A lot of conservatives have been rendered apoplectic by the issue of transgender rights. On the right it is the latest and greatest liberal whipping boy. Much of it can be seen in their jokes on the subject. Like this one by MAGA supporter: My name is J. R Magusi, and my pronouns are “patriot,” and “asskicker.” Or Garret Soldano, my pronouns, “conservative,” “patriot.” Or Matt Schlapp, chair of the CPAC, “I would like to declare something right now. My pronouns are “USA.” Or good old Ted Cruz, “My pronoun is kiss my ass.” Cruz is really tough when he goes up against 12-year old girls! All of these jokes are demonstrating of course that they don’t know what pronouns are. But more importantly demonstrating that they don’t get it. It is difficult to avoid concluding that politicians like Cruz don’t care about female athletes unless they can calculate that their supporters might enjoy watching an attack on young girls by grown men.
Yet, the issue is more important than bad jokes. This year, according to National Public Radio, “There are over 100 anti-trans bills in state houses.” 12 states have already signed anti-trans laws. That is part of a campaign of violence and threats against trans people, among the most vulnerable minority in the USA and Canada showing once again, that conservatives love to pick on vulnerable minorities. This is particularly true when their sexuality is in jeopardy. Besides schools, there have even been attacks and harassment in children’s hospitals. How brave can conservatives get?
Of course, defense of trans people on the left has been weak-kneed if not hostile in defending this group. American conservatives are the ones talking about this issue. Clearly, they are acting like petty demagogues when they use the issue to show to their fans that they can make Democrats look ridiculous and weak, while they demonstrate “strength” by attacking unsupported youth. We have to remember this can inflict serious harm on vulnerable people. And when it is adults ganging up on young children it is particularly ugly.
It is also obvious that many of these laws have very little to do with what is really happening and everything to do with what the conservatives believe will please their supporters regardless of that fact.
Here is an example, of what I mean. Recently, 18 American states have passed laws banning transgender youth participation in sports. Is that really needed? Are there that many transgender people trying to swamp sports? One of those engaging in this is South Dakota Republican Governor Kristie Noem who made her bill a centre piece of her political campaign. Here is what one ad said, “In South Dakota only girls play girls’ sports. Why because of governor Christie Noem’s leadership. She has been protecting girls’ sports for years and never backed down. Now governor Noem has a bill that will give South Dakota the strongest law in the nation protecting female sports. Doing the work. Delivering results.”
She sure is brave isn’t she?
People like her love to fire up fears about female trans athletes having an unfair advantage and taking away opportunities from “real girls.” As Time Magazine pointed out, “There are vanishingly few examples nationwide of trans athletes attempting to compete at all.” This is a problem mainly in the eyes of conservatives and their pundits. In South Dakota the head of their sports association was able to name only one “one transgender female athlete.” That athlete graduated a few years. This was past news. Yet is the news Republicans think they can use to beat up on Democrats. As John Oliver pointed out, “There are more athletes in Noem’s ad than there are trans girls known to be competing.” Of course, even if there were more of such athletes the real nub is that it is just plain wrong to discriminate against them.
The International Olympic Committee said it would not issue blanket bans, but approach each on a sport-by-sport basis. It also said its general fundamental principle would be that “no athlete should be excluded from competition on the assumption of an advantage due to their gender.” Does it make sense that a trans athlete can compete in the Olympics but not in under 12 soccer?
Parents seem to fear that children are plotting costly time-consuming transition campaigns just to win a city championship. Would any child really do that? Would any child do that who knows how much abuse they will be subjected to? As John Oliver said, “So much of the conversation about anti-trans laws involves massively overheated rhetoric that does not match the actualities of kids’ situations.”
And when you get “massively overheated rhetoric” that is a pretty good sign that the real issue is not what the combatants claim. Usually this shows hysteria is at play. This is a battle in a cultural war. That is the real issue. Wars can generate heat. Not 12 year old athletes in a local volleyball match.