Hate to say it trans folks, but this is largely our own fault. Only 26% of the electorate turned out to vote in this referendum. That in itself is appalling. Although HRC and some other trans friendly groups were active primarily in placing ads and holding rallies, how many trans folks actually turned out to man the phone banks, go door-to-door, and/or volunteer to drive friendly voters to the polls or to register to vote? Not very many, I’d wager. We cannot outspend the conservative right with their extremely wealthy donors and the tele–evangelists who are primarily intent on fear mongering, which they did very successfully in Houston. And we trans people have garbled our message and sound all too like greedy children who demand what we want because, well, because we demand it.
A wise friend once told me, confused people always say no. And I think our accelerating push of the now many flavors of unconstrained gender identity selection and gender expression does not help clarify the issue. (I will shortly publish a post expanding on this thought here.)
Just from an infrastructure standpoint, and we know that Republicans do not want to spend any money on infrastructure, we have essentially two types of bathrooms – those originally designed for male plumbing, i.e. with many urinals and few stalls; and those designed for persons with female plumbing. And whether or not we like it, we have thousands of years of people with male plumbing presenting differently from people with female plumbing. Just how does a gender non-conforming woman in full beard and androgynous dress fit into this picture?
We have moved rapidly from a medical gatekeeper giving out gender/sex markers to the point that we allow people to self-identify with or without any active steps toward gender congruity. Although we tend to picture innocent trans kids going to the bathroom, in actually it could also be late transitioning, essentially male-bodied, gender non-conforming people attempting to enter the “woman’s” restroom. How could anyone be confused by that? (Sarcasm). I am not saying the later should not be able to use the restroom of their choice, but I can understand why the lay public is confused and subject to easily being manipulated by the conservatives and evangelicals. And even if we put some restrictions on who qualifies to use a given bathroom, e.g. getting a legal gender/sex marker on a photo ID card – a mark that requires more than someone just saying “I am a man/woman.”; or requiring notarized letters from therapists/physicians (I know – the dreaded gate-keepers), just who is going to be in place at all bathrooms to check this documentation? Oh I know; the Promise Keepers armed with their M-16s.
In a perfect world, this problem would not exist. But we live in an imperfect world where Republicans and the religious right want to foment this kind of social drama, playing on less informed individuals, to keep their attention from even more important issues. We must work effectively together to elect progressive people up and down the line to recover state legislatures, governorships, and thus eventually state supreme courts. That is the only way to stop the rapidly increasing numbers of anti-GLBT legislation that is coming out of the states. And if the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress, even though they received less than half of the votes cast, and if they get their Republican President, we WILL see a roll back in LGBT rights. I say that because I see a coming confluence of events if the Republicans hold onto the state and federal legislatures, have Republican governors, and take the White House.
Starting with the latter, the new Republican President could clean house of progressive/liberal leaning US Attorneys and install an aggressive, conservative attorney general. These actions prime the pump for many goals of the far right. Further, the President could appoint conservative judges to vacancies in the Title III courts, subject to Senate approval, which is not likely to be an impediment with a Republican majority there. And it is possible, though rare, for the Republican Congress to impeach progressive judges, who legally serve as long as they exhibit “good behavior.” Could not the Republican Congress conceivable determine that progressive rulings were not “good behavior.”
Second, the new Republican President could issue new executive orders rescinding many if not all of President Obama’s executive orders, including his 2014 order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.
Further, the President could gut the Department of Education, something the rank and file Republicans all want, and remove the threat of cutting off federal funding to schools/school districts failing to comply with the Obama administration’s ruling that Title IX restrictions on sex discrimination also covers gender identity, something conservatives say is not supported by the Constitution.
With a conservative Attorney General, US Attorneys, and judges on the Title III federal courts, one of more of the promised state laws upholding “religious freedom as a trump” to LGBT individual rights could easily find the path to the Supreme Court greased. And given the push to Charter Schools, it is likely that some of them might take up the Hobby Lobby banner and pursue their rights as corporate citizens entitled to their religious beliefs. Finally, there is no doubt that an energized Republican Congress could create ingenious new laws designed to circumvent previous SCOTUS rulings benefiting the LGBT community.
I know this may seem a bit farfetched as it is based upon a series of dominos that have yet to fall. But it is, unfortunately, just where things may go if we elect a Cruz, or a Carson, a Santorum, a Huckabee, or a Jindal to be our next President. Just today, Cruz, Jindal and Huckabee met with the notorious Rev’s Swanson, Kayser and McDurmon at the National Religious Liberties Conference. Swanson et al are best known for their Christian dogma that all American gays should be put to death just as they legally are in Uganda. Comforting thought that we might be is such good hands in 442 days.
To prevent that from happening, we LGBT folks must not lose sight of the bigger picture: We must elect a Democratic President in 2016. And to do that we must not allow ourselves to over-emphasize our narrower LGBT issues to the extent they become divisive tools for the right wing. We have made a lot of progress recently, but we should not take that as a sign that our issues are paramount in the minds of the greater American electorate. I assure you, they are not, either to the majority of progressives or obviously to the conservative masses.