I was chatting with an OptOut Member (sign up here!) on our Discord channel (which remains one of the many benefits of independent media: proximity to readers), and he asked me, “How is this legal?” We were discussing the many bills banning gender-affirming care that have been introduced and passed across the nation.
To appropriately and accurately consider this question, a person has to position this onslaught of human rights violations as coherent, as rational.
“Is this legal?”
“Why is this happening?”
“How is this happening?
“Is this really happening?”
These are the questions that flip through our minds before tumbling out of our mouths. Sometimes, we get answers. Sure, they aren’t satisfactory. More often, asking them is equivalent to screaming into the void.
I’m going to try and answer these questions today in this newsletter. The final question is, unfortunately, self-explanatory. Yes, this is indeed really happening.
I understand that in times like these it’s difficult to know how to help, where to start. At closing today, I’ll have some suggestions on what to do. Allyship is huge right now. We cannot fight this alone.
At a recent fundraiser for a dear friend’s top surgery, another dear friend read a poem that they had written. A bunch of queer and trans folks and allies were all crowded together, holding one another and crying. These were tears of joy, community, and inexplicable yearning for a world where we might find ourselves alive. A world where genocide isn’t threatened and then promised. A world where we might find ourselves positioned for old age, where the hands we hold don’t fade in the face of bigotry. Where we might be someone else’s ancestor, the queer elder we lacked in our own lives.
In the spirit of that, I want to share that poem with you, so we might imagine that world together. You can find “Big Brothers” by L.J. Granered at the end of this newsletter.
Is This Legal?
So far this year there have been nearly 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the nation, the majority of which target trans youth. Some of those bills have been signed into law; most recently, Tennessee banned gender-affirming care for minors.
The American Medical Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Psychological Association have a code of ethics that strongly opposes bans on trans medical care, as such laws infringe on trans peoples’ right to health and safety. So, if you’re asking, “Is this legal?” the short (and obvious) answer is no. But in the face of grave confusion, misinformation, fearmongering, and abuse of power, the lines of legality are blurred.
When continued laws are introduced or passed of this nature, including one in Florida that will legalize kidnapping transgender children from their homes if their families approve of their medical transition, leaves more citizens dumbfounded at the sheer audacity of our governments.
THE RING OF FIRE is awestruck, too.
Several of these bills have been blocked. Biden’s Department of Justice has sent letters to governors and state attorneys general about the legality of these bans, and groups like the ACLU are working tirelessly to combat the onslaught of discrimination. All opposing parties cite the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses and the Affordable Care Act, among other rights that this legislation infringes upon.
So if this isn’t legal, then why is this happening?
Why and How Is This Happening?
The right continues to act like a steam engine, running through the constitutional rights of minors and adults alike. They posit these bills as a matter of youth safety, finding those who have detransitioned and medical professionals who are against gender affirming care (the numbers of which are both slim) to testify on their behalf. Corporate media, politicians, and the rest of the right’s pundits conflate LGBTQ+ folks with predators. We must be kept from spreading our “choices and lifestyles” so as not to taint the youth. To those who are reasonable, the ridiculous nature of this rhetoric is glaring, yet times are becoming even more dire for LGBTQ+ individuals.
This is happening because the far right desires an authoritarian-fascist state that upholds the white, cisgender, heterosexual patriarchy. Yet like those in the history books before them, they can’t call it what it is—even when they do.
Let’s take a look at Michael Knowles from the The Daily Wire who, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), called for the “eradication of transgenderism” to a room full of applause. When Knowles received major flack for calling for the genocide of trans people, he clapped back by saying that it’s impossible to advocate for the genocide of a group that doesn’t exist to begin with.
THE HUMANIST REPORT takes a deeper look at this.
Knowles’ rhetoric is abhorrent, dangerous, and representative of the core message and goal of the right’s anti-trans campaign. But many of their positions are much less obviously sinister. Conservatives are advocating for “parental rights,” recruiting more soldiers for their cause—and voters for their candidates—by instilling fear in parents.
In Montana, parents will be notified whenever “human sexuality” will be taught in class so they can keep their child home that day.
Along with the parental rights “advocacy” is the desire for “child safety,” which argues that “kids should just be kids.” This line is used in several bills banning gender-affirming care for minors, and it’s also being thrown around in an effort to prevent minors from attending drag shows—and from drag existing at all.
Tennessee banned drag shows just last week in an effort to “protect the children.”
The fact is, this is about control. And the perpetrators think a better world for white, cisgender, heterosexual people can exist without certain groups present.
We’ve seen this playbook before, and such events call for actions.
