Short-term and Long-term: Democratic Governor Makes Minnesota a Sanctuary for Trans People

I am, in general, pretty cynical about the U.S. electoral system. It’s designed to empower conservatism, and has been shaped to make change that benefits the working class nearly impossible. Yes, there are victories, but every single one has come as a result of decades of grueling and dangerous work by the people who most need that change. The Republicans want the U.S. to be a fascist, white supremacist state, in which the power of capitalists – the aristocracy – is unchallengeable, as long as they support the fascist agenda. The Democrats, or at least their leadership, still seem to want the world to be held in stasis in the mid 1990s, but will go along with social change when someone else does the work.

That’s not exactly a difficult choice to make, but neither is it a pleasant one. When it comes to foreign policy and the military-industrial complex, the two parties are virtually indistinguishable, though the Dems are, on rare occasions, a bit less hawkish. Biden won’t try to hunt down and murder trans people, but he’ll continue working to undermine any alternatives to capitalism, and to prevent things like universal healthcare.

In a lot of ways, at least to someone who pays attention, workers have become alienated from politics in a manner similar to how they’ve been alienated from their labor. It’s something that affects our lives on a daily basis, but we have very little say in how it goes. In both cases, getting change that helps us, and not just the capitalist class, requires us to work together outside of a system that very much does not want us to do that.

It’s frustrating, and for those working to make things better, it’s often exhausting. I can easily understand why so many people often try to avoid thinking about it. We can have massive demonstrations to change policing, and after paying a bit of lip service, the Democrats go ahead with giving cops more money, while the GOP accuses them of defunding – something they have neither the courage, nor the desire to do – and howls for more violence from police

That’s why I advocate for systemic change, outside of electoral politics. Our system does change, but it does so slowly, and at great cost. The decades it took to ban leaded gasoline, or to end segregation, or to get gay rights, or to get trans rights – people died during those delays, because of those delays. People are dying right now, because of the backlash against advances in trans rights.

And as hard as people fight for their right to their own damned lives in the United States, that barely touches the horrors of the military-industrial complex, and colonial economic policies. Find me any politician in the U.S., and I can find you a reason why they should not be trusted. Bernie defended the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and has voted for any number of objectionable things. Katie Porter just talked about how impressed she was by the far-right ethno-nationalist Benjamin Netanyahu, and her support for Israel as a Jewish ethno-state. I’m certain that a great many politicians are pressured into supporting stuff that they don’t like, but it’s often hard to tell when that’s the case, and when they just support bad things.

It’s discouraging. I said I get why people just tune out, but I also get why people become intensely invested in a version of anti-establishment politics that says, “both sides are the same, so let’s burn it all down”. If only it were so easy.

The road to revolutionary change is slow, difficult, and full of frustration. Personally, I lean towards the opinion that – for all their evils – it’s better to vote for the Democrats in the short term. I say that not because I think they’ll do what I want, but because I don’t think that what I want can even be done, within the U.S. political system. From that perspective, I’m not looking for who will fix things for me, I’m looking for who will do the least harm and/or the most good, within the confines of our unjust and corrupt government. The revolution, of course, will have to come from the bottom.

I think there’s a danger in that perspective as well, however. We need systemic change, so anything short of that is inadequate, right? Well, no. I don’t think so.

I was, for a short time, intrigued by accelerationism – the idea that real change will arise spontaneously when conditions become unbearable. This is basically identical to the justification for the cruel and deadly sanctions placed on places like Iraq or Cuba – sure, it hurts the populace, but that’ll just give them incentive to rise up and free themselves from their oppressive rulers! Maybe that’s how it worked in France that one time, but in general, when people are struggling to survive, that takes up most of their time and energy. I think that the social networking that can come from that struggle can, in theory, become the foundation for a future revolution, but that requires the addition of time and resources beyond bare survival.

That’s why it’s so important that, as we work for a better future, we do what we can to save and improve people’s lives now, even if each improvement is far to small, and far too slow for any real satisfaction.

Fortunately, some changes are pretty big, especially for those people directly affected:

[Minnesota Governor Tim Walz] signed Executive Order 23-03 on Wednesday. It orders state agencies to protect people seeking gender-affirming healthcare in Minnesota, as well as the entities that provide it. State agencies are also specifically forbidden from providing information or assisting investigations to penalize trans people and their allies for seeking transition-related care. Judgments from other states that terminate parental rights because the parent provided their child with transition-related care will not be recognized by the state of Minnesota, and the state will also refuse to comply with subpoenas that seek information about trans people who travel to Minnesota to obtain care.

