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Commentary: Mattis surrenders to appease Pence/Perkins

Kiss that Marine integrity goodbye

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James Mattis (File Photo)

And then there were none. Despite his hyped-up promises as the Republican presidential nominee to “fight” for LGBT rights, once in power, Reality TV star Donald Trump has ordered or OKed the systematic erasure of all things LGBT from the federal government, as well as the imposition of new policies permitting overt discrimination in the name of “religious freedom.”

Even Trump-whispers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner failed to stop the advancing avalanche of anti-LGBT discrimination triggered by Vice President Mike Pence and his gang of theocracy-seeking Christian Supremacists, lead by Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation.

Many military-minded members of the LGBT community believed Defense Sec. Jim Mattis was standing in the gap protecting us from the whims of the wanna-be authoritarian and his minions. In fact, Mattis is still perceived as the last adult standing against Trump’s Dr. Strangelove-leaning, war-mongering advisors, who former CIA director John Brennan, among others, fear will lead the impressionable president into nuclear war.

“Our country needs confidence that we are going to be able to deal with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin who is once again flexing his muscles on the military front, that we can deal with North Korea,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Deadline White House.  “If we have somebody in the Oval Office who is unstable, inept, inexperienced and also unethical, we really have rough waters ahead.”

And, Brennan added, projecting more pain for the country: “I do hope we are going to be able to get through this very, very difficult chapter in our history, without incurring damage that could be long-lasting.”

But now Mattis, too, has turned weak in the knees in face of Trump’s unpredictability and Pence’s presumed threats. Perhaps Mattis thought he was playing the long game when he mislead and betrayed his LGBT servicemembers by agreeing with and making the Feb. 23 recommendations to implement Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the US armed forces. Perhaps the Marine field commander in him took over—a willingness to sacrifice troops to achieve what superiors claim is an important goal.

But the former Marine forfeited more than his trans troops—Mattis surrendered his honor, integrity, and the trust LGBT Americans and allies placed in him. Many had come to believe he was in the mold of retired hero Admiral Mike Mullen, who in Feb 2010 as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress
he favored repealing the horrific anti-gay Clinton-era “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,” Mullen said. “For me, personally, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution….I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change,” continued Mullen. “I never underestimate their ability to adapt.”

And it wasn’t a one-time thing for Mullen. He repeated his position to make sure the public—especially potential young recruits—knew the all-volunteer military prized integrity as well as merit.
“I think it’s time that the law and the policy change. And the fundamental piece for that – of that, for me, is the whole issue of integrity in asking young people to come in to a military and essentially live a lie in an institution that values integrity at the highest level,” Mullen told NPR months after his congressional testimony.

Indeed, studies were done, training was conducted, DADT was repealed and there have been no incidents substantiating the Religious Right’s dire warnings about erosion of military readiness and unit cohesion. On that basis, Mattis’ predecessor Defense Sec. Ash Carter, instituted a year of studies and training in preparation for lifting the ban on open transgender service, since trans service members such as Navy SEAL Team Six’s Kristin Beck—awarded 27 honors, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during her 20 years of service—had been left behind with the repeal of DADT.

Even before Mattis’ reaction to Trump’s infamous trans ban tweet, there was reason to believe he would be an overall strategic thinker like Mullen and try to update the military’s internal policies that lag behind most civilian workplace equality policies familiar to young recruits. And he understood the problem of politics.

“Those who argue that healthy civil-military relations are characterized by comity and a low number of disagreements between civilian and military decision makers ignore or discount the possibility that this may be the result of promoting yes men who are politically safe and who will not really fulfill their obligation to provide their best military advice as forcefully as possible,” Mattis wrote in his 2016 book Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military.

And Mattis realized the importance of trust.

“Cultural or opinion gaps between the general public and the military community worry us, but there is little evidence that they cause actual harm,” he wrote in 2016. “The mistrust and mutual ignorance that often characterizes relations between high-level civilian and military decision makers is another story: here, misunderstandings and mistrust lead to arbitrary decisions and can do genuine harm both to the military and to US interests.”

During his confirmation hearing in Jan 2017, Mattis did not seem enthusiastic about women or LGBT people in the military but did say there was nothing innate in being a woman or LGBT that excludes them exercising lethal force. “I believe that right now, the policies that are in effect — unless the service chief brings something to me where there has been a problem that has been proven — then I’m not going in with the idea that I am going to review these and right away, start rolling something back,” he told New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

In June 2017, Mattis did launch a six-month review of the trans accessions policy that was just about completed, but insisted the delay “does not presuppose the outcome of the review.” He said the additional time would ensure he had “the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials who are now arriving in the department.”

