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OPINION

When the GOP comes for trans rights, they come for all of our rights

Ohio is a testing ground for what we can expect to see if Republicans win 2024: a party bent on depriving people of their freedom.

Protesters advocating for transgender rights and health care protested outside of the Ohio State House on Jan. 24, in Columbus, Ohio.Patrick Orsagos/Associated Press

The state has no place telling an adult how they should love or what health care they should receive — especially when it goes against medical science. Unfortunately, this seems to be the GOP playbook for 2024.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine recently vetoed a gender-affirming care ban for minors, but it wasn’t a triumph for freedom; it was a chess move in a larger game to deprive people of bodily autonomy. Just a week after vetoing the ban, he directed Ohio health agencies to propose stringent rules for gender-affirming adult care. Ohio is not the first to expand its attacks to include adults. Missouri and Florida have restricted access to gender-affirming care for adults, the South Carolina House recently passed a ban on Medicaid coverage for those up to age 26, and more states are expected to follow suit.

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This is another example of the Republican Party using the administrative state and Big Government to remove American adults’ health care choices and deploy yet another fabricated cultural issue to divide people before an election. And it’s an attempt to deprive people of our fundamental liberty to make informed medical decisions.

This Ohio directive introduces new layers of government red tape directly intended to create barriers to care for adults. This makes Ohio the second state, after Florida, to adopt restrictions that attempt to deny care to transgender people of any age.

In the end, the Ohio House of Representatives overrode the governor’s veto, signaling the true goal of this legislation: to outwardly garner votes and curry favor with those at the fringes of the conservative movement. Ohio is a testing ground for what we can expect to see if Republicans win 2024: a party bent on depriving people of their freedom.

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The proposed rules under DeWine’s guidance are stringent. They call for a team of medical professionals, including an endocrinologist, a bioethicist, and a mental health specialist, to be involved in prescribing gender-affirming care for adults and minors. Health care guidelines for adults do not generally call for bioethicists, except for in difficult cases. These onerous requirements are surely not required for cisgender people undergoing the same gender-affirming procedures, such as breast augmentation or hormone replacement therapy, so why require them for an already marginalized group that depends on this lifesaving care?

For adults, the potential harms are significant. Studies have consistently shown the positive impact of gender-affirming care on psychological well-being and quality of life. Barriers to care consistently show added harm, including increased risk of death by suicide.

As demographics shift and support for LGBTQ rights grows, the GOP is catering to a diminishing voter base, and that could cost them support among an increasingly diverse electorate. What happens to a party that constantly, and with great vitriol, tries to create issues that no one is discussing at their kitchen table? What happens when they target adults and the fundamental freedoms we rely on? The answer is in the statistics, with more than half of US voters thinking transgender youth are being wrongly targeted by political attacks, according to a 2023 Fox News poll.

The overlap between states passing anti-trans bans and those curtailing abortion rights is not coincidental. It’s the 1950s goal of extreme conformity. These attacks target personal liberties, marriage equality, the right to exist in public, where you can use the bathroom, the books you read, the name you can use, and how you dress, and they use scare tactics to gain support.

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One could argue against just the naked cruelty of the GOP policies that target a vulnerable population, but there’s also a political reason it’s a bad idea. In general, we are seeing much larger groups of Gen Z voters coming out as LGBTQ. The GOP’s best hope is that America’s demography does not become their destiny. Republicans are catering to a small fraction of their voters at the expense of our pluralistic democracy. By concentrating on their base, they are overlooking the growing number of Americans who support freedom and liberty for all.

The GOP’s endeavors to curtail trans rights seem to be a myopic strategy that is bound to backfire. As the American electorate diversifies and becomes more supportive of LGBTQ rights, the Republican Party’s concentration on a limited voter base risks alienating the very individuals who could guarantee the party’s growth and prosperity. Ignoring the shifting demographics and the expanding support for trans rights, the GOP may ultimately find itself misaligned with the nation’s evolving values and, in the end, on the losing side of history.

The actions in Ohio signal an increasingly disconnected and radical approach to garnering votes. Unfortunately, this is what we can expect to see in 2024 if the GOP takes power. When Donald Trump tells you he will be a “dictator on day one,” take him at his word. When Republicans actively apply administrative policies and pass laws that infringe on the rights of freedom-loving Americans, understand that they will do this federally. When they are coming for your neighbors on either side, you can be sure you’re next.

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2024 is promising to be a tough year, but it’s on all of us to be the change we wish to see. It won’t come from above, and it requires us to fight back now.

Dallas Ducar is the president and CEO of Transhealth.