What Can You Do?
If you’re wondering where to start, here are some ideas on what you can do to be an ally during these trying times.
- Repost a trans or queer-positive slide on social media. This seems small and trivial, I know, but showing where you stand in this social media age can help open up dialogue and change other people’s minds.
- Have a conversation. We all know your Uncle Mike isn’t one to change his mind, but that doesn’t mean the conversation shouldn’t be had. Do some reading if you’re not sure where to start, and then open up that conversation.
- Make your voice heard. Call your senators, representatives, and other state and local officials to let them know you adamantly disagree with your state’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
- Donate. Organizations like The Trevor Project, the ACLU, and the Transgender Law Center are helping keep trans individuals safe. A little goes a long way. You can also consider making a tax-deductible donation to OptOut, where we’re committed to bringing independent, honest LGBTQ+ news your way.
With that, I’m off. But before I go, I leave you with a moving poem by musician, poet, and artist L.J. Granered.
By L.J. Granered
I have a confession to make.
I have to confess that I have this grief.
This grief of not having grown up with an
to teach me how to live.
Without old gay people.
Without Queer Elders. Queer Mentors.
I have this grief
that instead of a ringing in my bones
Instead of a felt sense of my ancestors,
Instead of a deep knowing
of a history of generations of people like me
There is a big empty space.
A combination of erased and unwritten, and wiped out, and withheld,
and waiting, and waiting, and waiting,
and waiting, and waiting, and waiting,
to be heard.
Waiting to be memorized like nursery rhymes or catechism or a good song.
I want to be rooted, too, ya know?
I want to feel history in my blood.
Do you ever take for granted the certainty of being real and valid and alive?
I want memories of an old geezer who lives upstairs with his husband and his cat. Who’s seen some shit and wears his pants too high, but his laughter fills the air with oxygen and he secretly likes it when we play Madonna too loud.
I want memories of the late nights he would come downstairs to sit around the kitchen table and tell us stories we’ve heard a million times of falling in love and making inconsequential mistakes over cookies and milk until the sun comes up.
I want a jaunty old dyke to tie my tie for prom and teach me how to dance with a girl.
How to lead and how to follow, because I’m not sure which one feels like me yet.
And maybe it’s both.
I want a drag queen with bad knees and a chain around her glasses to read to me before bed and the rusty baritone of a wrinkly trans man to sing me to sleep.
I want someone to tell me the story of myself before it’s mine, so that I might recognize it a little sooner and a little softer.
I want deeply un-tragic homosexual mythologies.
I want fairy tales where faggots live happily-ever-after, with no “just kiddings” at the end.
I want a Twelfth Night where Viola is neither a man nor a woman and falls madly in love with both Olivia and the Duke…
I just want to make me a willow cabin at your gate.
But do not think we have been twiddling our thumbs in the meantime
To find yourself on stage without a script in front of the audience
Means one must improvise
Even the sacred rituals:
Define Marriage - Verb. to swear an oath of boundless love to one’s friends
Baptism - the act of shaving each other’s head in the bathroom, especially if it’s an undercut.
Communion - a repetitious event of eating dinner with all the people who are also not invited home for christmas.
We name and rename ourselves - a christening
We practice pronouns, we try things on - graduation
We change our minds
We are fluid and contradictory and impossible and delicious.
We, who have not been guaranteed a future,
Are fashioning new ways of being here now.
So it’s true
I have been thinking
about Weddings and Funerals.
About Sunday Dinners. And Holiday Get-to-Gethers.
About first kisses and throwing around a football.
About learning to shave, and learning what to shave.
I have been thinking about Quinceaneras,
and Bar Mitzvahs,
and Tao Moko,
and the Debutante Ball.
and I have been thinking about Top Surgery.
another sacred rite of passage.
That universally recognized moment when someone in our community is ready to step into a new role.
The natural maturation from youth into leadership.
I am thinking about a day when we gather in ceremonious celebration and the elders smile and say, “Ah, I remember my big day.”
And the young ones look up and say, “I can’t wait for it to be my turn.”
And the repetition hangs in the air, rich and meaningful with the passage of time.
There are speeches and toasts and traditional songs for the occasion, and we dance the night away.
Perhaps what I lack in looking back, I make up for in what we have yet to look forward to.
And how even though I am not
surrounded by Grand-Fathers or Grand-Flowers
No Great-Grandqueers nor Grandcestors.
I am swimming in beginnings.
Not front to back, not past to future.
But left to right.
Surrounded on all sides by the sweet and slow accumulation of Big Brothers. Who have only just begun to teach me how to live.
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