Metro Weekly

2023: Year of the Ban – A Special Report

From bans on health care to sports to books, 2023 saw an ongoing assault against LGBTQ visibility in its various forms.

Romeo and Juliet – Original image by Dane Larsen, via Flickr

Despite some positive electoral victories as 2023 ended, last year was largely a rough one for members of the LGBTQ community, who found themselves targeted by various pieces of legislation, executive orders, and a resurgent right-wing political movement opposed to what it sees as “woke” ideas or values.

It was also the year that the nation’s top LGBTQ advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, declared a national state of emergency, citing efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights or restrict LGBTQ visibility and various freedoms, with Republican-led state legislatures serving as the primary aggressors.

The segment of the LGBTQ spectrum most under fire in 2023 was the transgender community, whose members saw legislation targeting them pushed into law, despite the intense lobbying of lawmakers and often over the advice of medical professionals and parents of transgender children. 

Even past battles once thought to have been won were reignited, as conservatives on Capitol Hill pledged to revive the now-defunct Trump-era ban prohibiting trans individuals from serving in the Armed Forces. 

Amid these incessant attacks, public polling, which had once shown large-scale acceptance of transgender people, began to shift, indicating the broader public’s goodwill towards transgender people had begun to erode.

With right-wing organizations and politicians demonstrating their organizing skills and seemingly able to amplify their message through the media with ease, it really did appear that there was a well-organized movement to ensure that transgender existence is “eradicated from public life entirely,” as Daily Wire contributor Michael Knowles urged in a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

But transgender people were not the only ones under attack. Throughout 2023, in various cities and towns across the United States, incidents of vandalism abounded, with Pride flags burned or destroyed, homes and establishments spray-painted, firebombed, or threatened with violence for supporting LGBTQ rights or hosting drag-themed events, and LGBTQ people physically attacked or harmed, some fatally. 

Abroad, some countries, including, most infamously, Uganda, pushed for harsher penalties for suspected homosexuals, with punishments ranging from significant jail time to execution. Russia, meanwhile, used a court ruling declaring the global LGBTQ movement an “extremist” organization to justify subsequent raids of LGBTQ organizations, effectively leading to their shuttering. Meanwhile, some U.S. politicians and right-wing pundits cheered laws in various countries, from Africa to Europe to Asia, aimed at restricting LGBTQ freedoms.

As we enter 2024 uncertain of what the future may bring, we, as LGBTQ people, can survey the landscape of LGBTQ rights and freedoms, remembering the developments that brought us to this juncture and learn from them. At the same time, we must also remain vigilant about future attempts to infringe upon our most rights — namely, our freedom to identify as we do, and to express that identity in whichever way we choose — and be willing to defend those rights.

With that in mind, Metro Weekly presents a look back at the bans that characterized and shaped 2023.

Illustration: Todd Franson

Transgender Health Care Bans

Globally, one of the chief culture-war issues has become the debate over transgender identity, and in particular, the ability of transgender people to transition and have their gender identity officially recognized. Particularly galvanizing to opponents of the transgender community is the issue of minors who identify as trans or nonbinary.

Some people question whether minors even understand the concept of gender identity and whether they should be allowed to socially transition. Others, including many not traditionally on the political right, express reticence at the prospect of allowing minors to access gender-affirming medical care that may alleviate their feelings of gender dysphoria and potentially aid them in transitioning once they reach adulthood.

Over the past three years, especially in 2023, bans on gender-affirming care have passed in 22 states, including South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Montana, Wisconsin, and Ohio, with the latter two bans being vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine.

Utah passed a bill banning surgical interventions for minors, while Florida’s Department of Health banned gender-affirming care for minors and passed restrictions regarding the manner in which transgender adults may seek out similar treatments.

“There have been 22 states that have passed laws over the last three years really targeting trans youth and have eliminated the right of parents to decide the best care for their kids, and are trying everything to prevent care from being provided that is frequently provided to non-transgender kids on a regular basis for different conditions,” says Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney for Lambda Legal. “We’re talking about puberty blockers, in some cases hormones. Very few people undergo any kind of surgical care ever, whether trans or not transgender. 

“A lot of these states have passed laws seizing on this as an issue, but I think it’s pretty clear that they’ve lost abortion as a way to rile up their base, so they’ve chosen trans youth as a way to turn out the vote. And those laws are completely inconsistent with science and medicine.”

