April 24, 2023
Another day, another story about how much Republicans hate trans people. Opportunistic MAGA bigot Kid Rock aside, how did transgender Americans become the primary target of hate mongers? Did the Ku Klux Klan run out of objects of derision? “It ain’t ‘cool’ to hate black people no more. Let’s go after them non-binary kids!”
We have seen a dramatic spike in hate crimes against transgender people. The numbers of anti-trans attacks jumped 29 percent in 2021 over the numbers in 2020. There has been a corresponding increase in anti-trans murders, with black trans women being the primary target. Fueling this wave of hate is a bizarre obsession from many Republican politicians who delight in finding ways to make the lives of transgender Americans hell, especially if they are kids. According to translegislation.com, 2023 has already seen 499 anti-trans bills in 49 states (thank you, Delaware), and 43 that have passed.
How did transgender people suddenly become the demographic that it was politically expedient to hate?
If I’ve leaned anything in my 30+ years of studying hate groups, hate mongers never miss a passing bandwagon. In the 1920s, the “America First” Ku Klux Klan pivoted from anti-black hate to anti-immigrant hate as immigration patterns shifted to bring waves of Catholics and Jews to our shores. In the 1980’s, the KKK got in on the anti-gay hysteria as the AIDS epidemic gripped the country. A few years ago, hate groups leveled up their anti-Semitism as a means of going after Anthony Fauci and any Jewish doctor who thought it might be a good idea to wear a mask. Now that COVID has subsided, it seems to be transgender folks who are in the crosshairs of those that are perpetually angry about something that doesn’t actually affect them.
Let me put an underline on that point. If you are not transgender, another person being transgender has absolutely no impact on you one way or another. There are probably about 1.6 million trans people in the United States (according to a recent UCLA study). You don’t have to do anything or not do anything. Just let them exist. Just like we do with left-handed people (who right-handed people used to think were evil). Fox News would have you believe there is an army of transgender backstrokers competing on girls swim teams. These are the same people who previously wouldn’t shut up about “black rapists” and “Jewish pedophiles.” There’s not. And if there is one or two trans athletes raising the bar, it doesn’t effect you or Travis Tritt.
So why are rednecks across America pouring Bud Light down the drain and trying to find a “less gay” shitty beer? (Good luck on that one, Cleatus.)
Here’s two explanations.
First is the obvious one. Right-wing politicians, like Florida Nazi-wannabe Ron DeSantis, are using transphobia to gin up their white evangelical base. Let’s not forget the previously mentioned white-evangelical outfit known as the Ku Klux Klan. There’s a grip of white Christians that don’t know that Jesus was a brown-skinned socialist and think the Lord approved on shitting on marginalized people instead of gifting them loaves and fishes. This group is easier to manipulate than a prom full of horny teenagers. All you have to do is mention “sex” and “children” and the pitchfork and torch-carrying villagers are officially triggered.
Let’s be clear. Kids are more at risk from child molesting preachers than drag queens or anybody in the entire LGBTQ community. The religious right thinks transgender people are “sexualizing” kids. Not anymore than sex crazed cis-gender heterosexual people are. Everywhere I look I see those folks sucking face. I’ve already written about how not-kid friendly TV shows like Family Feud are. Trying to protect my 8-year-old from the nonstop sexuality coming from the non-queer folks is a losing battle. Someone expressing their gender is not “sexuality,” it’s life. And trans kids are dying by not being allowed to do it by an opportunistic political movement that sacrifices them at the alter of MAGA votes.
Second is a cognitive reason and has to do with our less-evolved friends who are firing on their knee jerk lizard brains. Research shows that these limbic brain creatures cannot handle complexity. Everything has to be in a very black or white binary. These are the same folks who feared “mulattos” and “quadroons” a hundred and fifty years ago. You had to fit into a nice racial category so they knew where to put you. Now that over 9 million Americans (including my daughter) are biracial they’ve moved onto to another anal retentive need to put people in a box.
To be fair, the last few decades America has been on a public education project to learn that sex and gender are two completely different concepts. We’ve spent so long conflating biological sex with sociological expressions of gender, you can’t fault folks for having trouble disentangling them. (“Gender reveal parties” are not. Genital reveal but not gender.) But we’re fully past that point now. Anyone who has a brain developed enough to understand the complexity of reality (“One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”) gets that gender can be extremely fluid and doesn’t exist in a neat either/or binary. So we’re left with troglodytes, like Kid Rock, who flip out when “dude looks like a lady.” Their brains just cannot manage boundary bending. Take the Bud Light banning morons back to 1883 and they would have coming for biracial people with ropes. Have you ever seen Birth of a Nation (1915)? “Those mulattoes are sexualizing our children!!”
The saddest part of this political fad is that there is already a body count. Trans kids who can’t get gender affirming care have an elevated suicided rate. Trans people suffer from all kinds of health problems because of inequities in our health care system (just ask a trans man with ovarian cancer). Physical attacks on trans people has now taken on a sport-like aspect. There was a brutal murder here in suburban Portland in 2001. The killing of a trans woman named Lani Kai became a focal point of my early hate crime work here in Oregon. The good news is her murder would now be classified as a bias crime in Oregon, but the bad news is her murder is still unsolved 22 years later and joins the increasing number of case files that end up with trans women of color (and other queer folks) chilling in the morgue.
There is a historical parallel the maps the current anti-trans hysteria to the hundred and sixteen years of lynching African-Americans after slavery ended in 1865. The thousands of racial lynchings were driven by an irrational fear, that somehow black people were an existential (and sexual) threat to white people. The modern irrational fear, bubbling over in bastions of hate like Texas, Tennessee, and Florida, is that transgender people are a threat to cisgender people. They’re not. They are human beings. The rest is convenient hysteria and it’s fueling the Republican death cult. Where southern Democrats championed the dehumanization of black people a hundred years ago, MAGA Republicans are now dehumanizing transgender people and it has to stop.
Now, I’m all for donating Kid Rock’s brain to science or sending thoughts and prayers into the void that one of Ron DeSantis’s three kids comes out as non-binary, but what I want to do is just beg the MAGA base to chill the fuck out and find a social problem that actually impacts them, like full access to healthcare or full access to lite beer. Whatever. Just leave trans kids alone.