The following is an Op Ed reflecting on anti-LGBTQ2S+ legislation, written by one of our Spring Missoula interns, Abby Hobbs: 

On Tuesday, March 16th, over 20 local members of the LGBTQ2S+ community gathered in a safe space to share our woes, challenges, fears and self-care tips regarding the legislative session. Here in Montana, the legislative session has caused anxiety and fear to rise in our community. Our legislators have pushed at least 10 anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills in just four short months, and the passage of much of this legislation feels inevitable. Some of the most troubling bills, such as those that are anti-trans, have come under the guise of “religious freedom restoration acts”.

This session has been particularly bad for the trans community, as many of these bills target transgender people in particular. Unfortunately, this trend is not unique to Montana. According to the ACLU, a whopping 100+ bills in 33 different states have been introduced to prevent transgender youth from participating in school sports. HB112, which would prohibit trans women from participating on women’s sports teams, has been labeled by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the most dangerous bills to the trans community in the country. Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign has recorded that 2021 has broken the record for the most anti-transgender pieces of legislation introduced in history. These are not statistics our community is stoked about, that’s for sure. 

On February 2nd, Republican State Senator Carl Glimm introduced SB215, otherwise known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As an informational Instagram post courtesy of Forward Montana explains, this broad law could allow any person, business, or other entity to use “religious freedom” as an excuse to discriminate against a person or a group of people, meaning that anyone from landlords to employers could place their religious beliefs before the humanity of their community members by denying them housing, employment, and/or any other good or service. Regardless of whether or not the author of this bill sought to target the LGBTQ2S+ community, the consequences for us now that this bill has passed could be dire.

So what’s the deal? How come we are seeing so many anti-LGBTQ2S+ bills right now? CNN reports that since 2015, anti-LGBTQ2S+ legislation has been on the rise, coinciding with the 2015 marriage equality act passed by President Obama. However, these increases are not coming from the people. According to American Values Atlas, in 2021 71% of Americans support LGBTQ2S+ Nondiscrimination Protections. On top of that, only 1-3% of Americans believe that banning transgender people from sports should be a legislative priority at all. These bills are not being pushed by the will of the people but instead represent a small but vocal group of extreme right-wing conservatives. 

Montana is redder than it has been in decades. With Republican control of the House, the Senate, and the Governor’s Office, Montana has been declared a “state-government trifecta”. Between John Fuller of Whitefish (sponsor of HB112, HB113, and HB427), Jed Hinkle of District 67 (the congressman who was stoked that a consequence of these bills may be LGBTQ2S+ people leaving the state), and numerous others it is easy to feel disheartened. If our legislators aren’t going to stand up for us, who will? 

During the event on March 16th, we talked about this issue: How do we take care of each other when it feels like every politician in the state is working to abolish our existence? I’ve thought a lot about this and have struggled to come up with a good list of self-care tips because it does feel a bit hopeless at times. Then I was reminded by a very inspiring individual that queer and trans people are magical. We have always and will always exist. With that, here are a few of my favorite tips to take care of yourself and others: 

  • Seek out queer media, content and literature. Queer movies, TV shows, books, TikToks, and social media are abundant in this day in age, and sometimes they provide the boost of queer serotonin you may be looking for (this one is my personal favorite).
  • Maintain a meaningful connection between your mind and your body by taking time to exercise, meditate, or practice mindful breathing. 
  • Get creative! Making queer art, cooking, or playing music can be great ways to express yourself and control the small things in your life. 
  • Seek out queer communities. The pandemic has limited our in-person activities, but for many, the virtual communities have opened a lot of doors for connecting with larger LGBTQ2S+ groups of people. 
  • Check-in on your LGBTQ2S+ friends.

Finally, if you are reading this and have been personally impacted by the onslaught of hateful anti-queer rhetoric this legislative session, know you are not alone. If anything, the last year and this legislative session have taught me that this community is resilient, and we aren’t going anywhere.