Similar attempts to introduce restrictions on transgender care — specifically focusing on gender-affirming care for trans-identifying service members and military dependents — took place in Congress, with the Republican-led House approving amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. However, those provisions were rejected by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate and ultimately removed from the final version of the key defense funding bill.

While only one state-level ban on gender-affirming care, in Arkansas, has been struck down as unconstitutional, several federal courts have issued temporary injunctions blocking such laws.

While some federal appeals courts –- namely, the conservative-leaning 6th and 11th Circuit — have subsequently overruled lower judges and allowed bans to take effect, Buchert notes that even several conservative judicial appointees from the lower courts, which are “closest to the fact-finding” and that are “hearing directly from the experts, trans youth, and parents themselves” have generally sided against the bans.

“In 2024, we’re going to see more action at the circuit court level on this issue,” Buchert says. “We’re getting ready to have an oral argument in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals involving an Oklahoma ban that we’re challenging. We’ll probably see the case in Idaho get appealed by the state and go to the 9th Circuit, and likely a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals case with North Carolina’s ban. We’ve already seen appeals, not of gender-affirming care bans, but for cases involving Medicaid exclusion. So I think we’re going to continue to see, even if the Supreme Court doesn’t take up the issue, significant court rulings in the next few months.”

Photo: Celso Pupo Rodrigues, via Dreamstime

Sports Bans

With increased attention and scrutiny being placed on the transgender community, 2023 also saw an increase in laws barring transgender athletes — specifically trans females — from competing on sports teams matching their gender identity. Proponents of such laws argue that transgender women and girls enjoy an unfair advantage over cisgender athletes and therefore deny them the opportunity to compete for medals, honors, and scholarships related to their athletic accomplishments.

Last year saw a ban on transgender athletes passed in Alaska, a college-specific ban passed in Texas that complements a K-12 ban imposed last year, and several states pass bans on transgender athletes as part of “omnibus” bills restricting gender-affirming care or prohibiting LGBTQ-themed curriculum content, discussions, or books in schools.

The Republican-led U.S. House approved a bill barring transgender athletes from women’s sports, but that same bill failed to garner a floor vote in the Senate.

Like the state-level bans on gender-affirming care, a handful of the sports bans have also been challenged in the courts, with judges usually deciding to block such laws. Currently, there are temporary injunctions blocking enforcement of bans in Arizona, Idaho, West Virginia, and Utah, meaning transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in those states.

In other states, like Texas or Florida, challenges to similar sports bans have either not been brought or have been dismissed due to lack of standing.

On an international level, for elite athletes, many sporting organizations have passed stringent guidelines that effectively prevent transgender females from competing in women’s sporting events, except in rare cases where an athlete can prove they never underwent male puberty or the development of secondary sex characteristics. World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, the World Boxing Council, the International Rugby League, the International Cycling Union, and World Aquatics, the governing body in water sports, have all restricted transgender participation. 

World Aquatics attempted to create a third category open to any athlete, specifically transgender individuals, and was slated to hold “open” races for specific distances at the World Cup in Berlin, Germany, in October, but was forced to cancel those events after no athletes signed up. It remains to be seen whether a lack of interest or participation in “open” category competitions will doom similar proposals in boxing events or triathlons.

Photo Illustration by Todd Franson. Original Photo: Juan Marin, via Unsplash

Bathroom Bans

Last year also saw the revival of the push for so-called “bathroom bans,” both at the K-12 level and in public restrooms, reviving an issue that had largely died down following the backlash that North Carolina received after its passage of the controversial HB2 law in 2016, which was ultimately repealed.

Bans in states like Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, and Kansas restricting transgender individuals’ ability to use public restrooms took effect, while a similar measure was vetoed in Arizona by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs. Currently, there is a split in the circuits, with the 4th and 7th Circuits having precedent in which bans on transgender students’ restroom access have been deemed unconstitutional, while the conservative 11th Circuit has allowed a similar ban in Florida to stand.

Subsequent rulings on K-12 restroom access appear to depend on students’ geographic location, with school officials in Indiana and Wisconsin — states that fall under the purview of the 7th Circuit — being blocked from enforcing such bans. Ultimately, there appears to be no single nationwide resolution until and if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to take up a case and decide whether bans on transgender individuals using gender-affirming restrooms are unconstitutional.