Additionally, the executive order tasks the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) with preparing a report that summarizes the literature on the safety and effectiveness of gender-affirming care, to be presented to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Legislature by the end of the year. The order also strengthens protections for insurance coverage of transition-related care and mandates MDH to refuse to approve HMO contracts that discriminate against people on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Noting that other states have “curtailed access to, or even criminalized” transition-related care, Walz’s executive order recognizes that “these actions pose a grave threat to the health of LGBTQIA+ individuals by preventing them from affirming their gender identities through safe and scientifically proven treatments.”

The executive order will be effective 15 days from the date of publication. It comes alongside a bill, HF 146, that would enshrine these same protections into Minnesota state law. Introduced by Rep. Leigh Finke, the state’s first out trans legislator, the bill will likely pass the House in the coming weeks, but Governor Walz told PBS that the escalating attacks on trans rights in other states made the need for such protections more urgent.

“Families who have fled are already here, and many more are planning to come,” Finke told the Minnesota Reformer. “We’re going to be ready to take care of them, and to provide them with the health care they need.”

This is great news, and it’s why I tend to prefer Democrats. Trans people, and the parents of trans kids, have been fleeing Republican-controlled states for a little while now, because of the growing efforts there to carry out a trans genocide. The problem is, there are so many anti-trans laws, and they’re coming so fast, it can be hard to know where to flee to. Moving is expensive, especially if you’re moving to a different state, so it’s not hard to believe that someone could move to a place that seems safer, see that change, and be stuck because they used up their resources. Journalist and activist Erin Reed has been maintaining a risk assessment map for just this purpose, and while she still needs to update it to include the latest info, she has said that this bill will upgrade Minnesota to being among the best states in the U.S. for trans people to be able to live their lives in relative peace.

I am especially glad to hear that Minnesota will, explicitly, not help those states seeking to persecute trans people. The companion bill, as far as I can parse the language, expands emergency jurisdiction over children present in Minnesota even if that’s not officially their home state. I believe the standing law gives that jurisdiction in cases of abandonment or abuse, while the new law expands that to include the inability to get gender-affirming care. I think there’s a strong argument for that inability being a form of abuse, but given how many people clearly disagree, it’s good to see it spelled out like that.

In the long term, the USian fascist movement is still going strong, and there’s still a very real danger that the GOP will take over the federal government again, and do far more damage than the last time. As I said earlier, the U.S. is set up to empower the aristocracy, and to empower conservatism. It will take much, much more than this to actually safeguard trans rights, or any other civil rights, for that matter. It will take more than this to end US support for fascists and their ilk in other countries. It will take more than this to build the world we want. There’s a lot more work to do, for the long-term.

Humans don’t experience life in the long-term, though, and this isn’t just me saying “people can’t plan ahead”. When we’re hungry, we need food. When we’re cold, we need warmth. When we’re being attacked, we need defense. It does no good to promise that those things will be available to us in 20 years, because if we don’t get them now, we won’t be here to collect then, even if that promise isn’t a lie.

Laws like this save lives, and while that should be enough to support them as-is, laws like this also move us towards our long-term goals. Those lives that are saved or improved by legal protections, are very likely to be a powerful part of continuing movements for liberation. Our dream of a better world depends on our collective power, and that depends on all of us caring for and protecting each other now. That doesn’t mean we try to make the movement risk-free, but rather that we do everything we can to ensure that people can choose what risks they take on. All we have is us, and so it’s extremely important that we take care of, and empower “us”.

I doubt that governor Waltz wants all the same changes I do, and I’m sure he’d be happy to send in the police to oppose a movement for economic democracy, for example. I won’t say that none of that matters, but it matters far less than this does, at this point in time. This executive order is a clear win, and I hope that HF 146 is passed into law very soon. The fascists are coming for trans people right now, and it’s great to see people in government fighting back in a materially effective manner.

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  1. invivoMark says

    I think while we’re seeing politicians babble about culture war issues, it’s easy to forget about the robust array of federal and state government agencies that provide a lot of public good that we often don’t see or appreciate. We have some of the best public health agencies in the world, highly effective food and drug safety regulation, comprehensive state and regional public health laboratories, agricultural and workplace safety oversight, and world-leading science agencies.

