Dispatches From the Queer Resistance (No. 2)

As I've written previously, with exit polls showing LGBT voters overhwhelmingly casting votes for Hillary Clinton (77%) in Election 2016, it is no surprise that LGBT people across all identity groups are both under attack from and resisting the Trump regime in various ways.

Here's a semi-regular update on that front:

[Content note: Transbigotry, gender policing, mention of suicidality]

1) Reversal of Obama Guidelines

On February 22, 2017, Trump's Republican Administration issued a "Dear Colleague" letter that withdrew Obama-era guidelines stating that public schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

This effort was led by Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-time opponent of LGBT rights who was also deemed too racist to be a federal judge in the 1980s. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos co-issued the letter, although reports state that she had initially wanted to leave Obama's guidance in place (I know, better throw a ticker-tape parade for her!).

In response, Chris Matthews hosted trans rights advocates Laverne Cox (also an actress) and Mara Keisling (executive director of the National Center for Transgender Rights) to discuss the issue with "the other side," represented by Travis Weber of the Family Research Council's Center for Religious Liberty. On air, Matthews asked Weber what restroom Cox should use in public, if he didn't support her using the women's restroom. Weber gave a bumbling, evasive response about the federal government taking away the rights of "localities," which didn't, of course, answer the question. When pressed to actually answer, Weber whined that he was trying to answer but maybe Matthews was just "afraid" to hear it.

Ah yes, the last refuge of the overconfident, intellectually sub-par man: when all else fails, just call the opponent a coward who can't handle the truth.

Both Cox and Keisling also spoke (full clip here, closed captioning available). Keisling observed that if she and Laverne walked into the men's restroom, Weber would be "freaked out," thus leaving trans people effectively without access to public restrooms. Cox added that it's important to remember the lived experiences of trans people and not to just talk about them in theory, reducing them to body parts.

Indeed, while anti-trans bigots treat the issue like an esoteric, abstract debating exercise, trans people exist in the world with bodies that, like most human bodies, require the removal of wastes at somewhat-regular intervals. It makes me incandescently angry when people treat this issue with such lack of empathy for the conditions in which trans people exist. Imagine opposing restroom access to a segment of the population without ever having thought of which bathroom a trans person should use, then, if not the one for designated for their gender?

Also notable is that the Southern Poverty Law Center has been tracking the Family Research Council as an extremist anti-LGBT group for many years. I acknowledge what it might have taken for Ms. Cox and Ms. Keisling to share a platform with a staff member from FRC who possibly knows next-to-nothing about trans people's daily lives and yet who opposes their identities and full humanity anyway. Both women nonetheless spoke with dignity, grace, and composure in his presence even though they had every reason and justification not to.

So little is asked of cis people. The bar is so low. Weber is advocating for an inherently-uncivil, un-empathetic position and yet trans people are expected to be paragons of civility in response to that position. I've written before about the silence marginalized people often endure, sometimes willingly sometimes not, so that people of privilege don't have to feel bad about themselves for being bigots.

Of all the things about enduring Trump, it is this silence, and the continual demands for it, that I now realize will break my heart over and over again. To trans members of our community, I'm sorry. I see you and stand with you.

2) Communities Rally

In response to the reversal of the Obama guidelines, 2,000-3,000 people were reported to have held an emergency rally at Stonewall in New York City. This is at least the second protest at the historic site since the Republican President was inaugurated. Related protests and rallies were also held in Chicago and Washington, DC.

3) SCOTUS Reprimands Trans-Bigots

In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, the US Supreme Court will examine the extent to which Title IX and the Fourteenth Amendment cover discriminatory bathroom policies as they relate to trans individuals. It is believed that Jeff Sessions wanted Obama's previous guidance withdrawn in anticipation of this court case, so it could not be cited in support of trans rights.

Usual anti-LGBT suspects Liberty Counsel and National Organization for Marriage (NOM) have submitted amicus briefs in the case, because of course they have. In it, they have misgendered the respondent, who is a trans man, because of course they have.

In response, the Supreme Court issued a letter to Liberty Counsel noting that the mis-gendering resulted in their brief being non-compliant with one the many strict Supreme Court Rules for the formatting of legal briefs. In this instance, Liberty Counsel did not accurately caption the case, as required, when it changed the pronoun of the respondent from "his" to "her."

The letter is a subtle reprimand, to be sure, but hopefully foreshadows a more overt message from SCOTUS when it renders its opinion on the Title IX and constitutional issues.

4) Butcher Launches Epic Tweetstorm About Bathrooms

Out butch lesbian comedian Rhea Butcher tweeted last week about her experiences of fear with respect to public restrooms. Anti-trans bigots often facetiously cite "protection of women" as a reason to exclude trans women from women's restrooms, but they never consider the many women, cis and trans, who are already harassed in restrooms for not presenting their gender in socially-acceptable, gender-conformist ways.

This harassment is not a new development, as Butcher notes - and it's an experience that is commonly talked about among my group of queer women friends. But, it's always alarming when anti-trans initiatives are being politicized because it implies that the scope of gender policing is set to be imminently broadened and legitimized. What is at first a policy to exclude trans women "for the safety of" cis, gender-conforming women often becomes justification to remove or harass any woman who is deemed to not sufficiently "look like a woman."

5) NOM Echoes Trump's "Fake News" Charge

Repeating the Republican Administration's charge that established news entities spread "fake news," the anti-LGBT organization NOM published a recent blog post claiming that a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has resulted in the spread of "fake news." (Note: JAMA is a peer-reviewed medical journal founded in 1883).

In a post entitled "Fake News Drawn From Flimsy Study," NOM claims:
"A recent study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has caused a lot of buzz in the press. The study claims to trace the 'Association Between State Same-Sex Marriage Policies and Adolescent Suicide Attempts' among LGBT youth and is being presented by the media as "proof" that gay marriage saves lives.

But like much of the fake news coverage this study has generated, the study itself leads people to a  fake conclusion: that somehow the enactment of same-sex marriage results in reduced teen suicide attempts, especially for  LGBT teens. (emphases in original)"
I do think it is appropriate to render critique of a study's methods when flaws exists, and many mainstream publications don't do a great job of summarizing research in general.

BUT, we have to push back on this gratuitous label "fake news," as it implies that the information within a report is a complete hoax or fabrication, wherein the authors had an intent to deceive the public. It's alarming to see bigoted activist groups begin to repeat the "fake news" charge. The Republican Administration has set a tone, to be sure, wherein any news article, study, or report is labeled "fake news" - a hoax - simply because it doesn't align with a certain belief system.

I will continue to monitor the situation.

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