Florida has also taken a step further, with the State Board of Education unanimously voting to adopt rules restricting restroom access on college campuses. Under the rules, institutions must offer and clearly label sex-segregated restrooms, with penalties in place for students or staff who use restrooms or changing facilities that don’t match their assigned sex at birth.

Montana Pride kickoff event on July 30, 2023 – Photo: Montana Pride, via Facebook


Drag/Pride Bans

Another development over the past year with respect to LGBTQ rights is the increase in efforts to ban visible expressions of LGBTQ identity, whether in the form of bans on Pride celebrations, myriad attempts to ban, destroy, or desecrate Pride flags, and bans on drag under the guise of regulating “adult live performances” or “adult entertainment.”

Two states — Montana and Tennessee — specifically ban drag performances in public or where they might be viewed by minors, while four other states — North Dakota, Arkansas, Texas, and Florida — have “adult entertainment” laws that don’t precisely list drag shows but have largely been interpreted in a way to restrict such performances or ban them from the public square. 

The Arkansas law, in particular, could potentially threaten the ability to host the Miss Gay America drag pageant, held annually in Little Rock. In Florida, several Pride celebrations were canceled or rolled back over fears that the presence of drag queens might violate the law. 

Meanwhile, the Montana law has been enforced in a way that targets trans-identifying individuals, with a public library canceling a public lecture from a transgender indigenous author over fears that her public gender presentation would run afoul of the anti-drag law. Several LGBTQ advocates have expressed fears that if similar restrictions pass in other states, transgender individuals living their daily lives may be targeted for wearing clothing that does not conform to expectations for their assigned sex at birth.

In Tennessee, local officials attempted to block the celebration “Boro Pride” in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, using the state’s “adult entertainment” law. A judge eventually blocked local officials from enforcing the law, allowing the Pride celebration to move forward.

“The First Amendment is the core constitutional issue in a lot of these drag restrictions. It’s about the right to express yourself and the right to free speech that undergirds a lot of that litigation,” says Lambda Legal’s Buchert, explaining why challenges seeking to block such laws have largely been successful.

Meanwhile, in states like Nebraska and Oklahoma, Republican governors have passed so-called “Women’s Bills of Rights” that effectively deny the existence of transgender individuals by refusing to legally recognize their gender identity as valid. Such laws only recognize people based on their assigned sex at birth, as determined by their reproductive anatomy. In doing so, transgender existence, even as an adult, is effectively erased from public view.

Even in the world of sports, there’s been a backlash against LGBTQ visibility.

The National Hockey League announced that it would no longer allow players to wear Pride-themed warmup sweaters or jerseys after a handful of conservative players, citing religious beliefs, refused to wear them. The league also imposed a ban on rainbow-colored Pride Tape used on hockey sticks, to allow players with political or religious beliefs opposing homosexuality to avoid being associated with LGBTQ causes.

While it later reversed course, on the grounds that punishing pro-LGBTQ players for using Pride Tape would infringe on their freedom of speech and expression, the league’s misstep on the issue demonstrated that even historically “friendly” organizations like the NHL are susceptible to being manipulated by those wishing to erase LGBTQ identity from public view.

Original Photo: Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Book/Curriculum Bans

The fight against LGBTQ visibility also extended to the classroom. In 2023, a flood of bills sought to limit minors’ exposure to LGBTQ-related topics. Several states, such as Iowa and North Carolina, following the example of Florida in 2022, passed their own “Don’t Say Gay” laws prohibiting discussions of LGBTQ-related content in K-12 schools. Florida, meanwhile, expanded the reach of its law from grades K-3 to K-12.

The enforcement of Florida’s law was also taken to new extremes, with one teacher investigated for showing her class the Disney movie Strange World, which has a gay main character, and another, who identifies as nonbinary fired for using the gender-neutral honorific “Mx.” to describe themselves. Attempts by the state to ban the Advanced Placement Psychology course for addressing LGBTQ identity — considered a violation of the “Don’t Say Gay” law –- led to several school districts dropping the course and adopting alternative curricula.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Education adopted rules that discipline students and staff for using gender-affirming restrooms, and threaten staff with the loss of teaching credentials or licenses for allowing LGBTQ-related discussions in class, or using or asking about students’ preferred pronouns. Other rules dictate that parental permission must be obtained for students to participate in after-school clubs, and prohibit drag-related activities, such as Drag Queen Story Hour events, from occurring on school grounds, even when children are not present.

