There is a dangerous political movement advocating against the rights, needs, and dignity of transgender people, often targeting trans youth. This movement purports to solve problems that don’t exist: kids are not being manipulated or peer pressured into identifying as trans, trans kids are not being rushed into irreversible medical procedures, trans adults are not grooming kids for sexual exploitation, parents of trans kids aren’t undermined by the existence of gender-affirming healthcare providers and educators, and girls’ sports aren’t diminished by the participation of trans girls.

I don’t know how right wing politicians decided to target trans youth and gender-affirming care. Maybe it was as overt and cynical as the origins of the anti-abortion movement in the 1970s, when the nascent religious right needed a more palatable cause than their actual goal of preserving segregation in private schools. Back then, Jerry Falwell and his cohort developed a compelling message about saving innocent babies, which moved many conservative Christians to become politically active, forming a base of voters who could be mobilized for a variety of causes. The anti-abortion movement didn’t reduce the number of abortions, improve maternal and infant health outcomes, or enhance social supports for vulnerable families. The movement did have some direct impacts on abortion care: increasing harassment of patients entering healthcare facilities, facilitating the stalking and sometimes murder of providers, taking public funds away from legitimate resources in favor of sham “crisis pregnancy centers,” and creating bureaucratic hurdles for healthcare organizations providing abortions. In other words, it was a useful tactic for getting out the vote, and it did harm people seeking and providing abortion care, but it didn’t achieve (nor really pursue) its stated goal of saving babies.

I can’t help but see parallels to the current anti-trans movement. They claim to protect kids’ safety, but their policies endanger trans youth by banning resources and interventions that reduce depression and suicide risks. Every leading medical and mental health organization in the US that has weighed in on standards of care for transgender youth has endorsed gender-affirming care as life-saving and necessary, but anti-trans politicians and activists ignore them. In some cases, those promoting these policies harass individual minors: in Utah, a school board official posted a photo of several members of a high school girls’ basketball team and implied one of the girls was trans; commenters quickly joined in mocking, criticizing, and threatening the student. The anti-trans movement also interferes with parenting: parents of trans youth have testified in many different legislative hearings and other venues as to the importance of gender-affirming care, safe and supportive schools, and protections for kids’ privacy. Despite claiming to promote parents’ rights, the anti-trans movement pushes policies and bans that leave parents of trans youth with few choices other than relocation. As with the anti-abortion movement, deceptive and provocative messaging is getting some voters’ attention and concern.

It’s easy for cis people who don’t have a connection to the trans community to fall for the fear tactics used by the anti-trans movement. A good faith conversation with either a trans person or ally can cut through the lies:

“I was a tomboy growing up—nowadays I’d be pressured to change my pronouns and call myself a boy.” Teaching kids that there are many possible gender expressions and identities is good for tomboys and trans boys alike: if trans kids are welcome, so are gender-nonconforming cis kids. No one is pressuring kids to identify as trans.

“I remember being a teen boy—if I’d known there was a way to get myself into the girls’ locker room, I’d have jumped at the chance!” Do you really think you would have been willing to socially transition (that is, dress in feminine clothing, wear their hair in a feminine style, possibly wear makeup, change their pronouns, identify as a girl with their peers) and participate in gender-affirming care (weekly counseling, regular appointments at a pediatric gender clinic, possibly taking puberty blocking medication) just to be permitted in the girls’ locker room?

“Last week, my kid wanted to be a dinosaur when he grows up. He’s too young to understand gender identity!” Kids do change their minds, go through phases, and lack the wisdom and self-awareness to make certain choices. But we let them explore, play, and experiment because it helps them grow and develop. Would you take a baby doll away from a child because they’re too young to know if they want to become a parent one day, or would you let them keep playing?

The anti-trans movement capitalizes on these kinds of easy judgments, fears, and assumptions. It invites people to forego curiosity and compassion, to ignore the wealth of evidence and expertise on the other side of this issue. There’s no evidence-based rationale for anti-trans policies, just vibes (“Isn’t this gross and weird?”). I am horrified and angered by this hateful, dishonest, and dangerous movement.