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Tag Archives: trans athletes

Calling on the Straights

The overthrow of Roe v Wade in America is just the start. And Australia’s Right, from the political figures connected by think tanks to the conspiracy-radicalised internet subculture, draws its ideas and strategies from the American Right.

It is incumbent upon us to watch that nation’s collapse as a warning, not just as a prequel to a dystopian blockbuster trilogy.

It is critical to avoid dismissing shocking concepts as fringe. What begins as an outlier idea moves to the centre of mainstream discussion in America and beyond. The “norm cascade” that Trump enabled has meant that it is not just, say, the creep in the office uttering something previously unutterable. People with great cultural capital are making unthinkable ideas “normal.” State politicians are beginning to ask for the death penalty for women who access abortions, and senior Republicans have begun discussing making abortion illegal nationwide when they next hold power.

The Texas attorney general has signalled his willingness to take a law making homosexuality illegal through to the Supreme Court should he have the chance. A Republican candidate in South Carolina’s primaries recently called for LGBTQI Americans to be pursued for treason, and executed. He received a quarter of the vote.

The Texas Republican Party platform, launched this Pride Month, named LGBTQI lives “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” Approximately 340 bills targeting LGBTQI existence have been introduced across America this year. The leader of the Christian Fascist organisation Protect Texas Kids tweeted, “Let’s start rounding up people who participate in Pride events,” and other figures on the Right have begun imagining a world where it is legal to hunt LGBTQI people.

Blue states are reacting by offering safe haven for safe reproductive healthcare. California is in the process of passing a sanctuary bill to allow families of trans youth sanctuary. Should the bill be signed, their own deeply Republican state will be blocked from extraditing the parents to face life sentence felony charges. These sanctuaries would also block Republican states’ custody orders to remove children of trans families from their parents.

Vigilante activity and abuse of LGBTQI individuals have surged. People have begun working out how to leave their lives behind to move state or are making sure to keep passports current.

The grotesque Westboro “Baptist Church” used to protest gleefully at dead soldier’s funerals because the degeneracy of America meant that they deserved to die. Now Jordan Peterson, one of the “thought” leaders of the Right, has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is justified by Ukraine’s connection with the degenerate US. Echoing Putin’s own bigoted justification is shocking enough; the fringe, this shows too, has become mainstream.

The patriarchal and “traditional role” passions of the radical Right make women and children lightening rods to channel “moral” panic. They generate disinformation to suggest cis women are endangered by having trans women in their spaces. They abhor trans men for making women unavailable to them. Above all, they depict LGBTQI existence as a threat to children, since “won’t someone think of the children” is the most primal emotive persuasive strategy.

For this reason, schools have been the focus of much of the legislation and protest. Teachers are depicted as “groomers” and “perverts” for accepting a non-binary student’s pronouns or mentioning the existence of people who aren’t vanilla.

Christopher Rufo, the American who invented the CRT panic, where he depicted schools as teaching Critical Race Theory, found a wellspring of emotional energy into which to tap. Critical Race Theory is a law school concept where academics study the impact of laws that were designed to disadvantage Black people. It was never a school study. Labelling any study of history that aims to represent the balanced truth – rather than bowdlerised pap – as CRT, however, has given the Right a tool to make teachers’ lives a nightmare.

One Texas committee recommended teaching slavery in elementary school as “involuntary relocation.” Now Ohio is introducing a law to require teaching “both sides” of the Holocaust.

Groups of disinformation-radicalised parents and outsiders appear at school board meetings in threatening fashion to intimidate staff. Issues about sexuality and gender are Rufo’s new target. This whips up further the Trump base’s QAnon radicalisation; they believe children are being abducted, raped, murdered and/or farmed for youth-extending hormones. Now they are targeting their teachers as the key threat. Tucker Carlson, for example, asked why fathers aren’t beating up teachers for discussing anything connected with LGBTQI existence.