Other states have gotten involved in actively censoring LGBTQ existence. In Texas, a teacher was fired for assigning a reading from an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, which includes lesbian-tinged themes that Frank had written about in the unedited version of her diary.

In Wisconsin, a teacher was ultimately fired after being placed on administrative leave for criticizing the district’s decision to prohibit her students from singing the Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus song “Rainbowland,” over fears that the song communicated an LGBTQ-friendly message. Still another teacher in Georgia was fired for reading a book featuring a nonbinary character with her fifth-grade class.

Photo: Wisconsin teacher Melissa Tempel was fired after protesting Waukesha County’s ban on the song “Rainbowland”

Books became a focal point in the culture wars, both in terms of their availability at school libraries and even in public libraries. Advocates of censorship have claimed that they only want books depicting sexual acts or age-inappropriate content from libraries, to avoid exposing children to such issues prematurely. 

But critics of such bans argue — as did a judge who recently blocked Iowa’s book-banning law — that such restrictions are often so vague and overly broad that they could technically be interpreted in a way that would require removal of many more books, not just those that have sexual content.

Others, including LGBTQ advocates, argue that any book with an LGBTQ character can be deemed “sexual” depending on who is doing the deeming. Two members of the right-wing advocacy group Moms for Liberty even filed a report with police over the presence of a book they found objectionable in a local school library.

Some school districts have found themselves in legal trouble while attempting to ban or remove books from shelves. For example, the U.S. Department of Education accused a Georgia school district of potentially creating a “hostile” atmosphere for LGBTQ-identifying students in the way it went about trying to establish a process for removing so-called “sexually explicit” books. The department eventually reached a settlement with the school district.

In Florida, various school districts have attempted to allow greater leeway for book challenges, in compliance with the state’s expanded “Don’t Say Gay” law. In Charlotte County, district officials demanded the removal of all books with LGBTQ content, before backing off slightly to allow non-explicit books with LGBTQ themes or characters at the high school level to remain, so long as they are not used in classroom instruction.

In Lake County, officials were sued by the authors of the children’s book And Tango Makes Three, depicting a penguin family headed by two male penguins, based on a real-life story, after the book was banned by the district. 

The cover of “And Tango Makes Three,” which was targeted for banning in some Florida school districts

While the book was later returned to shelves in Lake County, the lawsuit has been transferred to a case in Escambia County in which the book was removed from the shelves. Escambia County currently faces a separate lawsuit from PEN America, publishing house Penguin Random House, and authors whose works have been censored or removed from shelves. 

In Massachusetts, police recently entered a school with the intent of removing a copy of a book, Gender Queer, that a complainant claimed was equivalent to “pornography” and alleged was being distributed widely to minors. The police officer ultimately failed to find the book and left without it. 

“More books are being banned. We’re seeing LGBTQ books banned. We’re seeing books with characters of color and those that talk about themes of race or racism [banned],” says Sabrina Baeta, program manager of the Freedom to Read project at PEN America, an organization opposing censorship efforts. “But especially last year, as more and more books were getting banned overall, the more types of books were getting banned. … It’s really a wide array. 

“I always say when we’re looking at the list of banned books, that the only thing they have in common is that they’re banned,” Baeta continues. “It represents a wide array of genres of books. So really it’s a wide attack on all information and in an effort to discredit and intimidate educators and librarians from being able to do their jobs.”

Fights over censorship have not been limited to the classroom. In various libraries from Maryland to California, right-wing activists have sought to “check out” LGBTQ or other books with “inappropriate” themes in order to ensure children cannot access the titles. In Kansas, a library serving rural communities was forced to remove LGBTQ and other books in order to continue receiving financial support from the local government. In Mississippi, minors have been denied access to a widely used e-book and audiobook platform over fears that the system may allow them to access books containing what the state deems “sexually oriented” materials.

“I think that when looking at the book bans, and seeing how coordinated they are with drag bans and other efforts, it’s important to note that this is an attack on freedom of access to information,” Baeta says. “One of the questions I get a lot is, ‘Well, students have phones. Why are they attacking public libraries when they can access anything they could want to access through the Internet and through other means?’

