I had already planned on interrupting the utopian degrowth series this week to address the mounting attacks on Trans and LGBTQIA+ rights and peoples, but the Monday night leak of the Alito opinion made me rush back to the drawing board. Sorry for that delay.
Capped with the Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests Roe v. Wade will be overturned, the last few months have seen a staggering amount of legislation aimed at curtailing the bodily and educational autonomy of people across the country. I don't wish to roll the struggles of all oppressed communities into one newsletter, but I can't go into as much detail as I'd like on all these points and what seems most relevant to me is how they are all related. This rightward charge is meant, I think, to cut back at social gains made in recent years and to force a sort of reset on the nation. Beyond that, I think all of this is meant to enforce a kind of proto-secession, with red states made veritable fortresses of intolerance, their beliefs codified, and the education, rights, and autonomy of all but white cishet men curtailed.
The Groomer Narrative
The attack on Trans people, as multifarious as it is, has been bolstered by the incoherent conspiracies that are coming to dominate the GOP. They go back as far as PizzaGate, in 2016, but today they are principally shaped and promoted by the long-standing threat of human trafficking that QAnon promulgates. With the phantom of satanic pedophiles lurking in their minds, it's an unfortunately short jump for conspiracy theorists and more "legitimate" politicians to seize on this rhetoric as a wedge, which is exactly what happened. This anti-LGBTQIA+ narrative purports that Trans people–and, now commonly, any queer people–are "groomers," who are attempting to reach children in order to indoctrinate or abuse them.
This undercurrent is an extremely dangerous one, as we have already seen believers in these theories use violence to achieve their ends–and the groomer narrative was never necessary for violence to be wielded against Queer people to begin with. In much the same way that the very idea of a Trump presidency inspired a rise in bigotry, so too will this dehumanization inspire harassment and attacks.
Anti-Trans Rhetoric and Legislation
There has always been a not-insignificant contingent of anti-Trans firebrands in the right wing and beyond. Infamously, JK Rowling has lost a lot of her cache over her strident opposition to Trans rights, and the media as a whole, especially in Britain, has been boneheaded about the issue for some time. But they're not the only ones.
This piece in the LA Times received plenty of condemnation, but it makes the issue glaringly apparent: the mainstream media does not know how to talk about Trans rights, or does not care, and this ignorance and disregard for the safety of the community has given platform to those without its best interests at heart.
Anti-Trans rhetoric is not a new idea, of course. Alex Jones has been targeting Trans people for years, and is one of the reasons that bathroom bills became all the rage in red states. Legislation like those and MO SB781, called the "Save Women's Sports Act" are coming back into the mainstream as many entrenched republicans are fighting political battles against up-and-coming MAGA-style extremists, and the best way they see to hold onto power is by throwing persecuted groups under the bus. But that's clearly not the only motive.
A Many-Headed Beast
The right's distaste for anything that makes them uncomfortable, literally, has allowed them to sharpen their teeth before the assault on Trans youth, as their vitriol against Critical Race Theory (and anti-mask and quarantine movements before that) has given them experience in the public and legislative arena. Those videos you've seen of people shouting in schoolboard meetings have mostly been folks griping about CRT, and those people learned how to invade their local schoolboards and legislature from lockdown-era protests. Ohio House Bill 616 brings almost all of these issues under a single roof. HB 616 opens with typical anti-CRT terminology, but it quickly pivots to disallowing "curriculum or instructional materials" deemed age-inappropriate regarding sexual orientation or gender identity.
It's obvious that red state legislatures are learning from each other; as one bill passes in a state, others catch on. This isn't new–even California has a Texas-modeled law for gun control that mimics the vigilante reporting style, but the notion is spreading. Texas, of course, is where a lot of this got its start: Gov. Greg Abbott ordered in February that gender affirming care for children amounts to child abuse, and required that a broad swath of people be mandated reporters on said care, with severe punishments on deck. This was blocked by a judge, thankfully, but the spark has already been struck.
