GOP Fear Tactics and Transmisogyny Are Colliding, with Trans Women in the Crosshairs

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The Bathroom Bill Fight is Just Beginning

Most of us knew — and tried to remind others — that the fight wasn’t over when marriage equality passed. It was like the first false ending to a horror movie; the most dangerous thing is to let yourself believe that the monster is really dead. For the past few years, we’ve been seeing the next act in that deadly narrative take place in our state legislatures. First was the wave of RFRAs — strengthened immeasurably by the Hobby Lobby ruling, and giving states the foundation they need for things like First Amendment Defense Acts and Pastor Protection Acts. The basic underpinning of those bills is fear — capitalizing on straight people’s fear that they’ll be forced to somehow interact with LGBT people — and uses that to build up a legislative base that can be later shored up with harmful attacks on LGBT people.

North Carolina General Assembly Senate Chamber

North Carolina General Assembly Senate Chamber

With the meteoric rise of “bathroom bills” — we’re seeing the same thing, with a fear of transgender bodies and especially those of transgender women being used to justify bills that are dangerous, invasive and dehumanizing. While in some ways this transmisogynistic panic is being capitalized on as a Trojan horse to allow broad discrimination — the NC bill removes all local protections for LGB people as well, and even minimum wage rights — it would be inaccurate and erasing to ignore that the main target of and the primary victims of these bills are trans women. For instance, Kansas is considering a law that would allow cis students to sue their schools for $2500 every time they saw a trans person using the “wrong” restroom. The bill assumes that cis people are able to correctly identify someone’s trans status on sight and/or encourages them to assault and violate trans people by demanding to see their genitals, as we already saw happen in Arkansas last week even without a law specifically encouraging it. The justification for this law is that Kansas says there’s a risk of “embarrassment, shame, and psychological injury to students” — ironically, this is extremely true, but for trans students, not cis ones. While just a day ago it had looked like the Tennessee anti-trans student bathroom bill had died in committee after legislators heard the testimony of young trans people, it’s since been resurrected. Across the country, this battle is still just beginning, and it’s already claiming lives, as it has been for years. When trans women are depicted as deviant, sexualized, dangerous bodies and not people, trans women (especially trans women of color) are murdered, full stop.

As is so often the case with GOP tactics in general, the plan is that voters will allow themselves to be guided by fear, and will be so overwhelmed with it that they won’t question who it hurts or whether it’s even real. So far, they’re not wrong. We’re still seeing pushback, including from large corporate entities, against discrimination when it’s aimed at LGB people and same-sex marriage — for instance, we see Disney and Marvel threatening to boycott Georgia if it follows through with a “religious freedom” bill that protects pastors from having to perform same-sex marriages, among other things. So far, we haven’t seen the same kind of top-down resistance to bills that primarily target trans women, like North Carolina’s. The people pushing for these bills are relying on the fact that the larger LGB community won’t mobilize in response to them or call for opposition the way they do when legislators target them — let’s not prove them right.

Law & Order

+ A custody case that’s been ongoing for years is coming to a close — Lexi, a Choctaw girl who is now six, was returned to the custody of legal guardians who also care for one of her sisters under the Indian Child Welfare Act after spending several years with a white foster family. The foster family, the Pages, have protested and claimed that Lexi should remain in their care and that they intend to adopt her — but Lexi was never up for adoption. (Although the Indian Child Welfare Act is deployed here, safe placement with a child’s birth family is pretty much always considered the ideal outcome for any foster child if the environment is a healthy one.) The Choctaw Nation has released a statement on Lexi’s home placement.

Many steps have been taken by the Choctaw Nation to ensure the best placement of Lexi. An independent clinical psychologist was brought in to gauge her ability to transition from the foster home to her relatives. The California court appointed a marriage and family therapist to perform a child custody evaluation to assess the mental health and parenting practices of both parties. The experts along with Lexi’s long-time individual therapists, her social worker and her attorney, all agree it is in her best interest to be with her relatives. The foster family understood this. All children, not just Native children, do better with caring relatives. The case was decided in the California court system three separate times, with three different trial court judges ruling in favor of Lexi’s relatives in Utah. We, as a tribe, are required to follow federal law. The foster family filed appeals three times to keep Lexi, delaying the reuniting of Lexi with her relatives.

