In just the first month of 2022, right-wing bigots unleashed a torrent of new bills attacking a wide range of LGBTQ rights. These attacks aren’t only against LGBTQ people. They hurt all working people by creating dividing lines of fear and hate, which stand in the way of uniting to fight back as a class against oppression and exploitation.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ discrimination bills were introduced just in January 2022. These include attempts to ban transgender people from bathrooms of their gender, bans on affirming healthcare for trans youth, and bans on trans athletes competing on sports teams of their gender.
From Texas to Arizona to South Dakota and Mississippi, many of the same state legislators attacking LGBTQ rights and trans healthcare are also attacking women’s reproductive health by restricting abortions. They are also undermining the health of the poorest by refusing federal Medicaid funds. The same people trying to stop students from learning about America’s racist history are trying to stop them from learning about LGBTQ identities, including their own.
This isn’t a coincidence. It’s a concerted attack on some of society’s most vulnerable and an attempt to roll back decades of protections that were won by popular struggle.
Some of these bills have copied parts of other reactionary laws, including Texas’ S.B. 8 anti-abortion law. That law enforces a ban on abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy by allowing anyone to file a $10,000 lawsuit against people who perform or “aid and abet” an abortion.
Oklahoma’s SB 1142 has borrowed this enforcement method, which is designed to evade being struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma bill would allow a parent’s complaint to force the school district to remove all copies of a book from its libraries if it’s found to be about “the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity, or books that are of a sexual nature that a reasonable parent or legal guardian would want to know of or approve of prior to their child being exposed to it.”
School officials who don’t comply within 30 days would be fired, and parents “may seek monetary damages” of up to $10,000 per day until the book is removed.
Other proposed anti-LGBTQ legislation, like Texas’ SB 3, have copied or even merged with bills banning the teaching of America’s racist history under the aegis of “critical race theory,” claiming they’re both “woke” liberal indoctrination of children.
Florida’s HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, has been nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay” because it would totally ban discussions of gender identity and sexuality in classrooms. In addition to banning any lessons about LGBTQ people, this would stop LGBTQ teachers from discussing their identities or even mentioning their same-gender spouses.
Divide and exploit is the boss’ game
The goal of the right-wing forces pushing these attacks isn’t to protect fairness in sports or the health of children. If children’s health were truly their concern, these same states would not continue to refuse federal funds for expanding Medicaid, nor would they ignore scientific evidence that stopping trans kids from transitioning severely impacts their mental health and leads to extremely high rates of attempted suicide.
The goal of these attacks on LGBTQ people is to keep the working class divided by blaming a marginalized part of the working class for the economic and social ills caused by giant corporations and rubber stamped by their bought-and-paid-for politicians.
LGBTQ people have long served as a scary “other” to keep working people in line, particularly when it comes to enforcing the gender roles and the social expectations laid upon those assigned male or female at birth. By standing against the integration of LGBTQ people, bigots hope to reinforce this demonization and alienation, which hurts all workers — both cisgender and transgender, both straight and gay.
Capitalists benefit from discrimination. A McKinsey report on “Being Transgender at Work,” published in November 2021, documented the extreme inequalities faced by trans people, including having twice the unemployment rate of their cisgender counterparts and earning on average just 60% the wages of their cisgender coworkers, even when the trans employee has a higher education level.
Less pay and greater job instability translate into more profits for the boss and a more pliable workforce that’s unwilling or unable to unite and fight for better working conditions.
Attacks on LGBTQ people are attacks on all working people and must be fought by all workers. As the classic labor slogan goes: An injury to one is an injury to all.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation and other progressive forces are fighting back against this hate.
In the Indianapolis state legislature, high school social studies teacher and ANSWER Indiana co-coordinator Noah Leininger recently spoke out against that state’s anti-LGBTQ law HB 104. Leininger urging lawmakers not to pass a bill that would ban transgender girls from girls’ sports teams and to let trans girls enjoy the benefits of getting to play and compete alongside their peers as their authentic selves.
While the committee approved the bill that day, many of their constituents did not agree. Spectators in the gallery erupted in chants of, “When trans kids are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”
The solidarity needed to fight these attacks was also shown that day. Jess Louise of Indy10 Black Lives Matter told lawmakers: “Y’all have killed every trans child from this point forward because of your legislation.”
Featured image: Joyce Chediac, Liberation News.