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News from Florida and Texas illustrate a broader conservative trend

Cruel. Really, that’s the only way to describe the determination of many conservatives to fight back with LGBTQ Americans, and with transgender children in particular.

And on Monday, Texas Children’s Hospital decided to stop providing hormone treatments to transgender children, in response to recent developments in the state. In February, following a legal opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter directing state agencies to conduct care investigations claiming the gender for transgender youth as “child abuse”.

Even if these attacks are not successful in the long term, they are already having a psychological impact on LGBTQ Americans and their families.

For example, although neither Paxton’s opinion nor Abbott’s letter were legally binding, both terrified some parents. A Dallas mother told CNN’s Alisha Ebrahimji that she planned to move to California because she wanted her 6-year-old transgender daughter “to be somewhere where there are laws on the books that protect her. instead of trying to erase it”.
And like Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, put it to NPR“State leaders have said, ‘We would rather see dead children…than happy, loved, supported, and thriving trans children who are alive and well.'”
News from Florida and Texas illustrate a much larger pattern. Many conservative parents, school board officials and lawmakers across the United States appear to be working overtime to undermine the rights and status of LGBTQ Americans, as seen in recent months in the dizzying number of book challenges. on gender identity and the growing wave of anti-transgender legislation.
Together these attacks, which use the language of caring and love as a vehicle of hatredthreaten to roll back hard-won LGBTQ protections.

“There’s a fantasy going on”

The movement against LGBTQ Americans is part of a larger assault on attempts to acknowledge and understand the experiences of marginalized groups.

Attacks on the teaching of sexual orientation and gender are similar to attacks on the teaching of so-called “critical race theory”. Conservative groups who oppose teaching on such subjects allege that students are indoctrinated, recruited or, to use a particularly charged term, “cared for“, although teaching about a subject is not the same as asking someone to take a stand or change their identity.

“There is a fantasy that children are indoctrinated,” UC Berkeley philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler told CNN. “Parents and communities want to exercise forms of censorship to prevent their children from knowing how the world is organized and how different people live their lives.”

Butler, the author of the 1990 book “Gender problem: feminism and the subversion of identity“, added that this urge to control and restrict the subjects of teaching in the classroom stems, at least in part, from the belief of many conservatives that their entire existence is in danger.

“Right-wing movements are appealing to a huge anxiety that people have about their worlds collapsing and that critical gender and race theory has this tremendously destructive power,” they said. “I think there’s a lot of destruction going on. Witness Putin. Witness the destruction of the climate. There’s a lot of things that are very bad and very terrifying in our world. But focusing that anxiety on gender and critical race theory without even knowing what they are is both a deviation and a way to inflame prejudice against homosexuals and black and brown people.”

It’s worth returning to Florida, one of the many states where this unease is stoked. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. The legislation could create a chilling effect and essentially “wipe out entire chapters of history, literature and critical health information from schools,” Amit Paley and Joe Saunders wrote in February for CNN Opinion.
(Notably, in weaponizing the rhetoric of child-reflective against LGBTQ Americans, DeSantis borrows a page from the former beauty queen and spokesperson for Florida Orange Juice. Anita Bryantwho in the 1970s worked with the “Save Our Children” coalition to repeal gay rights legislation in Miami.)

“He’s pushing for government intrusion into workplaces and medical offices. It’s all in service of his presidential ambitions,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a dedicated civil rights organization. to end discrimination against the state’s LGBTQ population. “DeSantis deliberately chooses fights that energize his base. And the intent is to secure the base loyalty that he and Donald Trump share.”

Smith further explained that DeSantis’ political machinations both elevate the avowed (but abstract) concerns of one group and disenfranchise another.

“His desire to cling to that narrow slice of the electorate that decides the Republican presidential primaries blocks the sun for anything else,” she said. “Tallahassee’s legislative agenda is not about improving the lives of Floridians or solving the problems we face every day. It’s about censorship, surveillance, control and intimidation.”

A broad front of support

It is impossible to overstate the risks posed by the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ Americans, and especially transgender children.

“Banning gender-affirming care, such as puberty blockers, or banning transgender-inclusive sports teams requires real and devastating risks for transgender youth“, political scientist Alison Gash of the University of Oregon recently wrote for The Conversation. “Transgender people who do not have access to prohibited types of hormone treatments are four times more likely that cisgender people struggle with depression. They are also nine times more likely than cisgender people to attempt suicide.”

Butler echoed some of Gash’s concerns and specifically pointed to the profound isolation that transgender children already endure due to cultural and state-sanctioned bigotry.

A protest inside the Florida State Capitol against the

“We’re talking about kids who already feel very different, who are trying to come to terms with their embodiment and their lived sense of who they are and their gender,” Butler said. “This is an extremely vulnerable time for children. They need support. They need space to be able to explore their feelings and to be able to talk freely about their gender and sense of their own reality. They need to be able to communicate everything than to others without fear of blame, stigma, exclusion, discrimination or violence.”

What might an effective response to maneuvers against LGBTQ Americans look like?

This could look like a broad solidarity between several categories of marginalized groups. That is, a better understanding that many attacks on LGBTQ rights are linked to attacks on racial equality, women’s rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights and more – and that each of these attacks is best fought by all of these groups together, not each group individually.

“There may be a failure to connect (what is happening to transgender people) to a much broader rollback of civil rights,” Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic and former attorney at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund , told CNN. “Many of the cases and arguments used to roll back reproductive rights are used to roll back LGBTQ rights. These things are intertwined.”

Caraballo also cautioned against the sometimes overly optimistic narrative a generation of LGBTQ Americans grew up with that says things are destined to get better.

“Historically, that hasn’t always been the case,” she said, referring to how, over the decades, marginalized groups have often faced periods of gain and setback. “Things can always get worse” – and sometimes they do.

Andrea Segovia, policy and field coordinator at the Transgender Education Network of Texas, also emphasized the importance of solidarity, which she says can start with asking questions as simple as, “What am I doing? in my community to support LGBTQ Americans?

“It’s not that you need to create an organization,” she said. “But if you’re at work and you look at your health insurance policies and you notice they’re not LGBTQ-inclusive, you can ask, ‘Can we change that?’ trans people and LGBTQ people to bring up certain topics is a great way for people to get things done.”

If there’s one thing we can learn from the dedicated efforts of many conservatives to restrict LGBTQ rights, it’s that ordinary people can indeed do things – and choose to do, or refuse to do. do matters a lot.

How to get help: In the United States, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-271-8255. the International Association for Suicide Prevention and Friends all over the world can also provide contact details for crisis centers around the world.