The other major front of this battle originated in Florida, with the infamous "Don't Say Gay" bill. Ohio's HB 616 takes its cues from Florida, the language of the bill limiting any discussion of sexual orientation or education. Following this rather naturally is a huge push for banning literature that so much as mentions LGBTQIA+ identities. To make matters worse, Florida's entire state government seems geared toward creating harm: the Florida Health Department has pushed back against widely accepted gender-affirming guidance for Trans children. This is destructive and baseless, especially coming from a department that is supposed to be science-based.
The hypocrisy of this movement is frustrating and obvious, but it does no good to point it out. There is no stance to be found among these people that is supported by a backbone. Their aim is not to rule justly, so achieving power by just means is not something with which they are concerned. A Tennessee bill–which was struck down–would have created a separate marriage certificate for heterosexual couples, sidestepping federal law so that the straights can be extra-special married in a way that same-sex couples cannot. The bill omitted an age requirement for marriage. There is no real moral compass to their agenda. They are not concerned about children. If they cared about life they would be pro-mask, lockdown, and gender-affirming care. They only mean to sow division.
Alito's Draft Opinion
Emblematic of the dysfunction of this nation is the continual fight over abortion rights and Roe v. Wade. It has been a point of contention between the two parties for decades, and neither has been swift to act decisively because it is such a galvanizing issue for voters, which is, bluntly, fucked. Abortion rights are critical, as abortion is frequently a life-saving healthcare procedure, important for family planning, and generally none of anyone's damn business. The right to abortion is critical to bodily autonomy and the removal of that right is a dehumanizing gesture.
I also want to couch this in a broader context. (I should stress that I am no expert, and am relying on the still-warm takes of experts.) Alito's opinion is written such that it undermines the foundations of Roe, not just Roe itself. Roe v. Wade is founded upon the right to privacy, which Alito's opinion considers as not enshrined in the Constitution. By chipping at the right to privacy, a number of other cases could be overturned. Among them is: Lawrence v. Texas, which made it unconstitutional to punish sodomy; Griswold v Connecticut, which allowed for couples to buy contraceptives without restriction; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same sex marriage. That is an incomplete list. This opinion, and potential future ruling, could create a seismic change in the United States that cannot be overstated. Early guesses were that this opinion was leaked by a liberal clerk in the court in order to motivate progressives. It is now being considered that a conservative clerk (or higher up the chain) leaked the opinion in order to give state legislatures time to organize for swift action against these other rulings as soon as Roe is overturned.
It's All Connected
It's my opinion, and I don't feel a far-fetched one, that all this legislation and anti-LGBTQIA+ and CRT and anti-abortion sentiment is connected. The GOP has slipped so far to the right that virtually all of them, every legislator, governor, justice, and peon, seeks to reify the US as a white, Christo-fascist, patriarchal plutocracy. The Handmaid's Tale may have turned into LARPing parody of itself but Gilead remains the objective for the right wing of this nation. By fomenting hatred toward other races, genders, and sexual orientations, by refusing to allow children to even know of the possibility of alternatives, by refusing healthcare to pregnant people, they intend to create this state through force or via negativa.
There are no easy solutions to this. The endgame here could very well be a kind of cold secession, with the will of red states dominating public law and sentiment, antagonism toward all manner of peoples thinly veiled, and blue states and cities struggling to keep afloat while the federal government–remember, 2024 is all too close at hand–cuts them off. You'll recall the early days of the Trump administration, in which sanctuary cities were decried and defunded for their stance. That's not an impossibility here.
Let yourself be mad right now. This is a terrible situation and it could have been avoided a hundred times over if only we could trust our politicians to do anything right. But we can't. So let yourself be mad. Then breathe–the door is not closed on these matters yet. Organize in your communities to support each other. There are structures of mutual aid for abortion care and the general aid of LGBTQIA+ community members already in place that can help you and others. Listen to Trans and Queer elders. Support them. When someone in these communities needs something, trust their call and give. All this time, we have been the only ones we could count on. That hasn't changed. The nature of this country, its deep, ugly nature, has not changed. What matters right now is that we don't let happen what these people want to happen: the first step in our defeat is silence; the second is division. We will need to band together, through mutual aid, through protest, through community defense. All is not lost.