Happy Pride! We’re excited to bring you stories and recs about queer joy all month long, but we’d be remiss not to also bring attention to the incredibly harmful laws and rhetoric aimed at LGBTQ+ people right now. Our features this month will focus on the issues facing the queer community in hopes that we can all rally together to fight back against these dangers, whether we’re part of the community or allies.

We’re on her team. Grace McKenzie (she/her) is a transgender woman, rugby player, and advocate. Recruited to women’s rugby a year after coming out, she’s played for the San Francisco Golden Gate, the Berkeley All Blues, and the NYRC Women’s team.

“Rugby combines everything I love about sports—the intensity, the physicality, the drive to push yourself mentally and in training to be a contributing member of a team,” she says, “It also proved to me that there were women’s spaces that I was welcome in as a trans woman, and gave me the permission early in my transition to be the type of woman I actually am—one capable of being feminine when I want to, a rough and tumble tomboy other times, and everything in between.”

Despite the positives, inclusive sports have been attacked by bigots who hope to exclude trans athletes from participating. Grace talks to us about this and how it’s connected to the growing number of transphobic and anti-queer bills we’re seeing today.


In 2020, World Rugby banned trans women from competing. What did this mean for you?
This set off major red flags, and a sense of panic and fear that I might lose access to my core queer community, as well as my principal coping mechanism for dealing with oppression and transphobic hate. It also came as a huge surprise considering how queer and trans the women’s rugby community is here in the U.S.After digging into what was going on behind the scenes, it became obvious that this ban was politically motivated, based on bad science that has since been debunked and retracted. It specifically banned trans women from participating in women’s rugby at the highest international level of the game, and at the time, no known trans woman had ever played at that level. In response, I started a petition that now has over 20k signatures from people around the globe asking World Rugby to reverse their decision. We have heard radio silence from them since.

This ban was the first time I had felt unwelcome playing the sport and stoked a fear in me that this would have a ripple effect throughout the sporting world, which absolutely came true.

Transphobic bans on trans athletes competing, as well as “bathroom bills” seem to be the predecessors to the kind of hateful legislation we’re seeing now. How are these things connected?
The tidal wave of anti-trans legislation we have seen in this country has been meticulously planned out in phases, directed by a number of fundamentalist far-right organizations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American College of Pediatrics, both of whom have been classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The first was an attack on trans women and girls in sports—these were tests to see if they could stoke fear about us based on outdated and misogynistic ideas that all men are stronger than all women, completely ignoring the fact that most sports at the time had policies in place that explicitly mandated medical intervention like hormone replacement therapy to level the playing field between cis and trans women.

Following this, they moved on to bans on gender-affirming healthcare for minors under the guise of “protecting children,” falsely claiming that doctors were mutilating the genitals of minors, coercing them into being trans, and leading to massive rates of regretful detransition down the road. The truth is that the appropriate kinds of gender-affirming care, such as social support and reversible puberty blockers (genital surgeries are never done on children in this country), are recommended by every major medical association in the U.S. including the American Medical Association, Endocrine Society, and the American Academy of Pediatricians (not to be confused with the hate group mentioned above). This care has been shown to reduce rates of suicidality in trans youth by over 70% and detransition rates are under 0.001% in the U.S., with most of those being based on societal pressure and stigma received from transphobic school and family settings. Compare that to regret rates for things like knee replacement surgeries, which can be up to 30%!

After continuing to shift public perception away from supporting trans rights, right-wing politicians have begun making it nearly impossible for trans adults to access care, too.Ex: In Florida, nearly 80% of trans adults have lost the ability to access hormone replacement therapy through a law banning nurse practitioners or telehealth providers from offering this care and cutting all funding through the state’s Medicaid program that offered HRT. This has left 1 out of 14, or 100k trans people in the U.S. without access to medicine that is absolutely proven to be life-saving, effectively making them refugees within their own country.

It’s hard to overstate how bad things are and how much worse they are getting, as each of these bills becomes templates for other states and stepping stones to ever more draconian legislation. Members of the trans community have been raising the alarm for years that we are moving beyond just discrimination into pre-genocidal territory. I wish I were being hyperbolic about this, but the reality is that we are well on our way to the full illegality of our existence in most of this country.

You’ve used your platform to raise awareness and money to fight these bills. What are the initiatives you’re supporting?
Over the years, I have raised money for wonderful organizations like Trans LifelineAthlete Ally, the ACLU, and the Transgender Justice Funding Project, all of whom have been fighting tirelessly for our rights and against these draconian laws. I have given my own money, donated my time as a speaker or panelist, and raised money from my community online. Currently, I’m focusing on supporting grassroots organizations in states like Florida, Texas, and Tennessee where things are the absolute worst in the country.

Do you have plans for Pride month?
I will not be partying for Pride month, because this year is not a year for celebration. This is a year for loud, proud, strong, and bold resistance to the hate that is targeting the most vulnerable among the queer community.

I will be spending my time and money trying to convince non-trans people in our community to actually give a sh*t about what is going on. I will be fighting to bring Pride back to its roots—a riot incited by a community of people backed into a corner with nowhere else to go. I also intend to volunteer with organizations supporting queer elders in the community, both to provide them with a sense of companionship, but also to hopefully learn from them about where they found hope to keep going through dark times such as the AIDS epidemic in the ‘80s.

I also hope to launch a project I have been working on called Trans Relocator, which will be a mutual aid fund to provide monetary support to people needing to flee hostile states that have stripped their rights from them.

How can our readers help right now?
Be loud! Call your representatives and demand justice! Dig into your pockets and send money to grassroots organizations, or mutual aid for individual (especially Black and brown) trans people! Fight misinformation being spread by the cis and straight people you know!

But most importantly, check in with your trans friends and tell them you love them because we are all struggling (I know I sure am) to find any semblance of hope right now. Spend time with them in person, intimately and often, and remind them of the joy they bring to your life. Remind them that staying alive is the strongest form of resistance they can demonstrate in these dark times.

Active allyship goes beyond sharing an Instagram post. Allyship is coming to our rallies and putting your physical body between trans activists and the police. Allyship is taking the money you would have spent on a ticket to some rainbow-washed Pride party and giving it directly to a Black trans sex worker trying to scrounge up enough money to make rent.

Active allyship is being ready to throw the first brick, so we don’t have to keep doing so.