But he also lobbied against an anti-trans proposal by Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler and Duncan Hunter to ban medical treatment, leading to the bill’s defeat. Hartzler and Hunter, with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins tagging along, went around Mattis to the White House to meet with fellow evangelical, Mike Pence. Shortly thereafter came Trump’s surprise July 26, 2017 tweet, which went far beyond the proposed law to ban trans from service, period. Perkins told Brietbart News he wasn’t surprised by the tweet and bragged about his access to the White House.

Mattis’ name was not directly linked to the initial responses from the military—but it’s hard to believe the top commanders would publicly utter a word without real or tacit approval from Sec Def, the former four-star Marine General. Though Trump’s July 26 tweet said he had consulted with “my generals” about the abrupt change in policy, the real generals—the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including chairman General Joseph Dunford—said they were blindsided.

The next day, Dunford sent an email to Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff for the US Army; Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the US Air Force; Adm. John Richardson, chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, Buzzfeed reported, about Trump’s “unexpected” announcement. He said the announcement had not changed any policy yet and later followed up with another message: “P.S. When asked, I will state that I was not consulted…..expect that question will come NLT [no later than] my September hearing.” In that Sept. Senate hearing, Dunford said he believed transgender troops should be allowed to continue to serve.

Dunford also told servicemembers there would be “no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines.”

“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote in a memo to the military that was obtained by CNN. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

A week after the tweet, Adm. Paul Zukunft spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, saying his office immediately reached out to the 13 trans members of the Coast Guard.
“I reached out personally to Lt. Taylor Miller, who was featured on the cover of The Washington Post last week,” Zukunft told the Military Times. “If you read that story, Taylor’s family has disowned her. Her family is the United States Coast Guard. And I told Taylor, ‘I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.’”

Zukunft also said he reached out to then Department of Homeland Sec. John Kelly—subsequently sworn in as White House Chief of Staff—and that Kelly reached out to Mattis.
“We stood up a tiger team of our JAG officers,” Zukunft said, to figure out how to shield troops, small in numbers but doing “meaningful” work, in the face of an administration mandate.

On Aug. 4, Mattis released a memo saying: “Through our example and through coaching of all hands, we will ensure ethical standards are maintained. Never forget, our willingness to take the Oath of Office and to accept the associated responsibilities means that even citizens who have never met us trust us to do the right thing, never abusing our position nor looking the other way when we see something wrong. I am proud to serve alongside you.”

Until last Friday, March 23, there was ample circumstantial evidence to believe that Mattis would stand up and deliver advice to the Commander-in-Chief many thought he believed in and that had been given to him by real military experts: allow the policy welcoming and supporting trans servicemembers to remain in place.

Instead, Mattis caved to Trump, Pence and Perkins, saying in his Feb. 22 memo that trans servicemembers pose “substantial risks” and allowing some to serve “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”

Mattis also says the 2016 RAND Corporation study concluding that trans servicemembers “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon used “heavily caveated data to support its conclusions, glossed over the impacts of health care costs, readiness, and unit cohesion, and erroneously relied on the selective experiences of foreign militaries with different operational requirements than our own.”

“In short,” Mattis said, “this policy issue has proven more complex than the prior administration or Rand assumed.”

The policy is still subject to injunctions imposed by four federal courts which will likely find the ban unconstitutional, concludes Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern in his deep dive into what happened.
“As a result of those four court orders, transgender service members have continued to serve openly, and trans individuals have been allowed to enlist in the military since Jan. 1, 2018,” Stern wrote on March 24.  “Yet behind the scenes, a ‘panel of experts’ has been crafting a report, also released on Friday, designed to provide pretextual justification for Trump’s ban. According to multiple sources, Vice President Mike Pence played a leading role in the creation of this report, along with Ryan Anderson, an anti-trans activist, and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ lobbying group. Mattis actually supports open transgender service, but he was effectively overruled by Pence, and chose not to spend his limited political capital further defending trans troops. In a memo released on Friday, Mattis encouraged Trump to ban transgender people from enlisting in the military, and to discharge those service members who wish to transition. Trump has now formally adopted these suggestions.”
Zack Ford added to Stern’s reporting.

Also doing a deep dive at ThinkProgress, looking specifically at how that old DADT junk science got into Mattis’ recommendations.

