The news has been consumed since 2020 with ‘The Big Lie’ where Trump & Company have been insisting the presidential election was stolen. Some 60 lawsuits have failed to present credible evidence, the Cyber Ninjas in Arizona actually found additional votes for Biden, and Sidney Powell’s source proving fraud is an “internally decapitated” woman who time travels in a semi-conscious state and talks to the wind.
“We care about children.”
Democrats aren’t exactly choir boys themselves but, in this age of George Santos and Fox News, Republicans have raised lying to whole new level. They’re now pushing another Big Lie: “We care about children and parents’ rights.”
Since 2020 Republican state legislatures have gone on a stampede against the LGBTQ+ community, singling out transgender people for particularly cruel treatment. So far this year — not even a full three months in — they’ve introduced 385 anti-trans/anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Seven have passed, putting them on a trajectory to beat last year’s 19 bills passed.
In the past two years, roughly 12% of bills introduced have passed. This could lead one to complacency since that’s not a terribly good success rate, but bill passage is a false metric. The Republicans would love to pass these bills of course, but that would be merely icing on the cake. Just proposing these laws allows them to masquerade as brave warriors in a righteous battle against the evils of the “woke” left. It also stirs passions they seek to manipulate, sometimes to violence.
They get to proclaim they are defending youth and parental rights against mortal dangers: gender-affirming care (even just pronouns), any mention of gender identity, any mention of same-sex relationships, drag queen story hour in libraries, the teaching of Black history and a wide range of books up to and including Huckleberry Finn and Maya Angelou.
With regard to gender-affirming care, as with abortion, Republican legislators are usurping the role of medical professionals and criminalizing the relationship between doctors and patients — in some cases making it a felony.
All of this and more is done under the guise of protecting children and affirming the rights of parents to determine what’s best for their children.
▪︎ The laws and policies outlined above apply to all youth — even when the parents support their trans child or want their child free to be open about having two Moms or two Dads.
▪︎ Laws like Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” claim to protect vulnerable youth in grades K-3, but are applied punitively at the high school level.
▪︎ Florida is now seeking to restrict the courses of study and majors permitted at state universities. They further seek to revoke the job protection of tenured professors.
▪︎ Bills proposed around the country are increasingly targeting adult transgender people. A bill in Oklahoma proposes to make gender-affirming care to anyone under age 26 a felony.
▪︎ Some anti-drag bills being proposed would designate any establishment hosting a drag performance as an adult or sexually-oriented business. Zoning laws would restrict drag shows to the limited areas where porn shops and strip clubs can operate.
▪︎ Proposed bills in Tennessee and North Dakota would criminalize drag at Gay Pride festivals. A second offense would be a felony punishable by up to six years in prison.
▪︎ The Tennessee House has passed a bill allowing county clerks to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages, which is otherwise part of their duties as a secular government employee.
“Woke” is Smoke
It’s obvious scanning through the list above that protecting children is subterfuge. All this nonsense about so-called “wokism” is a smokescreen. The real purpose of these bills is to attack everything LGBTQ+, particularly trans people. They want to drive us underground and back into the closet — or worse. More on this in a moment.
Even if we concede for the sake of argument that they are genuinely concerned for children and parental rights, do parents actually want these anti-woke/anti-trans/anti-LGBTQ+ laws?
A poll by the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank, identified key areas of focus that families most need addressed:
- Improving the child tax credit
- Protecting kids online
- Supporting new parents
- Promoting strong families with involved fatherhood
- Striving to eliminate marriage penalties in our tax code and benefit programs
Gender identity, pronouns, drag shows, AP African-American studies & book banning didn’t make the list.
And what about “woke” anyway? Is this really a burning issue for parents?
In a USA Today/Ipsos poll, 56 percent of respondents believed that “woke” is basically positive, meaning “to be informed, educated on, and aware of social injustice.” This doesn’t mean that respondents endorsed everything that Republicans refer to as “woke.” Some things considered “woke” were less favored than others, even among those with a generally positive perception of the term.
For instance, 76% opposed book bans while 61% also opposed gender-neutral pronouns.
