AnalysisFeaturestrans rights

More Democrats side with far right as anti-trans attacks continue

Photo: A Pride parade in Washington, D.C. Credit: Liberation photo

Just three weeks into 2024, the Trans Legislation Tracker website is already tracking 308 active bills — including 38 bills at the national level — that attempt to deprive transgender Americans of the few legal protections they have and to introduce a slew of new restrictions targeting their most basic rights, including the right to access necessary and life-saving health care, to have their identities legally recognized, to practice their culture, to engage in sport, and even to access public spaces like bathrooms.

In 2023, a stunning 503 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced across the United States and 75 were able to become law. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered what is expected to be only its first blow against the meager national-level legal protections LGBTQ people have when it ruled that discrimination is legal if it can be given a religious veneer.

Clearly the far right has no intention of relenting in its all-out drive to divide the working class by demonizing LGBTQ people, and trans people especially. The new bills build upon previous successes, expanding attacks that had previously only targeted trans children, such as denial of access to medical transition care, to include adults as well, as trans activists have long warned would happen.

Ohio’s de facto transition ban

In some cases, Republicans have simply given up on the democratic process. Earlier this month, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order that bans all gender-affirming surgeries for minors and directs Ohio state health agencies to change their regulations for access to transition-related medical care to require approval from a slew of medical and mental health experts first. This amounts to a de facto ban on trans-affirming medical care, such as hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgeries, by severely restricting access, and is a reversal of all trends in trans health care away from pathologizing transness as a mental illness.

The Ohio House of Representatives has also voted to override DeWine’s veto of the bill in question, HB 68, which would additionally ban all types of transition-related care for Ohioans under the age of 18. In a joint statement, PSL branches across Ohio called DeWine’s executive order “a cynical move to appease his transphobic base after the veto” of HB 68, and called on Ohioians to contact their state senators and demand they refuse to pass the bill.

Indeed, as the attack on trans lives is part of a larger attack on fundamental democratic rights across U.S. society, so in Ohio has this fascistic move by DeWine followed numerous attempts to undermine voters’ rights in recent years. In early 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down five different legislative maps for unconstitutional gerrymandering in favor of Republicans. The new map, approved this past September, is still considered by experts to be heavily biased towards Republicans, and the state Supreme Court only narrowly upheld it in a 4-3 vote.

Missouri and Florida escalate attacks

Other states dominated by the Republican Party have also expanded their anti-LGBTQ attacks. In Missouri, where all trans-supportive care for minors was banned last year and a ban for adults was only narrowly averted due to statewide protests, 21 anti-LGBTQ bills were pre-filed. Nine were heard on the very first day of the legislative session, widening the attacks even further.

In Florida, with the most harshly anti-LGBTQ laws of any U.S. state, lawmakers have proposed a slew of hateful new laws, including requiring affidavits stating one’s sex assignment at birth for every Floridian who wants to get a state ID; an end to all legal recognition of trans people in the state; and even a bill that would make “an allegation that the plaintiff has discriminated against another person or group because of their race, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity constitutes defamation per se.”

As with the recent attacks on the free speech rights of Palestine solidarity activists, an oppressed group would be essentially banned from naming their oppression. Critics of Israel and Zionism have been labeled anti-Semites. Likewise, if it passes, SB 1780 would make one liable for defamation lawsuits for criticizing anti-LGBTQ policies as discriminatory.

In West Virginia, Senate Bill 194 would ban all transition care for not just minors, but adults under the age of 21. It would also require all social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists in the state to attempt to “cure” trans people of their transness.

The language of “curing” transgender people, like that of “curing” gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, is nothing more than an attempt to erase a subsection of humanity that has existed as long as humans have existed. You cannot “cure” queer people because our queerness is not a sickness, you can only intimidate people into denying and hiding their true selves — a goal that serves the capitalist system by upholding the patriarchal rules that also oppress women.

Democrats side with far right against the people

While Democrats have postured as the last line of defense for LGBTQ people against the far right’s assault, in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, several Democrats sided with GOP lawmakers to pass two anti-LGBTQ rights bills earlier this month. One would allow schools to segregate LGBTQ people and the other would restrict access to transition-related health care for trans youth.

This betrayal echoes a maneuver by Maryland Democrats in 2022, who killed their own trans health care bill over fears they wouldn’t be able to override a veto by the Republican governor, who had not even expressed opposition to the bill. The bill was finally passed the following year.

At the national level, Democrats have been scarcely better champions of LGBTQ rights. Biden pledged to pass the Equality Act in his first 100 days in office, which would ban discrimination against LGBTQ people across wide swaths of U.S. public life. Three years later, it has yet to come to a vote in the Senate. Meanwhile, last year Biden’s own Education Department made anti-trans changes to Title IX, which mandates gender equality in sports programs. LGBTQ people denounced these changes as a “roadmap” for bigots to discriminate against them.

The Democrats, which cast themselves as the champions for many minorities, including LGBTQ people, are continuing to prove that they will not even be fair-weather friends to queer people as the far-right attacks get worse, and increasingly see us as a political liability. This is in spite of opinion polls showing for years that anti-LGBTQ laws are deeply unpopular in U.S. society, with 64% of respondents to a March 2023 poll — including 55% of Republicans — saying there is “too much legislation” aimed at “limiting the rights of transgender and gay people in America.” Another poll last September found that 70% of respondents said politicians aren’t qualified to write laws about trans people’s medical care, and another showed that 65% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s position that religious-based discrimination should be legal.

Instead, the data shows that over the last year, roughly half of Americans are listing material concerns like unemployment, high living costs, inflation, and poverty, or the “poor” national leadership, as their most important concerns, while less than 0.5% said LGBTQ rights was their most important problem.

Only a people’s movement can confront far-right attacks

Only an independent political movement tied only to the working class, not to the bought-and-paid-for politicians of the capitalist ruling class, is capable of defending the rights of working and oppressed people. It has been our fightback that has forced them to implement any kind of reforms at all, and it has been working people leading the defense against the far-right’s latest attacks as well. On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the PSL and other supporters of trans rights will hold a speakout at the Ohio State House in Columbus against Governor DeWine’s attacks, and will raise the call for unity and resistance wherever such attacks arise.

However, such reforms can only take us so far. If we want to really cement the complete equality of LGBTQ people and all other rights under attack, we must reconstruct this society on a socialist basis, putting exploited and oppressed people in charge who will defend the needs of the many, not the rich few.

Related Articles

Back to top button