    If you want to advocate for revolutionary change in the US, be careful what you wish for. We don’t want these agencies to go away.

    To me, that’s the strongest argument for “incrementalism” over “accelerationism.” It’s why I would support Democrats even independent from any culture war wedge issues – they are more likely to support and fund these agencies. And as a bonus, federal government has strong protections for trans employees.

    Republican fascists openly want to commit genocide against trans people and repress people of color, and that scares me. But some of them – especially the younger Rs in Congress – also want to destroy essential government programs and agencies, and that scares me too. Modern Republicans are the most dangerous enemies the US has ever faced.

  2. says

    First off, I think that “incrementalism vs accelerationism” is a false binary. My “theory of change”, which is probably far to pretty a title to give it, is community-level organizing with regional, national, and international networking. The basic idea is to build up a new social infrastructure within the system as it currently exists, but separate from that systems mechanisms of control.

    That would combine with the labor organizing that’s currently going on.

    Revolution, to me, does not mean “destroy everything and start new”, so much as it means start building the new stuff NOW, because the system is currently heading to destruction. That also means that we keep the bureaucracy that is useful, as well as developing new systems as we go.

    So I am not advocating that we get rid of regulatory agencies as part of any revolution. That would be the antithesis of what I spelled out in the post above – that the path to “revolution” relies on making life better for everyday people in the short term, where possible.

    Those agencies you mention were gutted by the Trump administration (or most of them were) as you said, and we’ve been feeling the effects of that. The Dems don’t seem to have done much to fix that problem, though, or to make it more difficult to do in the future. It’s similar to how they didn’t reinstate the train safety rules that Trump threw out.

    But yes – they are more likely to do good things, no question.

    They just also put a lot of effort into preventing movement to the left, and that’s a big part of why I’m worried that they don’t have it in them to actually deal with the GOP fascist movement. As ever, I hope to be proven wrong about that. I agree with you on the danger of the GOP.

  3. Tethys says

    I’m a little bit chuffed that my State has indeed taken a liberal progressive approach to equality by immediate executive order, and the pending legislation. MN has long been a proponent of, and leader in the area of US Civil Liberties.

    We have been pretty effective at pushing our State Government to the left since the debacle that resulted in tfg and his pack of braying donkeys.

    As far as Katie Porter, the linked article does not say she was impressed with Netanyahu personally. It says she was impressed with his “level of engagement”, at the recent JI diplomatic meeting. It’s a non-statement considering that he is the legal and current Head of State despite being a murderous zealot.

  4. invivoMark says

    @Abe Drayton #2:

    I mostly agree with your comment, and I guess I should clarify: my post was meant to be a reminder that when you or others state that we have an “unjust and corrupt government” (and I still strongly disagree on the “corrupt” descriptor), those agencies are a part of our government, and they work to the best of their ability no matter what books DeSantis wants to burn. I didn’t expect that you’d want to tear them down.

    However, I think your statement, “Those agencies you mention were gutted by the Trump administration,” is objectively wrong. Although Trump proposed budgets with deep cuts to spending at a lot of federal agencies, Congress repeatedly rejected those cuts. And I think it’s worth considering that we actually had growth across many agencies (including EPA and many scientific agencies) even under the Republican-majority Congresses that Trump had in 2017 and 2018. The NIH actually grew more under Trump than it did under Obama. It turns out some number of Republicans aren’t complete nihilists and really do want to build a better country. They’re just spectacularly wrong on a number of issues.

    That said, I’m concerned that Republicans’ behavior toward agency leaders has made those positions toxic. Biden still hasn’t nominated an NIH director since Francis Collins retired over a year ago, and nobody seems to want Tony Fauci’s old job either. That’s a strong indictment of the sort of damage that certain Republicans are trying to inflict.

  5. says

    I think a lot of the damage that Trump did wasn’t from budget cuts, so much as driving people away. Stuff like moving BLM’s HQ so that people had to either move from DC to Colorado, or quit. That admin did a lot of stuff to push people into early retirement, or at least to make it clear that their stable jobs were no longer stable.

    There are people who left who won’t be coming back, and often they’re people whose experience and expertise may be hard to replace. That’s what I meant.

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