“According to Stern’s reporting, it was true that Mattis favored allowing transgender military service, but Pence ‘effectively overruled’ him,” Ford wrote. “A separate source independently confirmed to ThinkProgress Saturday that Pence was involved, characterizing him as forming his own ad hoc ‘working group,’ including Anderson and Perkins, separate from the panel of experts Mattis had assembled. Though it bears Mattis’ signature, the report released Friday appears to reflect the findings of Pence’s working group and not the committee report that Mattis submitted to Trump last month. Mattis’ original document is not currently publicly available, but it was widely reported that Mattis favored an inclusive approach that resembled what had originally been proposed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter under President Obama in 2016.

How exactly Pence overruled Mattis’ recommendation over the past month the source did not know. But his working group’s influence is apparent. In particular, the report features numerous anti-trans talking points that FRC and other anti-LGBTQ groups have used in various campaigns favoring discrimination against transgender people.”

By affixing his signature to that Pence/Perkins/Anderson-like report, by not telling the truth about how the report came to be—the opposite of what he lead LGBT people to believe for so long—Defense Sec. Mattis has mislead the LGBT community and betrayed the principles of integrity once thought to be an enduring core principle of Marine values. With his imprimatur, he has publicly endorsed the junk science of the anti-LGBT forces, even as the American Psychiatric Association re-issued its opposition to the ban.

Jim Mattis has committed an egregious legacy-damaging sin. Mattis now stands in the Pantheon of military liars with Gen. Westmoreland and Defense Sec. Robert McNamara, who lied to the American people about the war in Vietnam, and the once-beloved Gen. Colin Powell, who lied and presented false information to the world to satisfy President George W. Bush’s eagerness to go to war in Iraq.

Why would any young person—LGBT or straight—want to serve in a military where their leader might promise to have their back one day—then renege and lie out of political expediency the next.

The saddest thing for Mattis, for whom many had come to count on and admire from afar, is that he will now have this ugly, burdensome transphobic ban hung like an albatross around his legacy—even though he knows that the ban will most likely get killed in court and Trump will probably blame him and fire him anyway.

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Dave Chappelle won’t get cancelled for Transphobia

In his latest special on Netflix, Chappelle once again attacks trans people’s identities, and mocks them as part of his act

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Dave Chappelle, “The Closer” publicity photo courtesy of Netflix

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. – Recently, prominent Daily Wire podcaster and frequent Fox News guest Matt Walsh proclaimed on his show that the Spanish Inquisition  “was far more defensible than modern-day cancel culture is, especially the cancel campaigns waged by trans activists.” 

This accusation against transgender people is a high bar to clear, given that the tortures of the Inquisition are both well documented and legendary in their cruelty. They included ripping peoples arms out of their sockets with ropes (the strappado), the rack, water torture, burning people alive, the “Spanish tickler”, and slowly crushing people’s skulls in a vice. Perhaps worst was the “Judas Chair”, in which people were seated naked on a sharp, pointy pyramid, and weighted down until they were impaled to death rectally.

As far as I can determine, “trans activists” haven’t done anything as bad as this, and it’s hard to imagine something worse. However, if they were doing things worse than the Spanish Inquisition to thousands of people for “heresy” every year, you would think transphobes would be a lot more circumspect expressing their views.

But they’re not, because being anti-trans is profitable, a quick way to get media exposure in big mainstream outlets, suck up to the right-wing base, and otherwise prove you bona fides as “edgy”, “anti-woke”, and contrarian in a way that’s still socially acceptable. It is, in effect, one of the last ways for people to “punch down”. It’s like beating up the most unpopular, misfit, neurodivergent kid in school to make yourself more popular.

For example, Matt Walsh is unabashedly transphobic, has more media exposure (and followers) than any trans person, and isn’t going away. Transphobic conspiracy theories were given a full segment on 60 Minutes, and it isn’t going away. The New York Times Editorials under Bari Weiss (who’s openly hostile to transgender people) gave fellow travelers Katy Herzog and Jesse Singal plenty of exposure

While both writhed around on the ground like a French soccer player looking for a card, neither of them seems to have suffered any real consequences for supposedly being cancelled. Herzog continued to write for the gay press after she was supposedly cancelled. Jesse Singal got his book published by a major outlet. 

Despite taking the position that trans people should be banned from public spaces, denied health care, banned from sports, and denied access to government ID, JK Rowling is doing just fine. Far from being cancelled, continues to have hundreds of millions of dollars, book deals, an agent, a publisher, movie deals, and invitations to rub elbows with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres set in the UK.