“But it is the principle of the library being an institution of open access. And that’s what’s being attacked right now, those institutions that offer free information, those community events that offer a diversity of views. That’s what’s being attacked and why it’s so widespread.”

Even locally in Virginia, where such efforts have not been carried out due to a Democratic “firewall” in the State Senate, the Republican-led House of Delegates has introduced a slew of anti-LGBTQ measures, including a proposed “Don’t Say Gay”-style law, a transgender sports ban, and a “forced outing” bill. At the school board level, several counties have either attempted to ban books or remove references to LGBTQ content from the curriculum. Additionally, Gov. Glenn Youngkin has urged lawmakers to adopt so-called “model policies” on transgender students that refuse to acknowledge those same students’ identities.

Fortunately for LGBTQ people, candidates who advocated in favor of restrictions on academic freedom were largely rejected in most school board races in the Commonwealth.

“While the ‘year of the ban’ reared its head in Virginia in 2023, voters reined it in,” Narissa Rahaman, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Virginia, told Metro Weekly in an email. “We’re hopeful that in 2024, voters in other states and localities will do the same.”

Kyle McDaniel, a bisexual man who recently won a bid for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board, says that during his campaign for office, the candidates who were endorsed by the Republican Party in the “technically” nonpartisan race all ran on book banning or curriculum censorship.

Heading into the race, Democrats fretted that calls for greater restrictions on books and lesson plans would resonate with voters, echoing Gov. Youngkin’s messaging around “parental rights” in the 2021 election.

“I don’t try to draw too many conclusions from what I would call the ‘noise,'” McDaniel says. “I would say that here, locally, in Fairfax County, there’s a small vocal minority of folks that are pushing these book plans in these curriculum changes. They have a right to their opinion and their views. But from my perspective, as a member of a governing board, we have to have an administrative process in place that levels the playing field, and that’s fair to all sides of an issue. And we have that with respect to book bans.”

He notes that as part of that process, when a book is challenged, the school district convenes a committee consisting of parents, librarians, curriculum experts, and administrators, who review the book and make a recommendation regarding whether it can remain on the shelves. Yet despite having such procedures in place, some right-wing activists and conservative community members complain that such book review committees are biased against their point of view.

“I think, unfortunately, what has occurred — and we saw this after the 2021 governor’s race — is that the Republican Party latched on to public education, and any other issues they could find, fair or not, to amp it up to win elections, and they haven’t stopped,” McDaniel says. “And they’re going to continue to do it because they think that they found a winning recipe. But, fortunately, voters in Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Spotsylvania County, and even in downstate jurisdictions, demonstrated during this past election that they reject attacks on public education.”

McDaniel expects to see a continuance of the heated rhetoric around schools in 2024.

“I don’t see things toning down,” he says. “We’re going into what’s going to be a very divisive presidential election year and public education, book banning, LGBTQ kids, curriculum matters are all still very salient. They’re hot. They’re on people’s radar.

“So I think our public schools are going to be a political punching bag over the next 12 months as the [presidential] election unfolds.”

Photo Illustration by Todd Franson – Images by Marek Kosmal, and Chepko, Dreamstime

Boycotts of LGBTQ-Friendly Companies

While there were no government-imposed bans on products in the United States, 2023 marked a year of boycotts of companies that celebrated LGBTQ identity or tried to market themselves to the LGBTQ community, fueled by a larger societal backlash against political correctness, gender-nonconformity, and LGBTQ visibility more broadly.

The push for boycotts began with a backlash against Bud Light after the beer brand enlisted transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for an online promotion during March Madness. The use of Mulvaney, who is not known for being a sports fan, and whose “Days of Girlhood” TikTok series, which documented her gender transition, enraged conservatives.

In lashing out at Mulvaney, several right-wing influencers began a coordinated campaign to punish Bud Light, and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch, for partnering with the trans influencer. Soon calls for boycotts emerged, resulting in large-scale abandonment of Budweiser products, especially in more conservative environments. Bud Light sales plummeted and the beer giant lost its footing as America’s top-selling beer.

A similar backlash took place against retail giant Target over Pride-themed displays in stores, particularly with respect to merchandise offered in the children’s section, and the presence of an adult-sized “tuck-friendly” swimsuit.