The National Indian Child Welfare Association has also issued several statements, saying “The foster family was well aware years ago this girl is an Indian child, whose case is subject to the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) , and who has relatives who were willing to raise her if reunification with her father was unsuccessful,” and “Court documents elaborate on the longstanding and close relationship her relatives have with her; they explain that she has long known them as “family from Utah.” These are not strangers. These are family members who she knows well.”

+ Jian Ghomeshi, former CBC radio host accused of violence and sexual assault against several women, was acquitted today on “four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.” The women accusing Ghomeshi say that he assaulted them violently, including in one case punching in the head; Ghomeshi says this was consensual BDSM. Judge William Horkins blamed the complainants for having “inconsistent” stories and at one point called them “manipulative.”

+ In China’s Guizhou province, a young trans man says he was fired from a new job for wearing men’s clothing — his new employers had perceived him as a lesbian. Mr. C’s case will constitute the first transgender labor suit in China.

The alleged reason for his firing is simple enough: Mr. C was wearing men’s clothing in the office. “They say I’m lesbian and that I damage the company’s images,” Mr. C, on the left in the above picture, told The Paper, a progressive-leaning, though still state-controlled, Chinese news outlet. “My litigant is a transgender man, but in mainland China, nobody really know what that means,” Mr. C’s lawyer, Huang Sha, told BuzzFeed News. “His ID card [which shows his gender] is female, but he dresses like a man, so the sales manager suspected that Mr. C is gay.” Huang said they have recordings of more than one similar conversation between Mr. C and his former manager.

+ In Zubik v. Burwell, an important Supreme Court case with implications for infringing on others’ rights via “religious freedom” and access to healthcare and birth control, it’s looking like a 4/4 split in the vote because of the vacancy left after Scalia’s death, highlighting the importance and power of choosing the new justice.

Politicians Now and Then

+ Now somewhat infamously, Donald Trump gave an interview to the Washington Post, which they published the transcript of; it reads like a racist, xenophobic twitter bot gone wild. Now it turns out he also hit on one of the women editors at the meeting, telling her she was “very beautiful” and “I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here.”

+ This week in things you pretty much knew but didn’t think anyone would admit out loud: Richard Nixon’s policy advisor explicitly explains how he helped invent the war on drugs just to demonize Black people.

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

+ Thinkprogress has a roundup of all the Islamophobia in response to the Brussels attack so far. It’s terrifying.

+ Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are already calling for police surveillance of Muslim neighborhoods and communities. They claim that a program performing this surveillance in NYC was “very successful” — but in fact, the NYC program never generated a lead or triggered an investigation, and just violated Americans’ civil rights with no results. Cruz also wants police to “patrol and secure” Muslim neighborhoods, which, hey, does that sound a bit like martial law?

+ Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman, Robin Kelly and Yvette D. Clarke have created the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls.

“From barriers in education, to a gender based pay gap that widens with race, to disparities in both diagnoses and outcomes for many diseases, our society forces Black women to clear many hurdles faced by no other group, and asks them to do it with little assistance,” Rep. Watson Coleman said in a press release. “Black women deserve a voice in a policy making process that frequently minimizes, or altogether ignores the systemic challenges they face. This caucus will speak up for them.”


+ Phoenix, AZ mayor Greg Stanton wants the federal government to look into Arizona’s voter disenfranchisement.

“Throughout the county, but especially in Phoenix, thousands of citizens waited in line for three, four, and even five hours to vote,” Stanton said. “Many more could simply not afford to wait that long, and went home.” In 2012, Maricopa County provided more than 200 polling locations for voters, theArizona Republic reported. On Tuesday, only 60 polling places were open to the 1.25 million eligible registered voters in the primary election.

+ NPR is now offering a “90-minute training course for dealing with hostile environments” in light of what it’s like for reporting on Trump rallies.

+ Jezebel has a roundup of the awful things Trump’s campaign manager has reportedly done.

+ The findings of an investigatory panel on the Flint water crisis? This was the state of Michigan’s fault.


+ A really must-read piece on gentrification in the Bay area and the police murder of Alex Nieto, for which no officers were charged.

+ A class action lawsuit filed against Philadelphia was supposed to stop the city from engaging in illegal stop-and-frisk practices of Black people — but five years later, they’re still doing it.

+ Today I learned about prison gerrymandering and you will too, because the Federal District Court for Florida’s Northern District has ruled it’s unconstitutional. Basically, the way it works is that inmates in Jefferson County were counted electorally as voters in their district, even though as prison inmates, they cannot vote, and if they could would be voters in their home districts, which are largely outside Jefferson County. The plan uses the disenfranchised bodies of prisoners to artificially inflate the political weight of the county — or won’t any more, if the district court has anything to say about it.