A few transphobes have been “black-listed,” but not for anything they said about transgender people. Rosanne Barr had a long history of transphobia, but didn’t suffer consequences until she made racist tweets. Similarly, former MLB player Kurt Schilling had a history of anti-trans commentary, but was fired from ESPN for making racist statements. Milo Yiannopolous went from college to college singling out local trans students for hate, but only lost his position within conservative media when he defended pedophilia.

Which brings us to Dave Chappelle, who has once again doubled down on his long-standing disgust at trans people. In his latest special on Netflix, Chappelle once again attacks trans people’s identities, and mocks them as part of his act. This follows his 2019 special (also carried by Netflix) which also targeted trans people.

This presents us with a testable hypothesis. If people like Walsh are right, something worse than being burned alive or getting a ride on the Judas chair will happen to Chappelle for offending trans sensibilities. A less extreme hypothesis is that if Weiss, Herzog, and Singal are right, Chappelle will be black-listed and venues will refuse to host his performances.

Or, if I’m right, nothing significant will happen. And that’s a bet I’ll take any day. Netflix knew there was transphobic content in his show in 2019 and put it out anyway, the same as they did with his first two shows on the network. They went and put him on contract for another show. And when that show also had transphobic content in 2021, they (again) chose to post it. Dave Chappelle will not be “cancelled” unless he targets some other group with a similar level of offensive scorn. Indeed, Chappelle proclaimed that, “If this is what being canceled is like, I love it.”

But you know who did get cancelled? Trans employees of Netflix who got suspended for speaking out publicly, and pointing out that of the record-setting 44 trans people murdered so far this year, 44 were people of color. Apparently, it doesn’t feel like a supportive work environment when your employer pays Dave Chappelle millions of dollars repeatedly to spew anti-trans invectives to the masses and proclaim he’s on the side of bigots who want to see your fundamental human rights eliminated. 

The fabricated narrative of trans “cancel culture” is another right-wing dog-whistle for a crisis that doesn’t exist. Like Critical Race Theory (CRT) in elementary schools or trans athletes taking away scholarships from cisgender girls. It was created to stir up the right-wing base and weaken support for an already marginalized group to provide post hoc justification for whatever is done to trans people by the government, and preemptively create the narrative that what suppression falls on trans people was necessary. The right wing wants people to see fascism an appropriate response to (manufactured) left-wing outrages, and believe trans people “had it coming”.

And Chappelle is merely their useful idiot.

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Brynn Tannehill is a senior analyst at a Washington D.C. area think-tank, and is the author of “American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy.”

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Dave Chappelle can kiss my black gay ass

If you would just shut up for a second- you would hear how racism does affect LGBTQ people of color in a way it doesn’t affect you

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Dave Chappelle appearing on Netflix Is A Joke 2019 (Screenshot via YouTube)

By Alvin McEwen | COLUMBIA, Sc. – There is no other way to say this. Dave Chappelle is an ignorant son of a bitch whose embrace of stereotypes about LGBTQ people do more to hurt both the LGBTQ and black community than any words or actions of the anti-LGBTQ right. 

First, a little background;

Comedian Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special, The Closer, is his last for the service as he concludes a multi-project deal spanning several years and while he tries to pass it off as an examination of racism and LGBTQ issues, it comes across more as a hypocritical justification of a career spent making vulnerable people feel like shit. To cap off his numerous comedy specials, Chappelle pledged not to make jokes about the LGBTQ community any longer, offered to negotiate terms for rapper DaBaby, and announced he is a transgender exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) before launching into a derogatory diatribe about transgender women’s genitals.”

That’s not all. Chappelle proceeded to attack all LGBTQ people:

Throughout the special, he repeatedly circles back to pitting racism against anti-LGBTQ animus. After pointing out that DaBaby had killed another man and still continued to perform and escaped punishment, but got “cancelled” after making incredibly derogatory comments about gay people, Chappelle made the comparison direct. “Do you see where I’m going with this?” he quipped. “In our country, you can shoot and kill a n****r, but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings!” 

Then he proceeded with more junk:

Gender is a fact,” he continued. “Every human being in this room, every human being on Earth, had to pass through the legs of a woman to be on Earth. That is a fact. Now, I am not saying that to say trans women aren’t women, I am just saying that those pussies that they got… you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s not pussy, but it’s Beyond Pussy or Impossible Pussy. It tastes like pussy, but that’s not quite what it is, is it? That’s not blood, that’s beet juice.” 

