The Nazis arrested and labeled LGBTQ+ people during their reign.
The full-scale attack on trans healthcare rights is the continuation of a long history of controlling marginalized groups by a cruel and powerful conservative minority. The recent fight has taken on a far darker tone as it makes clear that its goal is to erase trans people and criminalize those who help and support them. While this may not seem to be an issue to the majority, when unopposed, the steady creep of fascism will only grow hungrier.
We can also see the more immediate direct effects. Businesses are choosing to avoid Oklahoma altogether. People with transgender children or family are planning to leave. Others express how unsafe they feel. While this may not be folks’ day-to-day experiences, passing laws giving bigots cover is always a march in the wrong direction.
Let's start by stating in no uncertain terms that conservative reactionaries are full of sh*t. Anything that gets labeled as a "culture war" issue is rooted in some fake or overblown argument by conservatives full of what-ifs, strawmen and red herrings. There are not two sides in the transgender healthcare debate. On one side you have transgender, intersex and nonbinary people who have existed across time and cultures for as long as humans have been around who want to be treated like human beings. On the other, you have deeply deceptive reactionaries who are constantly shifting their position, wildly exaggerating realities about made-up concerns and basing opinions on religious interpretations or ultra far-right conservatives that say that 2SLGBTQ+ people shouldn't exist.
None of this should fly in an enlightened, pluralistic society. Nobody can tell you what to believe, but you don't get to tell others what they have to believe. Live and let live. These are simple concepts that fly out of everyone's head and yield the weakest backbones imaginable when conservatives start banning books, targeting protesters, women or the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
The point of this piece is laying out the problem and what to do with it.
It's been a tough go for human rights in the US the last few years. Abortion access, teaching our actual history, freedom to protest, freedom to perform drag and now the existence of trans people are all being challenged with state power and violence. The latest round of anti-trans legislation will criminalize doctors and families that try to provide care, and most of these laws target all forms of trans healthcare.
This is a ridiculous escalation and regression in the human rights conversation. Criminalizing the 2SLGBTQ+ community is nothing new, but the trend has largely been against this. While many believe the far right will try to repeal gay marriage, this new push against transgender people has many similarities. The bathroom panic that started during the Obama years has now escalated to a full-on erasure of transgender people from society.
The best time to fight this stuff is yesterday, the next best time is today. Giving into fascists always ends badly. First, they stop teaching the history. Then they repeat it.
Silence is Deafening
The silence on these so-called "culture war" issues is nothing new, but the rapid escalation to criminalizing people for existing is new. We've seen it now in the demonizing and demagoguery of immigrants, opposition to critical race theory, the reaction to the protests around George Floyd's murder and more recently criminalizing abortion. Now, transgender people are having their very existence called into question.
Each time this happens, liberal insiders, Democratic political operatives and special interests convince themselves that ignoring issues is how you make them go away. Even abortion, a deeply concerning and widely popular issue, is treated as a sort of political hot potato. Transgender people, given their relatively small percentage of our populace, are treated with even less concern.
All of these issues follow party line votes. Facts don't matter. People touting "bipartisanship" when this is what one group is doing to another in our country is a huge disservice to the people losing their rights. Our political leaders need to fight the fights we have, not dream of this "bipartisan" utopia that clearly does not exist.
OU Submits to Blackmail
In Oklahoma, we are negotiating with terrorists. OU was blackmailed last year by Republicans in the Oct 2022 Special Session around ARPA funds. Legislators came and explicitly said that they would cut their funding if OU did not stop transgender care. Like previous fights, liberal institutions that serve our entire community rolled over and became complicit in harming marginalized Oklahomans.
OU Health President Richard Lofgren Describes Legislative Blackmail
People will make every excuse in the book about why they have to do this, but OU Health, doctors, hospitals and others keep doing what the Republicans want, and they keep taking it further again and again and again. Maybe you should stop that! Appeasement has never really worked with bullies and liars. If you don't know how to fight them, work with some folks that do (like us)!
Fight the Culture War
We're all tired of this BS, but we are losing the culture war. The far-right is so good at simple, sticky messages that sound okay but never stand up to the smell test. They are also masters at demagoguery and taking a single anecdote and blowing it up to entire groups. It is the same process over and over. Take a single instance of an unusual issue or just lie about something that sounds concerning, silly or scary, then get it amplified by every swamp creature on the right and propose some fascistic solution. Repeat.
The way you fight this is not to pretend like it isn't happening or ignore it. You call them out, mock them, shame them and stop them. Every single one of these issues is rooted in manufactured hysteria, bigotry and hatred. Millionaire and billionaire oligarchs fund these vast, right-wing disinformation campaigns and networks. On the national level it is Charlie Kirk, Ben Shapiro, Stephen Crowder, Fox News but also "think tanks" like Cato Institute and American Enterprise Institute. On the local level it is the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs, Ekklesia of Oklahoma and OK2A.
Some might have grassroots funding, but behind many of these are very wealthy individuals and special interests who like things the way they are and aren't scared to use racism, homophobia, xenophobia and sexism to keep it that way.
The only way out is through, and it starts with fighting these fights with seriousness and not shaking our heads or throwing up our hands. Nobody has to become what they hate, but we can stand in solidarity with marginalized communities when the attacks come for them and say with loud and clear voices that there is no quarter for this bullsh*t. It also takes groups, politicians and business entities that prefer to sit this stuff out to join in. You're paying for this one way or the other, and it won't stop here.
If even recent history is any teacher, the attacks continue. The demonization grows. The vitriol increases. The demagoguery continues. Appeasement or ignoring it does not stop it.
Either women, 2SLGBTQ+, immigrant and Black friends, neighbors, employees and families and their rights matter to you, or they don't. It's time to stop sitting on the sidelines until fascism inevitably knocks at your door. Stand up and join the fight.
Next Monday, March 27th starting at 11a, Trans activists will be down at the OKC Chamber and then the Oklahoman and News 9, SHOW UP, spread the word and speak up. Put an end to this bigotry.
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