At least 28 U.S. state legislatures are passing or considering bills that attack transgender youth. Whether the legislation bans medical treatments for trans youth in the name of “science,” or curtails trans girls and women from participating in sports in order to ensure “fairness,” the flurry of such activity in state capitols is breathtaking.
And it’s breathtaking in a destructive, cruel way. Hence organizations from the American Medical Association to dozens of America’s largest companies have publicly stated their opposition to any anti-transgender legislation.
Yet weeks before Pride Month, when companies switch to rainbow flag logos and push out communications about what they are doing for the LGBTQ community, there’s a problem: Many of the same companies that have spoken out against anti-transgender bills are also funding the politicians fighting to roll back any protections for this 0.6 percent of the population who still live largely in the shadows.
In the wake of an Arkansas bill that restricts medical treatments for trans youth, which became law last week, the next focal point of the political backlash against the transgender community is North Carolina. Five years after the state lost the NBA All-Star Game after passing a largely panned anti-trans “bathroom” bill, NC legislators are at it again. Proposed bills include measures such as requiring teachers to out transgender students to their parents, blocking certain medical procedures to LGBTQ youth under 21, and allowing any entity within the state’s wider healthcare industry to deny any services or information if it conflicts with the provider's “conscience.”
Many companies either based in North Carolina or conducting business in the state have spoken out against the legislation, but independent journalist Judd Legum isn't buying it: “The sponsors of S514 [an anti-trans bill making its way through the North Carolina legislature] are supported by corporations that hold themselves out as ardent supporters of LGBTQ rights," Legum wrote in his Popular Information newsletter on Monday.
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That list of companies includes an alphabet soup of brands, including American Airlines, Atrium Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, Cigna Duke Energy, UnitedHealth Group and Wells Fargo.
Legum points out that while these companies have often been public about their support of transgender citizens and the wider LGBTQ community, they have also funneled financial contributions to the sponsoring lawmakers behind S514.
One could make the argument that when a company makes political donations, it doesn’t necessarily know what kind of legislation that lawmaker will support in the near future. But as we saw last year with the global pandemic and fight for racial justice, the “both sides” argument does not hold water any longer. The lesson companies must learn in 2021 — one that was amplified in the wake of the January U.S. Capitol riots — is that the least companies can do is to back their words with action.
In the case of North Carolina, such action means demanding that those political contributions in question be returned, and making it clear such checks won’t be cut or wired again.
Image credit: Lena Balk/Unsplash
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.