Republican party-controlled states across the U.S. are enacting laws to restrict individual freedoms. These policies include denying access to reproductive healthcare and abortion services, suppressing the votes of communities of color, banning books and censoring U.S. history.
In recent years, however, Republicans have targeted another group of Americans with repressive legislation, passing laws making transgender people’s use of public bathrooms and locker rooms illegal, banning classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity, outlawing gender-affirming care for transgender youth and prohibiting drag show performances in public venues. In recent years, the ACLU has tracked more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills across the U.S., primarily in GOP-controlled states.
The bloody history of where hateful anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and laws can lead can be seen in the many hate crimes and mass shootings that have targeted this community across America. This dangerous rhetoric was on full display at the CPAC conference when far-right commentator Michael Knowles declared on March 4 that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.” Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Tori Cooper, director of community engagement with the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, and Lindsey Clark, HRC’s senior regional field organizer, who discuss nationwide GOP culture war attacks on the LGBTQ community and what HRC is doing to fight back.
TORI COOPER: It shows where the hearts and minds of the opposition — the Republican party — is right now. They’re most focused on getting rid of drag — the art form of drag— and minimizing the existence of transpeople than they are in actual things that help people.
I’ve never known a drag queen who has inflicted any harm on anyone. I’ve never known where people — adult — who go to see drag shows are scarred for life.
And so when we see that the opposition is focusing on issues that absolutely have so little relevance in most people’s lives rather than the issues, we see immediately that they are “no issue” party.
With that being said, drag queens, all of these folks are human beings. And this rhetoric that you just mentioned to eradicate transgenderism and therefore extinguish transgender people, that is harmful.
I always remind people that violence is not just with fists and guns, but it’s also with words. And what they are doing is, they’re dog whistling to folks in their parties and folks who seek to do us harm, that they have permission in a way to do it.
SCOTT HARRIS: Lindsey, I would ask you to please share with our audience any of the personal stories you’ve heard about how these repressive laws are impacting the lives of the LGBTQ community and especially trans youth.
LINDSEY CLARK: Trans people are strong and resilient and much stronger and more resilient than you can imagine. And, we hear from folks all the time about the way that the environment that these conversations create is, you know, inhospitable. And in these places, in these states where they’re having these conversations and they’re passing these laws, it’s easy to see why folks feel like they are no longer at home in the place that they used to call home.
I would say more than anything, we hear from parents of trans youth who are facing this unique challenge of trying to protect their children and trying to create an environment where their children can grow and thrive and live healthy lives. And we’ve seen families move from places like Texas. We’ve seen folks have to leave good jobs and good homes so that they don’t have to choose between life for their trans kid or the alternative.
SCOTT HARRIS: Thank you for that, Lindsey. And Tori, do you have any personal stories you’d like to share about how these repressive laws have impacted individuals you’ve met or talked with?
TORI COOPER: Well, I wish I could just pick one. But the truth is there are so many personal stories. But I will share with you kind of an overarching theme. I think what we’re seeing is a loud minority of folks. What they’re saying is they don’t think that the parents of transgender children know what’s best for their trans children. And they’re attempting to control every aspect of these kids’ lives through the court system rather than simply getting to know them and listening to their parents and listening to their doctors and listening to common sense that says that first of all, parents often know what’s best for the children. And that trans people are real and we’re worthy of protections and medical care and to live healthy and happy lives as well.
SCOTT HARRIS: Well, Lindsey, we’re almost out of time, but I want to make sure to focus our attention now on fighting back. What’s the strategy of the human rights campaigns and your allies across the country to fight against these repressive pieces of legislation that these Republican-controlled states are putting forward, have voted on and many have already been implemented?
LINDSEY CLARK: Yeah, I mean, we have folks across the country who are on the ground who are mobilizing folks to talk to their legislators and show up at these state houses, testify on these bills and hold their legislators accountable once they’ve passed.
We have been continuously through the course of this legislative cycle, you know, meeting as a table to talk about the bills that are happening across the country and the ways that we’re seeing patterns and the folks who are showing up in one state are showing up in another state and, you know, it is, as you’ve said, a very concerted effort to pass these bills.
And we have had a concerted effort to fight back against them. And we will continue that fight, including through the next election cycle. You know, in some of the places where we’ve actually seen progress, where we’ve seen these bills not be able to be passed, not be able to be signed — are places where we had big electoral victories to hold folks accountable who were acting in anti-equality ways.
And we will continue that work.
Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Tori Cooper and Lindsey Clark (27:46) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.
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