Conservatives accused the store chain of seeking to “groom” or “indoctrinate” children into accepting homosexuality as normal, and several Target stores were inundated with bomb threats. Meanwhile, right-wing influencers demanded a boycott similar to the one against Bud Light, with at least one influencer saying openly that the goal of such campaigns was to “make ‘Pride’ toxic” for major companies and brands.

In response, the company withdrew some of its LGBTQ-themed merchandise from shelves, with some stores even going so far as to prevent Pride-themed items from being sold. The company was sued by the right-wing, anti-LGBTQ group America First Legal, which pointed to financial losses caused by a right-wing boycott as evidence that the company failed to act in the best interests of its investors. Following that logic, it was unwise for Target to market Pride merchandise to customers, simply because the promotion or celebration of LGBTQ identity would offend some and lead some customers to abandon the big box giant.

Throughout the year, calls for boycotts — though none quite as organized as those against Target and Bud Light — occasionally popped up, with toy brand LEGO, breakfast food Pop Tarts, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and even Chick-fil-A, which historically was reviled by LGBTQ activists due to its founder’s opposition to same-sex marriage, found themselves accused of being “woke.”

Some companies were so intimidated by the prospect of a financial backlash that they took steps to avoid promoting Pride Month or expressing support for equality. For example, several Starbucks workers at various stores nationwide accused management of taking down or hiding Pride decorations for fear of offending anti-LGBTQ forces. Even though a company spokesperson denied the charges, workers on the ground noted that this year’s recognition of Pride Month was more subdued than usual.

“It’s interesting that the right-wing constantly talks about LGBTQ identities being pushed in their faces when what they’re actually upset about is that 99 percent of advertising being centered on their heterosexual, cisgender identity isn’t enough for them — they want it to be 100 percent of the time,” says Brandon Wolf, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. “But one time, when a beer company sends a can of beer to a trans influencer to do a sponsored Instagram post, they lose their minds.

“We don’t hear people object when there is a heterosexual cisgender couple on the screen during a Super Bowl commercial, versus a same-sex couple. And so I think that that tells you the underlying motive is to use fear and manipulation and lies to terrorize a country into adhering to a set of values that they want to impose on everyone else,” Wolf continues. “I think it comes down to a right-wing movement that understands it’s lost the culture war and is desperately trying to hold on to and wrestle back some sense of power and control that it feels it has lost.”

Target Pride Display – Photo: Phillip Pessar, Flickr

Looking at bans from a broader viewpoint and the escalation of anti-LGBTQ initiatives or legislation, Wolf says it’s clear that the right-wing movement has “effectively weaponized fear and concern, especially as it relates to parents with their children, in order to manipulate people into signing away basic freedoms.”

He notes that the war on individual freedoms is taking place on several different fronts.

“There’s a war on academic freedom, whether you’re talking about the ability to teach the honest truth about American history or the ability to have a book that features two moms on a page on a library shelf somewhere,” he says. “There’s also a right-wing assault on medical freedom, on the right of people to make decisions about their own health care, the right of a parent to go to a team of doctors and get the best possible advice about the care that their child needs. And there is an assault on freedom of expression, specifically as it relates to drag performance art. And so, for me, 2023 was marked by the battles that have been waged around those freedoms.

“I think the most important thing to emphasize is that while we are in a time of intense backlash, one that precipitated the Human Rights Campaign issuing its first-ever state of emergency for LGBTQ people across the country, we’re also in a state of profound resistance,” says Wolf.

“There are students in places like Florida and Tennessee who are marching on state capitols to demand a world that is better tomorrow than it is today. There are parents of trans kids who are bravely telling their stories or are making phone calls to Republican governors to urge them to do the right thing. There are leaders of children’s hospitals who are sitting in those rooms with powerful people and telling them ‘Get the government out of our work. Let us do what we do best.’ Those moments of resistance are happening around the country. 

“And while I think in the short term, we’re going to continue to see intense backlash against the community and our progress, I also think we’re about to see something beautiful, which is a country that embraces its diversity, a country that celebrates people for who they are,” Wolf concludes. “I think that’s on the horizon, and it’s being created by those who are engaging in acts of resistance across the country every day.”

John Riley is Metro Weekly’s Senior Editor. Read his featured stories in our daily newsletter. Sign up at

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