The LGBTQ+ community had made great strides in recent times in gaining more equality, the chief achievements being the decriminalization of homosexual activities and the legalization of same-sex marriages. The anti-gay groups who warned that greater recognition and acceptance of equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community would lead to a collapse of civilization have seen their fear-mongering being shown to be hollow.
However, now they have seized upon using the transgender community as a vehicle for advancing their hate-filled reactionary agenda.
In Idaho, police recently found 31 members of a white supremacist group packed into the back of a U-Haul truck, apparently on their way to an LGBTQ+ pride event in the town of Coeur d’Alene.
Further west, a crew of Proud Boys interrupted a drag queen event in California, intimidating parents and children and screaming transphobic and homophobic insults. In Texas, a state plagued by anti-trans politics, a group of rightwingers screamed abuse and threatened attendees at an adults-only drag brunch.
It’s an increase, they warn, that has been spurred by Republican politicians and rightwing media, who have pushed anti-LGBTQ+ talking points and legislation that has seen the rights and safety of an already marginalized group threatened.
The Anti-Defamation League said the claim that members of the LGBTQ+ community are pedophiles has helped fuel extremism in recent weeks, and it has not escaped notice that many of the threats against LGBTQ+ people have come from white nationalist groups.
“The thing that people kind of miss in the name when we talk about white supremacy is that it’s not just about whiteness, like white people being better than everyone else. It’s about a certain kind of white person being better,” said Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, which advocates for Black LGBTQ+ people in the US.
But despite the noise generated by the right wing, polls suggest they are at odds with the general population.
In March, a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 76% of Americans – including 62% of Republicans – favor laws that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodation.
Republican politicians and Fox News personalities have promoted the fostering of fears that transwomen are seeking to gain access to women in public rest rooms in order to attack them and that gay people are likely to be pedophiles seeking access to children. The former makes no sense since anyone could always attack people anywhere. Do they think that a sign on a rest room door stops male attackers and that they have to go through the process of transitioning (or pretending to) in order to get into women’s rest rooms?
The baseless pedophilia fear-mongering cynically exploits the revulsion that many people have for pedophiles. Even in prisons, pedophiles are one of the most hated groups and face the biggest risk of being beaten up by other inmates. So accusations that anyone or any group is prone to pedophilia are particularly potent.
Usually people’s fears about other people based on their characteristics is because they do not know anyone in that community because if they did, they would realize that they are no different from themselves and go about their lives just like everyone else, not like the predators they are made out to be. Surely they would hesitate to demonize someone they knew personally. So I wonder about the people who are promoting fears of the transgender community. Do they not personally know anyone who is transgender?
I personally know six people who are transgender, and I am a person who lives a very low-key life, does not get out much, and do not have a wide circle of acquaintances. So I imagine that many if not most people have at least one person (and probably more) among their relatives, friends, and acquaintances who are transgender. It is possible that they have not revealed themselves to the bigots because of their attitudes and the very real fear they have of being discriminated against or worse.
As transgender people become more visible and people realize that they are everywhere living ordinary lives, one hopes that the bigots will find even less support for their lies and hate, and that because of their hate campaign, they will experience the kind of revulsion that they are trying to create against others.