State school teachers, already exhausted by the pandemic and extreme underfunding, are leaving the profession. This suits the Republicans fine because the dismantling of public education is a key project of a number of their main funders. Often emerging from fossil fuel wealth, they want a tame Christian education that does not teach critical thinking or any curriculum that isn’t a mythologised version of life that reinforces “tradition.”

Any curriculum that includes the hard facts about our settler colonial nations’ histories is anathema to the Right, as is acknowledgment of diversity. Any curriculum that includes recognition that people who are not straight exist is debauched. Any curriculum that includes the scientific facts of the unfolding climate emergency is, unsurprisingly given the money behind this campaign, disgracefully woke.

Schools that emerge beyond the campaigns will teach a curriculum that celebrates White Christian Patriarchal Civilisation. Christian charter schools, home schools and private schools will suffice. If children from disadvantaged areas miss out, the Republicans don’t care. Augmented by outlawing abortion, they will create a homegrown underclass to do the worst jobs for the worst wages without the need for migrant workforces.

America’s problems are not the same as our problems. These escalating campaigns that are right now stripping millions of Americans of equality and bodily autonomy are minority positions inflicted upon the majority after decades of strategising to break the flawed democratic processes underpinning the American republic.

In Australia, the Right faces different challenges to impose minority rule. It sees its best chance to regain power and reinstate the steps it had been taking to break our democracy in culture wars. These “moral” panics are distractions meant to disguise the fact that the Right can’t win on a platform of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation.

The new campaign to attack schools for being “woke” as signalled by Dutton, Sky News and the IPA’s Class Action campaign signal their intent to replicate the American crippling of schools and silencing of teachers. The IPA, like the American equivalents, is largely funded by fossil fuel figures who naturally do not want students taught to understand climate science. The harnessing of traditionalists scared of change, combined with radical Religious Right Christian Nationalist bodies, offers the LNP a new base that might offer electoral success.

Australian women and our allies have already marched on Australian streets to decry the Dobbs decision in the US Supreme Court. We must all be ready, particularly the straight majority, to stand up to any efforts to expand the attacks on our reproductive autonomy into the broader range of bodily autonomy.

Trans identity, weaponised by Morrison, is a wedge to expand into an extensive attack on LGBTQI Australians. Dutton has signalled his readiness to follow culture war politics as far as it will take him.

We must stand up alongside our targeted compatriots. We unite and defend, or we will all be trapped in the Right’s patriarchal nostalgia, and stripped of our equality.

 

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The transphobia “moral” panic

People contributing to anti trans rhetoric are playing a much more dangerous game than they realise.

The current wave of anti-trans sentiment will lead to more violence and victimisation. Initially the attacks will hit people who are visibly trans women. Eventually, it will spread to anyone who is LGBTQI+. The same forces promoting this violence are those aiming to limit women’s rights, and ultimately purge their countries of unwelcome categories of people.

Be very sure you know what you are doing if you join in.

In America over one weekend in Pride Month alone, extremism monitors tracked “seven in-person extremist activities targeting LGBTQ people.” In the most dramatic event, 31 uniformed men in balaclavas were dragged from a U-Haul vehicle before they could create a “riot” at a Pride event in Idaho.

American political aspirants and preachers demanded death penalties for homosexuality in a year when 250 anti LGBTQI+ bills were introduced around that nation. In Ohio laws were passed that would allow the genital inspection of secondary and tertiary female student athletes. In Idaho, the law would make it a life-sentence felony for parents or doctors to help trans youth gain puberty delaying treatment, including making it a trafficking offence to take them out of the state in pursuit of medical care.

This hysteria feels much more extreme than in Australia, but as we saw on our streets over the pandemic, the violence of the turbulent world of American politics is brought here through internet swamps. Trump flags and nooses appeared in our street protests. Australians unknowingly appealed to American constitutional amendments for protection from health measures. Most Australians were shocked to see violent brawls with the police on our streets apparently emerging out of nowhere.

