Trans youth health care attacks: a divide and rule strategy of far right

A leading far-right figure has plainly admitted to fearmongering about trans kids in order to drive a wedge in the working class to advance their all-out assault on transgender people in the United States. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has pledged a program to eliminate transgender people if he is elected in 2024.

The latest wave of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills to be introduced in the new 2023 legislative session includes over 150 bills with some of the most restrictive language yet seen. While in previous years transphobes had restricted their attacks on transition-related care to minors, who they argued could not consent, this year several bills have tried to ban adults from transitioning too.

At least 20 state legislatures have seen bills introduced this year that would ban adults up to the age of 26 from accessing transition-related medical care, which includes hormone blockers or hormone replacement therapy, gender-affirming surgeries for adults and other procedures.

Speaking to the New York Times recently, Terry Schilling, the head of the far-right group American Principles Project, which bills itself as the “NRA for families,” frankly admitted the group’s shrewd political strategy against trans people.

“And Mr. Schilling, of the American Principles Project, confirmed that his organization’s long-term goal was to eliminate transition care,” the Times wrote. “The initial focus on children, he said, was a matter of ‘going where the consensus is.’”

New York Times

In April 2022, Schilling made a similar admission about the shrewd utility of the attacks on trans women athletes, telling CNN that, “The women’s sports issue was really the beginning point in helping expose all this because what it did was, it got opponents of the LGBT movement comfortable with talking about transgender issues.”

The group has been a key part of the pressure campaign behind several states’ anti-trans policies and bills in recent years, including Texas’ decision to categorize parental support for their trans kids’ identities as “child abuse” and to have Child Protective Services take the children from their parents. The APP has also bankrolled anti-trans ad campaigns in support of other bills in Florida, Idaho and Connecticut, among others.

The right-wing campaign against abortion has followed a similar pattern, pursuing one increasingly restrictive ban after another until essentially no abortions were legal. The strategy was to pass one ban at a time using different lies and fear-inducing propaganda. That should come as no surprise: The same reactionary groups behind the attacks on abortion are driving the attacks on LGBTQ people too. They are also driving the attacks on Black voting rights and other core democratic rights won by the struggles against the white supremacist, patriarchal U.S. capitalist system. This is further proof that working-class communities must reject attempts at dividing us and must come together and fight our shared enemy.

Amid this, former President Trump published a disgusting new campaign video pledging a nationwide policy of ending transition care, not just for transgender children, but adults too. He pledged a day one order to end transition care for trans youth and a legislative ban with felony penalties for doctors, an end to all federal messaging about transitioning “at any age,” and a federal crackdown on the use of “hormones or puberty blockers which are in no way licensed or approved for this use,” which amounts to a de facto ban on medical transitioning for trans people of all ages.

Trump’s move follows another attempt last year by his close follower, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), to introduce in Congress just such a nationwide ban on youth transitioning. While it garnered little support at the time, it was a clear attempt to normalize such bans as are now proliferating nationwide.

Trans youth under attack

The legal attack on trans kids began in earnest in 2020, when conservatives began arguing that trans children did not exist and that kids who professed to being trans were in fact under the coercion of adults following “gender ideology,” as they termed it. They adopted the anti-abortion movement’s tactics and accused doctors of “destroying healthy tissue” and pressuring children into irreversible procedures to which they couldn’t consent. They raised the specter of doctors of “mutilating” children, falsely claiming that children receive gender-affirmation surgeries.

It must be emphasized that established standards of medical care for both trans children and adults state that supporting and affirming their self-described identities socially and medically greatly alleviates emotional and psychological distress, including dramatically reducing the risk of suicide.

By 2022, the far right’s nonsensical claims had snowballed into attacks by openly fascist groups on children’s clinics that provide such services, requiring trans and working-class people to rally in their defense, although some attacks began as early as 2020. Meanwhile, nationwide publications like the New York Times have equivocated, giving a voice to anti-trans figures, framing transition care as a “debate,” and casting the far-right’s anti-LGBTQ crusade not as a fascist attack on the basic human rights of a highly marginalized minority group, but as bad electoral strategy.

The media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting put the issue plainly: “News outlets need to be held accountable for their complicity in presenting and watering down this hateful, violent ideology.”

Schilling’s admission shows all this posturing to be a lie: The issue was never the ability of kids to consent, that was simply a tactic to divide people by positioning trans kids as the victims of their doctors, parents, teachers and trans adults. The Party for Socialism and Liberation argued then that the working class must reject these divide-and-rule tactics and unite in defense of a sector of the working class that was under attack. That position rings all the more true today.

Growing fightback

However, trans people and their working-class allies are fighting back tooth and nail.

In Oklahoma, thousands have protested the state’s many horrific anti-trans bills. Earlier this week, trans people and their allies stormed the Oklahoma State Capitol and chants of “protect trans kids” and “trans lives matter!” rang through the building’s halls.

Protesters storm the Oklahoma State House to protest anti-trans bill, Feb. 6. Liberation screen shot.

Protests outside Arkansas’ state legislative building in Little Rock by drag queens and trans people forced lawmakers to remove all references to drag from a so-called “obscenity” bill. Prior to the protests, the bill would have banned all performances by drag queens or trans people, who the bill categorized as drag performers. The bill now is simply a ban on public nudity. Similar mass protests have rocked Utah, Texas, New Mexico and numerous other states where the far right is launching both legislative and extralegal attacks against LGBTQ rights. Wherever there is LGBTQ existence, there will always be resistance!

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