Trans people are under attack, just as we should be celebrating the historic passage of the re-introduced Equality Act, 224 votes to 206. Soon the bill, which would federally outlaw LGBTQ discrimination, will go to the Senate where we already know it faces an uphill battle.
The transphobia from Republicans during the House debate may not have been shocking, but it was relentless, upsetting and exhausting—casting trans people as cheats in sport, cheats of nature, and yet also too insignificant a number to care and legislate about. If that’s so, why don’t Republicans just leave our bodies and selves alone?
In 2019, the American Medical Association declared that anti-transgender violence was an “epidemic.” Now, in 2021, a new plague has infected Republicans and conservatives across America: rampant, vicious and virulent transphobia.
The worst part of this crisis is that when they get infected, I’m the one who gets sick. Someone spouts off “there are only two genders,” or compares gender-affirming surgery to genital mutilation, and my heart aches. They aren’t afflicted in the least. The pain is all mine.
“The transphobia lately is nothing new but is so much to take in,” tweeted Dr. Brandon Andrew Robinson, a non-binary assistant professor in gender studies at U.C. Riverside. “There seems to be a reemergence in upholding the gender binary. It is too much.”
“As the house gets ready to debate the Equality Act and the trans haters come out to oppose it and Dr. Rachel Levine faces transphobia from the likes of Rand Paul at her confirmation hearing in the senate, check in on your trans friends,” tweeted YouTube personality Melody Maia Monet of Orlando, Fla. “We aren’t ok. I’m not ok.”
Neither am I. Writing about this is brings tears to my eyes, because I know that somewhere there is a closeted child or even an adult who sees, hears or reads these awful things and considers that coming out is not in the cards. Or worse: that if they cannot be their true selves, live authentically and be accepted for who they truly are, then life may not be worth living.
I thought the Jan. 6 insurrection was going to be the low point of 2021. I was wrong. And it turns out the scene of that outrageous event is the same place where the transphobes have taken root.
As Monet alluded to, ground zero for this new growing epidemic is Capitol Hill, and that’s no accident. It is entirely intentional. Conservative and fundamentalist forces such as the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist, the Daily Caller and Fox News have armed their untruth soldiers with alternative facts and simple-sounding arguments to claim science is on their side.
To me, they are transphobia superspreaders, and their goal is plainly obvious: to rally their base against an unknown, marginalized minority. To borrow a vintage quote from the comic strip Pogo, they have met the enemy and it is us.
Yesterday—which seems so much longer ago—Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene called the Equality Act “disgusting, immoral, and evil.”
As The Daily Beast reported, this was only for starters; most ghoulishly she attacked her colleague Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois for having a trans child, and then stuck a sign up outside her office reading: “There are TWO genders: MALE & FEMALE. ‘Trust the Science!’”
The Georgia Republican—who until recently was a QAnon conspiracist, something she now “regrets” but has never publicly apologized for— claimed on social media that the bill would “destroy women’s rights and women’s sports and religious freedom.”
No, Rep. Taylor-Greene. The Equality Act will provide equal rights to transgender Americans. Rights are not a pie; giving us rights doesn’t take away yours. Women’s sports haven’t been “destroyed” by the small number of out trans women athletes already competing. No cisgender girls have lost scholarships to trans athletes. And as for “The Science?” It actually says gender is not binary; it is a spectrum which has clusters. Chromosomal arrangements vary. Intersex people exist.
The madness continued at the Senate confirmation hearing of Dr. Rachel Levine, former secretary of health in Pennsylvania and a favorite whipping girl of transphobes in her home state and across the nation. On Thursday, she testified for the role of assistant secretary of health in the Biden administration.
I nervously watched both Republicans and Democrats grill Levine about her response to COVID-19 and her experience as a pediatrician. Then I braced myself as Sen. Rand Paul took his turn, and it was clear from the get-go that he had only one agenda: to paint Dr. Levine as unfit to serve because she advocated on behalf of transgender children.
Paul had already come out as a transphobe on Feb. 3 when he grilled education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona about Connecticut policies affirming the rights of transgender female student-athletes to compete with cisgender girls.
This time, however, the self-certified ophthalmologist proved himself to be a transphobia superspreader.
I reeled as Sen. Paul compared life-affirming and widely practiced transgender medicine to the outrageous and widely-condemned practice of genital mutilation. He cited a conservative group called the American College of Pediatricians as authorities, which the Southern Poverty Law Center rightfully labeled an anti-LGBTQ hate group pushing junk science.
His grandstand speech, however, showing all the world his ignorance about detransitioning and trans youth, was more than just irritating. He clearly doesn’t realize the “dozens and dozens” of people he cited as changing their minds about transitioning are outnumbered by thousands, if not tens of thousands of happy, successfully transitioned youth and adults. I’m one of them.
Paul did Congress, his constituents and American history a grand disservice by describing puberty blockers as harmful or irreversible. My children aren’t trans but I know a fleet of supportive moms and dads who know firsthand how the process actually works, and its benefits.
Since he seems so eager to have confrontations, I challenge Sen. Paul to meet face to face with trans youth and a parent who recognizes puberty blockers and affirming transgender medicine can be life-saving. They can tell him, not only do 3-year-olds not change their sex, none of us do. Being trans is not “a sex change,” it is an affirmation of our authentic gender identity.
“American culture is now normalizing the idea that minors can be given hormones to prevent the biological development of their secondary sexual characteristics,” Paul said, which despite the way he framed it, is a true statement. But he wasn’t finished. “Dr. Levine, do you believe minors are capable of making such a life changing decision of changing one's sex?” Paul asked Levine.
She wasn’t taking the bait. Rather than allow her confirmation hearing turn into a lecture about what Rand Paul clearly does not know or understand about gender transition, especially as it regards children and young adults, Levine told him, essentially, “See me after class.”
“If I’m fortunate enough to be confirmed,” she said pleasantly, “I will look forward to working with you and your office and coming to your office to discuss the particulars of the standards of care for transgender medicine.”
Boom. I cheered.
Paul still wasn’t done, but his colleagues dismissed his anecdotes as baseless and irrelevant. “It is really critical to me that our nominees be treated with respect and that our questions focus on their qualifications,” chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray said, “rather than ideological and harmful misrepresentations.”
What comes next in the Senate has me worried. So like Monet said, check in on your trans friends. We’re not OK. Now more than ever we need support, allies, and to hear that we matter. Right now, there is quite literal, vital strength in numbers.