And in the global sewers of the internet, the reasons for the panic are clear. Of all the manifold bigotries that pervade the space, the one with the most convergence is that gay or trans people are pedophiles. That facts dismiss this as nonsense is no help; facts long since ceased having traction in this sphere.

This iteration of social contagion is not surprising. It is easier to absorb a “moral” panic when it confirms feelings of discomfort or incomprehension. Again, when it builds on earlier waves of “moral” panic, the new variant can confirm previous prejudice.

The “save our children” hysteria of the QAnon movement crescendoed in the worst of the pandemic. Lonely and frightened people sat at home on their computers absorbing a fantasy built on earlier waves of child stealing (and sacrificing) panics. Some of the people caught up in the QAnon cult would have been immersed in the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s where childcare operators were persecuted over baseless accusations of mass child abuse. QAnon proved they hadn’t been fools to believe.

The trans panic of this moment calls upon earlier fear and horror at the existence of Queer people in general. It was only in 1994 that mainland Australia legalised homosexuality, with Tasmania following three years later. The religious campaign against marriage equality during the postal vote in 2017 harnessed all the risks and threats that conservative Australians might dread.

The success of the equality vote brought change. Queer people in Australia described feeling accepted and finally welcome as part of the community. People felt newly safe to hold hands with their partner in the street.

These changes are recent and fragile. The Religious Right is fighting hard to limit equality, then ultimately to reverse it. This is most clearly apparent in the United States, but Australia saw Scott Morrison’s faction echoing its strategies. His religious discrimination bill aimed to grant religious groups the right to practise discrimination. In the election, Morrison’s decision to harness Katherine Deves’s feminist transphobia aimed to draw in a fresh base for his religious bigotry.

*And this feminist support for transphobia needs to be seen for what it is. “How the far right is turning feminists into fascists” traces the trajectory from some early radical feminist movements to the new anti-trans “feminism.” It is as likely to celebrate women for their child-bearing capacity as it is to echo ethnonationalist ideas. While feminisms are a broad range of beliefs, this kind seems grim.

The American Religious Right which Scott Morrison aimed to inject into Australian politics is infused with the theocratic belief in the absolute necessity for Evangelical/Pentecostal Christians to purify society. Christian Nationalism demands that all sexual activity in the state is procreative and within marriage. All men must be strong patriarchs. All women must be submissive wives. The Religious Right has not, however, placed itself at the centre of American “conservative” politics by being clumsy. It has deployed any strategy to achieve its aims, and encouraging women outside the churches to define their value in their reproductive capacity has been useful. It both works to aid the Religious Right’s war on women’s reproductive freedom as well as gaining allies against the LGBTQI+ people who would blur the boundaries.

They have convinced a sizeable proportion of America that progressives demand abortion up to the point of birth. The ludicrous parallel distortion is the depiction of trans women as a threat to other women. Both nightmare boogeymen prevent rational discussion of the issue, but rational discussion was never the goal.

The issue in America is driven from the top by well-funded Christian Libertarian thinktanks, and from the ground in the post-QAnon MAGA base. Republican politicians believe they have the key to minority rule in juggling these interest groups. In Australia, the nascent Religious Right is regrouping after Scott Morrison’s defeat. The secular version of their talking points is being amplified on Sky News, funnelled free-to-air into the regions.

When decent Australians allow themselves to be carried along by the wave of this moral panic, they are not defending women. What they are doing is becoming caught up on the rational-sounding fringes of a hysteria that will lead to violence.

The overlapping groups attacking LGBTQI+ people in America include Christian fascists and post QAnon conspiracy theorists alongside a range of other extremist factions. Anti-LGBTQI action has overtaken all the other “cross-pollination opportunities” like CRT, pandemic health measures and abortion access.

The violence in Australia is unlikely to look like militia in U-Hauls, but how many bashings or murders would be acceptable? The attack on trans people – or abortion – are not ends in themselves but trojan horse missions with the aim to replace our democratic projects with theocracy, and our freedoms to shape our lives with stringent rules of chaste behaviour.

We need to work together, just like the overlapping groups that despise us.

 

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