Anti-trans campaigns set the stage for far-right attacks on Pride festivities

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A protester holds photos of transgender people killed in 2022 during the annual Pride Parade on June 12, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

This month of pride, the violent consequences of Republicans’ all-out assault on the lives of LGBTQ+ people, and transgender people in particular, have been chillingly laid bare. From government officials to paranoid media commentators to far-right militias, attacks on the rights and freedoms of adults and children are happening across the country and hitting every aspect of public life.

This weekend, as children danced and adults socialized and enjoyed drag performances and picnics at a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, more than 30 masked white nationalists and in uniform from across the country piled into the back of a U-Haul. They brought shields, metal poles and a smoke grenade – preparations to attack the Pride in the Park festivities. Thanks to a tip from a concerned citizen who noticed the small army of Patriot Front members, local police intercepted the truck and arrested 31 men for conspiring to riot.

In San Lorenzo, Calif., on Saturday, a group of men suspected of being the Proud Boys interrupted an hour of drag queen storytelling, shouting anti-trans and anti-gay slurs in what is the subject of investigated as a hate crime.

Earlier this month, self-proclaimed “Christian fascists” tried to force their way into an LGBTQ+ bar in Dallas, Texas, which was hosting a family drag queen brunch for Pride. The fascists threatened the attendees, chanting that the adults were “healers” – a dangerous and dated trope that is once again gaining fury in the right-wing media.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed in Texas against Governor Greg Abbott’s most vicious anti-trans order to date has revealed a trans teenager tried suicide earlier this year, on the same day, the governor ordered parents of trans children to be investigated as potential child molesters. The 16-year-old was referred to a mental institution, where hospital staff learned he had been prescribed gender-affirming hormones; they flagged the family for potential ‘child abuse’ – as required by the very rule that the boy attempted suicide. (It should hardly be necessary to repeat at this point that all major medical associations have recognized the medical necessity of gender-affirming care for trans adults and children.)

Participants in LGBTQ+ liberation struggles have long pointed out that the widespread legislative and rhetorical assault on trans people will inevitably lead to violent attacks, suicides and inhumane treatment. This is not a concern for the future: it is happening now.

It is no coincidence that anti-LGBTQ+ laws have taken precedence over the decimation of reproductive rights and the enforcement of racist national myths in schools. The Christian fascist insurgency that informs all of these movements, made up of state and vigilante forces, is unabashed in its authoritarian goal of codifying the white, patriarchal position.

For more than a year, Republican-led state legislatures have made eradicating trans children and adults from public life a top priority. They proposed and quickly passed a mountain of laws to suppress health care, harass trans-affirming families, and physically assault gender-nonconforming kids who want to play sports with their peers.

The objective has an eliminatory scope. As one of the Christian Fascist protesters would have been understood telling Pride Brunch attendees in Dallas, “It’s going to be so much fun when we take all your rights away.”

LGBTQ+ people, their families and their defenders fight back. The Texas trial that uncovered the trans teenager’s attempted suicide was able to get a temporary restraining order from a judge this week. The decision prevented child protective services from investigating PFLAG families who allow their trans children to receive gender-affirming health care. The mother of the teenager who attempted suicide is among the complainants.

Temporary legal victories, however, can only be welcomed as short-term reprieves. They risk facing appeals before the higher courts, these bastions of the far right.

Moreover, the breakneck speed of the anti-trans legislative push is its own daunting challenge. In recent years, over 100 bills have been introduced across the country targeting trans people, primarily children. Even when bills fail, leaders and state prosecutors have moved to enforce a virulently anti-trans legal status quo, as was the case with Abbott’s order in Texas. It’s especially important to note that while police may have intercepted the Patriot Front attack in Idaho, law enforcement has a more established record of aiding, or at least neglecting, the extreme right. Indeed, cops have their own rich heritage of harassing trans people, especially trans women of color. Neither the police nor the courts will serve as a source of protection for LGBTQ+ communities.

As a frontline advocate against the anti-trans onslaught in the courts, Chase Strangio of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a powerful essay this month: “Our ability to meaningfully build resistance in the years to come demands that we better understand the limits of law as an instrument of justice”. He added: “Ultimately, we cannot trust the Supreme Court, or any court, to honor the capacity and complexity of our bodies and our lives. »

It should be enough that the lives of trans children are in danger for liberals and leftists in general to take up this fight. We shouldn’t need a “They first came for” narrative to activate widespread resistance, but it should be clear by now that there are connections to struggles like the fight for reproductive rights. Legislative attacks on trans lives are also methods used by state governments to expand authoritarian capacity to suppress health care provisions, legitimize vigilante violence, and assert control over who has and does not. has no access to public space.

Too many liberals and even some leftists dismissed this anti-trans assault as a cynical distraction from the culture war or, worse, legitimized putrid “debates” about trans lives. They too bear responsibility for the far-right eugenic violence that has been allowed to take hold.

There can be no patience for contrarian media personalities who give credence to far-right talking points. Consider the fight against so-called failure on the part of trans health professionals, activists and theorists who cannot give a simple one-line definition in answer to the question “What is a woman?” As any first-year philosophy student can tell you, we also cannot give a comprehensive one-line definition in answer to the same question about other basic names and concepts – What is this, after all, only a game? — and yet these terms are widely used completely and correctly. The only thing that makes sense is the kerfuffle on “What is a woman?” gives us is a demonstration of the intellectual impoverishment of anti-trans media.

The goal, of course, cannot be to expose the idiocy of reactionary commentators through debate. Too much is at stake. These figures have already made it clear that they align themselves with the fascists. As is abundantly clear, we also cannot cling to liberal myths of progress and constitutionally protected rights to ensure the protection of trans people, and LGBTQ+ rights more broadly.

The response needed at this dreadful moment of white backlash must, as advocate Strangio argued, focus on “collective organization, care and action.” He, more than most, can talk about the necessity and profound insufficiency of winning battles in court. Redistributing resources, championing trans-inclusive public spaces on the ground, and insisting that trans children should not only be tolerated but also celebrated: this is the form that resistance must take.

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