Immigration and Asylum

+ Skhumbuzo Khumalo, a Zimbabwean lesbian, sought asylum in the UK for fear of violence at home in 2014 and 2015. After being granted asylum despite a threat of deportation, she’s now opening up about what was demanded of her to “prove” she was really gay.

She said: “Clearly just by looking at you, they will not judge if you are gay or straight. So they left me in a position where I had to produce photos of a sexual nature, which I didn’t feel comfortable sharing. The officer began flicking through the photos while I was sat in front of him. It was extremely degrading. I was asked lots of personal questions, and then I was asked if I could go back home and live in another city and hide the fact that I’m gay. I thought, ‘how can you hide the fact that you love a certain person? It’s ridiculous’. She added: “When I thought I might be sent back to Zimbabwe, I felt like committing suicide, because me ending my life is better than people back home ending it for me.”

+ Sadly unsurprising: trans women who come to the US from other countries seeking asylum often face assault and violence once they get here.

Another testimony came from Sara V., a transgender woman from Honduras who said that she was raped by three men at a detention center in Arizona. When she reported the assault, a guard allegedly told her, “You [transgender women] are the ones that cause these problems and always call the men’s attention.”Gloria L, another transgender woman from Honduras, was placed in solitary confinement for four months in a Louisiana detention center. One of the guards told her she was put in solitary because “he was ‘tired of seeing faggots.’” “They treated me like an animal,” Gloria L said, according to a HRW press release.

Grab Bag

+ HRC has a blog post up about the importance of bisexual health awareness for Bisexual Health Awareness Month.

A few months before the brief was released, I had a painfully awkward experience with a doctor. As an openly bisexual woman, I knew it was important to come out to the person who was caring for my health. But when I did, she had no idea what I even meant by saying I was bisexual, much less what related health concerns I might have. While I chose to disclose my sexual orientation to my doctor, a recent survey found that 39 percent of bisexual men and 33 percent of bisexual women failed to disclose their sexual orientation to any medical provider, compared to only 13 percent of gay men and 10 percent of lesbians.

+ It would be shocking that the American College of Pediatricians disagrees with virtually every other scientific and medical body by saying that it’s harmful to trans kids to confirm their genders — if they were a real group of physicians and not a hate group of only 200 or so people. The real group that they’re clearly trying to be perceived as, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has about 60,000 members and says that trans kids needs families who support and affirm them and their gender. What’s scary is that the layperson might not know that, and that’s what the ACP is counting on.

The ACP statement may already be propagating harm. Plenty of conservative publications have already promoted it, taking it at face value to claim that the “transgender agenda” constitutes “child abuse.” [Brynn] Tannehill notes, “I’m also already hearing from parents of transgender children that relatives and people hostile to them in the community are using this position statement to threaten to report them to child protective services and take their children away.”

+ A new study finds that even as overall graduation rates increase, the gap between Black and white graduation rates is widening.

+ On how white teachers need to do right by students of color in urban classrooms.

The reality is that we privilege people who look and act like us, and perceive those who don’t as different and, frequently, inferior. In urban schools, and especially for those who haven’t had previous experience in urban contexts or with youth of color, educators learn “best practices” from “experts” in the field, deemed as such because they have degrees, write articles, and meet other criteria that do not have anything to do with their work within urban communities. In fact, many of us who think about the education of youth of color have developed our ideas about the field from specialists who can describe the broad landscape of urban education but are often far removed, both geographically and psychologically, from the schools and students that they speak and write about so eloquently.

+ Yet another study confirms that LGB people suffer worst mental health than straights, this time in Britain.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. A couple of questions because it could be that I just have some wrong information.

    Pat McCrory is a Republican, no?

    And Republicans are not those politicians who always complain about Big Government crushing the autonomy of the States?

  2. Ugh, so upset about the Jian Ghomeshi business. One suggested edit, though: the linked article underneath talks about a trans Chinese guy and the quote mentions he is pictured in “the photo above.” The embedded photo of Jian is positioned there, and if I didn’t know what Jian looked like I would have thought he was the guy in question. All photos of Jian should really only be looked upon with seething hatred, so I hope the photo migrates a bit higher to sit next to the list of his foul deeds.

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