While differences of opinion exist along the lines of age and party affiliation, there is not a prevailing demand or support for the kinds of laws being legislated against LGBTQ+ people or against the honest teaching of Black history.
School Shootings. Child Labor.
If these anti-trans/anti-LGBTQ+ Republican legislators really cared about the well-being of children they’d finally do something about school shootings beyond impotent thoughts & prayers. How many more kids need to the shot, killed or traumatized in mass school shootings? We’re to the point now where some kids have experienced more than one shooting!
Republican duplicity is most nakedly exposed by their efforts to expand child labor. Just this week a new law was signed by Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Her state’s new Youth Hiring Act of 2023 allows children under 16 to work without permission from the Division of Labor, without an employment certificate verifying their age or work schedule — and all without written consent from a parent or guardian! So much for parental rights.
This is the same Sarah Huckabee Sanders who railed last month against the threat of “wokism” and pronouns in the official Republican rebuttal to Biden’s State of the Union address.
In my state of Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine is expected to sign a bill expanding child labor here. Other bills are pending in Minnesota and Iowa. This comes on the heels of revelations about children working in meat packing plants and slaughter houses.
Apparently this doesn’t bother Republicans. Not like pronouns! They want to turn back the clock to before “woke” — and I guess this includes returning to the days when they could fill their coffers on the backs of children in the mines, factories and fields. Pictured at the top of this post, taken in 1911, are children under age 16 working in a textile mill in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
The Ultimate Consequence: Violence
A Michigan man was charged this week with posting death threats on YouTube against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and LGBTQ+ people. Quoting verbatim he wrote,
- “trans freaks and gays lgbt freaks thery all need tot die and be genocided its all I tal kabotu aymore is wanting to kill trans freakswhen I finally get cancer” — and —
- “I bought my gun in 556 so when it gets sued on a drag show or tranny blub it goes through a bunch of the and rips the whole crown of freaks apar”.
You don’t need good grammar or spellcheck to shoot an AR-15. The man posted on his mother’s YouTube account and she supplied him with three long guns and a handgun.
Thankfully it appears this man has been stopped, but how many others are lurking out there? We’ve seen the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and Club Q in Colorado Springs. Murders of trans women, particularly Black trans women, have nearly doubled in the past two years. Last year 141 anti-drag threats and attacks were recorded nationwide. A number of incidents involved violence or guns, and increasingly we’re seeing actions by the Proud Boys, Patriot Front, and other white supremacists.
All this is a direct consequence of the toxic rhetoric of rightwing Republicans, Trump, Fox News and others who align themselves with the vilification of trans and LGBTQ+ people. I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
I wish I could close on a more positive note. Unfortunately the trans community and broader LGBTQ+ communities are under a vigorous and sustained attack. But we aren’t alone. As I mentioned here a few times, the Black community is facing assault as evidenced by the Florida attacks against the AP African-American Studies course. Also, in 2021, antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high across the the United States and this trend continued through 2022.
So what do we do? As I wrote in my earlier Deja Vu post: Organize!
The LGBTQ+ community must remain united as one — never allowing the haters to split us apart, to divide us and conquer. Next we must unite with our natural allies: workers, women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asian, Jews, Muslims and others. We’ve won major victories against serious attacks in the past as I’ve recounted in Deja Vu. We can — and we must — do it again. Our past victories show the immense power when we stay united, and when we unite with allies to support each other.
I’ve focused here on the Republican Party because they are the ones that have declared war against us. Moderate Republicans and Democrats can be allies, but we can’t subordinate our issues to them. Key to our power is remaining independent of the two parties, lest we find ourselves compromised by adjustment and adaptation to their agendas.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.Harvey Fierstein
I was unaware while preparing this post this weekend that just an hour away armed neo-Nazis and white supremacists were descending on a drag queen story hour in Wadsworth, Ohio.
This drives home my point here. A little too close to home, actually! Thankfully no one got hurt this time. But what about next time?
A thorough and interesting article on this issue was published by Vox: The GOP’s coordinated national campaign against trans rights, explained. This and other articles, including some cited here, were the inspiration to prepare this post.
Title image is in the Public Domain.
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