I’m very passionate about ideas I believe in and the policies and positions that I believe are good and moral. But although I may be passionate, it takes a lot for me to be genuinely angry. In doing research for this column, my blood was downright boiling on multiple occasions with how frustrated I was over such despicable transphobia and homophobia, particularly from our elected representatives.
At the constituent level, I came across a member of the Colorado House of Representatives: Rep. Brianna Titone. Titone is the first transgender person elected to the legislative body, and it was disheartening, but not surprising, to see the kinds of insults she faces merely for her gender identity, often voiced by people hiding behind the anonymity of social media. If you think I’m cherry-picking, or that online harassment for your gender identity online is just part of doing business, a committee for Titone’s opponent engaged in robocalls to constituents saying that Titone wants to “force your wives and daughters to share bathrooms with biological men who identify as female.” Wow, you really cracked the code on that one. Trans women want to use the same facilities that any cisgender woman would use — what a shocker! Let’s be real, these robocalls aren’t intended to duly inform the citizenry but instead to make evangelicals angry about transgender people “invading” their bathrooms. Conspiracy and hatred is the name of the game.
What I find interesting in that robocall is the framing. It’s the transgender people that are threatening your daughters and wives. It takes gendered violence and sexual assault — real threats that women broadly face — and then weaponizes them against a group not responsible for their concern. This co-opting and weaponization of the language of oppression is how bad actors take their hate and sell it to the public. Think about bills “protecting women’s sports” that just ban trans women. Think about bills “protecting women’s spaces” that just ban trans women from using bathrooms. A bill “protecting children’s health?” You guessed it: it just bans minors from receiving gender-affirming health care. Alas, sometimes even this veneer isn’t sufficient to cover the most extreme rhetoric.
Only last week, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) condemned trans and nonbinary camp counselors by saying her husband “would’ve beat him into the ground, and then he’d be in jail. But this is exactly how we need to stand up against this stuff.” The “him” and “he” pronouns Greene refers to are used to misgender a hypothetical nonbinary person who committed the crime of existing around her daughter. At a similar time, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an order calling for the arrest of parents who simply follow the medical advice of licensed physicians for transgender minors, calling gender-affirming medical care “child abuse.” Abbott would have you believe it’s the supportive parents that follow the opinion of licensed physicians that are the child abusers. But the only ones I see actually victimizing transgender minors are Greene and Abbott, who justify physical violence and arrests, and would send queer kids to conversion camps.
If you think I’m being a little dramatic, I’d invite you to look at the truly despicable rhetoric that has come from the current lieutenant governor of North Carolina, Mark Robinson, over the past few years. In 2016, following the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub — the deadliest mass shooting in American history at the time — Robinson posted on Facebook that while he would pray for victims, “homosexuality is STILL an abominable sin and I WILL NOT join in ‘celebrating gay pride’ nor will I fly their sacrilegious flag on my page.” Opposing basic sex education that included queer people, Robinson said, “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth. And yes, I called it filth.” In 2016, Robinson responded to a National Geographic article featuring a 9-year-old transgender child by saying, “The sick, deranged, sexual degenerates who promote this type of demonic behavior are the ones who will take the next step in our continuing moral decline toward total depravity.” I cannot overstate how truly dangerous and disqualifying it is to spew that kind of neo-Nazi propaganda. The rhetoric incites violence and hatred against queer people, and the conspiracy of degeneracy has long been used historically to persecute and commit genocide against queer people, among other groups.
So, what is my point? When you finally strip away all the window dressing, you realize that people like Greene, Abbot and Robinson are all in the same boat. They weaponize the language of child abuse, gendered violence and mental health to justify full-fledged hate crimes and mass arrests. For anyone with a moral compass, it should be both bone-chilling and blood-boiling.
In a previous columm I wrote this semester, I remarked on how even someone with good intentions can engage in casual transphobia. I hope this column goes further, showing that visceral disgust and hatred are often just under the pearl-clutching “victimization” surface that’s weaponized to make it look, you know, less genocidal. Next time you hear about some bill protecting an “education of traditional family values,” think twice about the real motive, not the facade.
Eleanor Gully is a senior triple-majoring in French, economics and philosophy, politics and law.