Thursday, January 26, 2023


The New York Times has a story about the GOP's brutal campaign to strip trans people of full citizenship. Some of these measures reveal a twisted form of creativity, as Republican legislators search for clever new ways to demean and punish the trans community:
Legislation in Oklahoma and South Carolina would make it a felony to provide hormonal or surgical transition treatment to transgender people younger than 26 — an uncharted incursion into adults’ health care....

A measure in West Virginia would define “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display” as obscene, potentially outlawing transgender people’s presence around children....

An Arizona bill would ban drag shows on Sunday mornings whether or not minors were around....

And in addition to the bill in West Virginia that would define “transvestite and/or transgender exposure” around minors as obscene, bills in at least nine states would restrict drag shows, and some define them very broadly.

One in Nebraska, for instance, would apply to any show whose “main aspect” is “a performer which exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers; and the performer sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet in 1899, one of many women who've played this and other male roles from Shakespeare over the centuries. Bernhardt appeared in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1901, though not in a male role; a post on an official state website says that Nebraskans "loved" her performances. (I guess they weren't horrified to learn that she'd appeared in male drag.) And, of course, boys played all the female parts in Shakespeare's plays when the playwright's company was producing them. I assume that an originalist production of Shakespeare would be illegal in Nebraska under this terms of this bill.

Terry Schilling, the president of the American Principles Project, is forthright about the ultimate aim: to ban transitioning altogether.
And Mr. Schilling, of the American Principles Project, confirmed that his organization’s long-term goal was to eliminate transition care. The initial focus on children, he said, was a matter of “going where the consensus is.”
He means the Republican consensus, of course, which I guess is all that matters in these states. He's more or less right about this particular issue: according to a national Pew poll conducted last May, 72% of Republicans think it should be illegal for medical professionals to provide medical care to help those under 18 with transitioning. Overall, 46% of Americans say this. In these states, non-Republicans don't count toward "consensus."

Schilling thinks the entire wave of anti-trans legislation is good politics, even though Republican anti-trans hysteria didn't seem to help the party in the midterms.
“This is a political winner,” said Terry Schilling, the president of the conservative American Principles Project, arguing that more voters would have been swayed had many Republicans not “shied away” from the subject.
There may be Republican consensus on some of these measures, but is there party consensus for all of them? The results of the Pew poll are ambiguous: Republicans are clearly anti-trans, but even 48% of Republicans think the law should protect trans people from "discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces" (64% of Americans agree overall with that). Yet we may be on our way to a future in which it will be illegal to be trans, in red America and possibly all of America.

It's the same thing that's happened in America with abortion policy and gun policy: Where Republicans have control, they pass extreme laws, because that's what their most ideologically rabid voters want. But we've known for years that it's not what all their voters want on gun policy, and we're learning that many Republicans disagree with their party's abortion extremism.

And yet Republican voters who reject extremism on key issues still vote for Republican candidates who embrace extremism. A couple of months after Kansas voters overwhelmingly voted to preserve abortion rights, they chose the extremely anti-choice Kris Kobach as attorney general; he now wants the state Supreme Court to rule that abortion is banned in the state.

If you always vote Republican because Republicans are your tribe, but you have qualms about Republican extremism on guns, abortion, LGBT rights, and, at the national level, taxation of the rich and preservation of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, then you're part of the problem. Your elected officials are extreme now and will be more extreme in the future, unless you rethink your voting patterns -- and I know most of you never will.

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