United States: Republicans intensify anti-trans campaign

May 25, 2023
LGBTIQ rights
The Republican onslaught against LGBTQ communities in the United States is escalating. Image: Green Left

The Republican Party in the United States became a far-right, white nationalist, anti-abortion, anti-LGBTIQ party under former President Donald Trump’s administration. It has now launched a coordinated campaign against transgender people.

In Montana, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives recently passed several laws attacking trans rights. One of these banned gender-affirming health care for people under 18 years of age, impacting access to hormone treatments and surgical care.

Such treatments are accepted by the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Association and 25 other national medical associations.

During the debate, Zooey Zephyr, the only trans member of the House, gave an impassioned speech against the law: "If you are denying gender-affirming care and forcing a trans child to go through puberty, that is tantamount to torture, and this body should be ashamed,” she said. “If you vote yes on this bill, I hope the next time you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

A week later, Republican lawmakers censured Zephyr and barred her from the House floor. She was able to vote, but unable to speak to any bills being considered in the final week of sitting.

During the debate around the censure, Zephyr said: “Today I rise in defense of my community and of democracy itself … This legislature has systematically attacked the [LGBTIQ] community. We have seen bills targeting our art forms, our books, our history and our healthcare. And I rose up in defense of my community that day, speaking of harms these bills have brought and that I have firsthand experience [of].

“I have had friends who have taken their lives because of these bills. I have fielded calls from families in Montana, including one family whose trans teenager attempted to take her life while watching a hearing on one of the anti-trans bills.”

Zephyr’s case gained national media recognition. However, the media has generally been silent on the scope of the Republican attacks.

Trans people are four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than their cisgender peers, according to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group focused on LGBTIQ youth, reported in January that 86% of trans or non-binary youth reported negative effects on their mental health stemming from recent debates around anti-trans bills in the past year, and nearly half had seriously considered suicide.

The Republican onslaught is escalating. So far this year, 51 bills have passed in 18 Republican-controlled states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Indiana passed a law — which comes into effect on July 1 — requiring children who are currently taking medication to assist in their gender transition to stop doing so by the end of the year. An Idaho law makes it a felony to administer gender-affirming care to minors.

Seven states have passed such laws denying such care to minors, and 30 states are considering them, including some states controlled by Democrats.

For several years, Republicans have been pushing “bathroom bills” that exclude trans people from multi-user bathrooms, locker rooms and other spaces on the spurious grounds of “protecting” women and children from assault.

Researchers at UCLA found that this assertion is false, and where trans people use such facilities, this has no impact on crime statistics.

In some states, “religious liberty” is invoked to allow discrimination by employers, businesses, educators and medical providers, against trans people.

In recent years, states have introduced bills that make it harder for trans people to use their gender identification on documents such as drivers licenses, or to change their gender on their birth certificate, or to use a person’s preferred pronouns on official documents.

Florida has passed what has been called “Don’t Say Gay” law, making it illegal for teachers to discuss or use any materials that refer to sexual orientation or gender identity with students up to the 3rd grade. The Florida board of education has now voted to expand that to high schools.

Teachers must notify parents if they think a child is transgender, and parents can sue schools they think violate “Don’t Say Gay”.

The Florida law has been used as a template for other states.

Another law some states have adopted bans on “drag shows” in any place where young people “might” see them.

The year is young. Many bills are working their way through legislatures.

“If your access to public spaces, your own name, how you are dressed in public, where you can go, what kind of medicine you can take, what goes on between you and your doctor — if all of that is restricted and taken away from you, then how can you be yourself?”, said Mandy Giles the founder of the support resource Parents of Trans Youth.

Ominously, a speaker at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference exclaimed that “transgenderism” must be eradicated, directly calling for the elimination of trans people. Earlier this year Trump said he would “stop” gender-affirming care for minors if he was reelected.

These laws and such statements have raised fears among trans youth and can have tragic consequences. They also raise fear among teachers and doctors over what they can do or say without suffering legal consequences.

Books and other educational material have also been banned for mentioning racism and LGBTIQ topics. This has meant that publishers of such materials self-censure in order to have their materials used in states with such bans in place.

Scholastic, which published a children’s book by Maggie Tokuda-Hall about how her Japanese-American grandparents were “interned” in prison camps during World War II, wanted her to delete all references to racism. She refused and went public.

Patricia McCormick’s novel, Sold, which included a passage about the sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl by an older man, based on her own experience, was denounced as “pornographic”. It contains no graphic language or obscenity. The story is told from the point of view of a child, in her words, describing her confusion, terror and physical pain.

PEN America reported last month that Sold was one of the most banned books in the country.

The attacks on trans people are part of a broader attack on all LGBTIQ people.

In many countries homosexuality is a crime. That was true in the US for most of its history. It was only through the mass movement of gays and lesbians in the late 1960s, part of the radicalisation of that period, that such laws began to change. This was spurred on by the women’s liberation movement.

Why are LGBTIQ people still discriminated against? Why is there continuing prejudice against them? The answer is that LGBTIQ people challenge by their very existence the deep ideological — including religious — underpinning of the patriarchal family that emerged with the transition to class-based society thousands of years ago.

This also explains why attacks on the right LGBTIQ people frequently occurs alongside attacks on women’s right to control their own bodies, including the right to abortion.

The far right and religious groups are the cutting edge of these combined attacks, but ruling class defenders of capitalism would like to roll back these and other gains won by working people and the oppressed.

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