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Scenes from Athens Pride & Queer Collective’s first annual Pride parade held in downtown Athens, Georgia, on Sunday, June 12, 2022. (Photo/Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

Every June, LGBTQ Pride Month honors the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York and celebrates LGBTQ culture and rights. 

On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City —  an action which sparked the gay rights movement in the United States. Typically, celebrations of this milestone include parades, protests, drag performances, live theater and memorials of those in the community who lost their lives to AIDS.

On the federal level, there has been a greater push for equal justice and opportunity for LGBTQ Americans. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act protects individuals against employment discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Biden administration has improved representation by appointing LGBTQ individuals to executive office. On March 31, the State Department began issuing passports with ‘X’ as a neutral gender marker option. 

Despite recent attempts for equality, attacks on LGBTQ rights and expression are underway in Georgia. The Movement Advancement Project, an independent nonprofit research think-tank, gives Georgia a negative rating on LGBTQ policy. 

Georgia Medicaid recipients are banned from receiving gender-affirming care. In Athens, a fifth-grade student at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School was made to take down their artwork that featured an LGBTQ Pride flag and the phrase “Gay is OK.” Vice principal Sandra Scott allegedly likened the artwork to Nazi imagery, and principal Bipul Singh is accused of defending that comparison.

Outside of Georgia, many other states are currently working to reverse the work done for LGBTQ equality.

On June 6, Texas state representative Bryan Slaton proposed a law banning Texas minors from attending drag shows. This proposal came only two weeks after the Uvalde elementary school shooting, which has become the deadliest school shooting in Texas’ history. 

Slaton’s priority is not protecting students from gun violence, but instead sheltering them from what he calls “perverted adults.” Slaton has already announced his support for classifying gender-affirming care for minors as “child abuse” according to his own press release.

Slaton is wrong in his claim that children are harmed by being in LGBTQ-affirming spaces. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 national survey on LGBTQ youth mental health, LGBTQ youth who live in an accepting community report significantly lower rates of attempting suicide than those who do not. 

In reality, anti-LGBTQ legislation is causing more harm, as it ostracizes LGBTQ youth and will ultimately lead to more youth feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. 

In Florida, attacks have escalated from children to adults. Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration issued guidance against gender-affirming care for minors and adults on Medicaid. Surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who wrote a letter to the Florida Board of Medicine, called this kind of care “politics-based medicine” and claimed there was “high risk for long-term, irreversible harms” from such care.

Similar to the Texas drag show ban, these recommendations are baseless and opposed by nearly every major medical organization. Despite what Ladapo says, puberty blockers and hormone therapy, which are most commonly prescribed to transgender adolescents, are either entirely or partially reversible.

Permanent gender-reassignment surgery is rarely performed on minors. In a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 94% of binary transgender youth still identified as binary transgender after a period of five years while 3.5% identified as nonbinary. Only 2.5% began identifying as cisgender.

While DeSantis champions “parental rights” when it concerns teaching children about racism, comprehensive American history and the very existence of LGBTQ people, he is quick to restrict parents’ rights to allow their children access to the care they need. His restriction on Medicaid may do even more damage. These patients are usually low income and alternative health care options are extremely limited.

These attacks come at a time of celebration for the communities that they are affecting. While perhaps by chance, these bans are symbolic of the overarching theme from GOP-led state legislatures — LGBTQ people are not welcome in any month of the year. While these bans may be against the most vulnerable — adolescents and low-income individuals — the targets may soon become the most outspoken, both in Athens and across the country.