Reader Request Week 2022 #5: The Clawback of Rights in the USA
I’d love to get your perspective specifically on the rash of anti-trans legislation getting pushed all over the US right now – Alabama just today passed their version, making it a felony to help someone transition under the age of 19, and there are a LOT of bills under consideration in other states as well.
Not to mention, we’re already starting to see the pivot from focusing specifically on transgender people to more broadly targeting LGBTQ+ people in general…
Well, mind you, it’s not just trans people or LGBTQ+ folks; let’s not forget that Republican-led states are actively passing laws to take away the ability of women (and other folks who can get pregnant) to have abortions, up to and including criminalizing having one, and the whole of the Republican Party has been making hay about “Critical Race Theory,” which very few of them understand, or at the very least, will admit to understanding. We have GOP senators blithely saying out loud that fundamental Supreme Court decisions establishing nationwide rights for women, minorities and LGBTQ+ folks were wrongly decided. It’s very clear that here in 2022 the GOP sees curtailing the rights of everyone who is not a straight white cis Christian man as a winning strategy, and in the short run is seeing some success with it. If the Supreme Court does not in fact overturn Roe v. Wade, as it is almost certain to do, it will at the very least whittle down its efficacy to the point where it will be entirely useless.
In fact the Supreme Court is why all these horrible laws are being passed: because the GOP, for the first time in 60 years, is confident that the highest court in the land is more than willing to overturn decades of court precedent on the flimsiest and most-poorly reasoned of legal arguments, thereby clawing back the rights of hundreds of millions of Americans, and in doing so, subject them to legal and social harassment for trying to live their lives with the same sort of liberties that the GOP arrogates solely to straight white cis Christian men. The GOP probably doesn’t expect all of these laws to pass constitutional muster, but at least some of them will, according to this current court.
Every one of those laws that does, establishes a precedent and means that every group that is not comprised primarily of straight white cis Christian men will have to expend their time and energy fighting these fights again. Which is one of the goals: If you have to spend your time fighting the laws favoring straight white cis Christian men, you can’t spend time competing with straight white cis Christian men on equal standing.
(Hashtag NotAllStraightWhiteCisChristianMen, and also hashtag SomePeopleInRightsThreatenedGroupsDontCare, but let’s not pretend who is the primary beneficiary of this hobbling of the established rights of others, please and thank you.)
That said, why the anti-trans legislation, right now? The short answer is: Because trans people are one of the groups least understood and sympathized with, not only by straight white cis Christian folks, but by other folks as well; because they are a very small group, relative to others, and easier to push around; because their ability to exercise the same rights as others has only recently been established and thus is easier to take away; because decades of political and media portrayal of them as deviants and mentally ill makes them vulnerable to attack.
And also: the GOP understands that the best way to start the clawback of rights of people who are not straight white cis Christian men is to pretend it cares about children. Why keep people from having abortions? Because they are saving the babies! Why ban books about, and the teaching of, race or sexuality? Because it’s not age appropriate for children, and white kids are having their feelings hurt, and also gay people are groomers! Why pass legislation targeting trans people — and trans children in particular? Because gender-affirming therapies are child abuse and also what if your child went to the bathroom and there was a trans person in there and also what if your child had to compete against a trans athlete it isn’t fair!
Let’s be clear: As a matter of policy, the modern Republican party doesn’t give a damn about children in the United States except as a way to weaponize parental fears into restricting the rights of others. If the modern GOP actually cared about children, their policy portfolio would be rather different than it is today. When a GOP politician publicly grouses about the well-being of children, it usually either means they want to take away the rights of some group, or they want to make public education in the United States worse (because the children of the groups they want to take rights benefit from public schools).
Also, very specifically, if the GOP cared about children, then they would care about trans children and their well-being. They have made it clear they do not, just as they have made it clear with “don’t say gay” bills that they don’t care about other LGBTQ+ children, and as they have made it very clear with the anti-CRT nonsense and book banning that they don’t care about black children or the children in other racial groups. Children are not just straight white cis Christian children — or more accurately just some of them, since the GOP will make a minor carry a baby to term, even the straight white cis Christian ones, which is not about the need of the child in question.
But even then, they don’t care about the straight white cis Christian kids, either. Here’s a news flash: There’s a very good chance that at least some of those straight white cis Christian kids are friends with the kids the GOP is currently actively legislating against. They like them, and may even love them, and may consider them part of their family. They know the GOP isn’t doing these horrible things for them, even if they are using them as the excuse to do them. And they’ll remember: who was doing it, and to whom, and for what reasons. In the long run — too long, unfortunately, for all the children whose lives they are working to ruin in the interim — I suspect that’s not going to be great for the GOP.
But for now, that’s why the anti-trans (and anti-other LGBTQ+, and anti-minority, and anti-woman) laws are being passed: because the GOP has a Supreme Court that is very likely anti-everything-not-straight-white-cis-Christian-male, and it needs to get this stuff on the books while it can. They’re not doing it for the children. The GOP spent decades working toward this moment. The rest of us have to decide how long we’re willing to have this moment last.
That, we can do for the children. And for us.
(It’s not too late to get a question in for this week’s Reader Request Week! Go here to find out how to do so.)