation are actually doing here in Texas and across the country.
When we take away gender-affirming care, we are taking away life-saving care. When we talk about restricting drag, we are telling our children that who they are and who they may want to be is wrong. When we ban even mentions of LGBTQ+ existence in our schools, we are attempting to erase diversity from an entire generation’s consciousness.
You won’t find this quote in case law, but in the face of standing for what is morally right, even Captain America understood:
“Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, ‘No, you move.’”
Whether we look to when the Supreme Court struck down a discriminatory conviction in California and upheld Title VII to protect the LGBTQ+ community, or to the activists who shouted “Protect trans kids!” in the Capitol, it’s time we all stand together and say, “No, you move.”