 . . . In the end, he proclaims that he’s done making jokes about “LBGTQ, LMNOPQXYZ people,” saying “it is over.” “I am not telling another joke about you,” he said, “until we are both sure that we are laughing together.” 
 “All I ask from your community, with all humility, will you please stop punching down on my community
?”

I could say a lot of things about this man’s ignorance, but I want to focus on one thing because it infuriated me the most. This comment:

 “All I ask from your community, with all humility, will you please stop punching down on my community?

That is the epitome of all of the bullshit LGBTQ people of color have had to deal with from black heterosexual people – the entitlement mentality. 

That’s the belief that whenever there is talk about issues of the black community, problems of the black community, or the survival of the black community, it’s all about black heterosexuals. God forbid you point to out that  heterosexuality is not prerequisite of being black. 

No matter how many times it is proven to some heterosexual black people that LGBTQs of color exist, that we have families and children, and should be acknowledge as full members of the black community, they will cling to their fantasies of toxic black masculinity and oversexed black femininity with as much passion as a demented Trump voter still holding on to the lie that he was cheated out of victory in the 2020 election. And there is no room in these fantasies for LGBTQ people of color.

For phony ideas of blackness to survive in the minds of some black heterosexuals, people like me have to be mentally placed in a box where we are pulled out when they want someone to make fun of or even worse, assure themselves of how “tolerant” they are because they have chosen not to knock us upside the head or scream passages of the Bible at us which they themselves do not adhere to. 

The latter is even more insulting. That’s when they give us false assurances that they “have no problem with our lifestyle” or our “sexual preferences.”  They want us to believe that, but the way they say it always  makes me feel like dogshit on the sidewalk.

When it comes to LGBTQs of color and the black community, some black heterosexuals want to have the first, middle, and last word in the conversation. LGBTQs of color are supposed to be silent. We are supposed allow ourselves to be dictated to and psychologically dissected to fulfill someone’s bullshit ideas of what the black people are supposed to be. The implication is that no real black person is LGBTQ so we don’t matter.

If you black heterosexuals have no problem with us, then acknowledge us. Stop with this nonsense about LGBTQ and black people being different. Whether you like it or not, our identities intersect in our daily lives and especially in our history. Does anyone think that it was only heterosexual black people who went through slavery, segregation, lynchings, rapes, and all of the uglies which come with historic systemic racism in America? Where the hell do you think we were when this stuff was happening? On an island somewhere? In outer space?  Do you think we don’t feel the pangs of racism now? We do, but it is difficult for us to voice how it especially affects us because some of you heterosexual black folks. are dominating the conversation and won’t let us get a word in edgewise.

If you would just shut up for a second and let us talk, you would hear how racism does affect LGBTQ people of color in a way it doesn’t affect you.

Personally, I am both black and gay. And as such, my life matters, my issues matters, my rage matters, and my need for justice matters. Not as either a black person or a gay person, but as BOTH, together, inseparable. No one has the right to make me choose my identity.
Lastly, let me go back to Mr. Chappelle, because I haven’t forgotten about him. 

I would suggest, Mr. Chappelle, that before you start on another one of your stupid routines about LGBTQ people, take your bony ass to the library or  better yet, google some names – Bayard Rustin, Monica Roberts, Barbara Jordan, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde. You did not get to the place where you can make millions on stage talking shit solely on the backs of black heterosexuals.  And you need to know that.

Lastly, when you are done with that, go the bank and count your millions. Then google the number of black trans men and women who have been murdered this year and the last. Read each of their names. Compare their lives to yours. 

That way, you will truly understand when someone is punching down.

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Alvin McEwen is 50-year-old African-American gay man who resides in Columbia, SC. McEwen’s blog, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, and writings have been mentioned by Americablog.com, Goodasyou.org, People for the American Way, Raw Story, The Advocate, Media Matters for America, Crooksandliars.com, Thinkprogress.org, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, Melissa Harris-Perry, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, The Washington Blade, and Foxnews.com.

He is the 2007 recipient of the Harriet Daniels Hancock Volunteer of the Year Award and the 2010 recipient of the Order of the Pink Palmetto from the SC Pride Movement as well as the 2009 recipient of the Audre Lorde/James Baldwin Civil Rights Activist Award from SC Black Pride. In addition, he is a three-time nominee of the Ed Madden Media Advocacy Award from SC Pride.

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The preceding commentary was previously published at McEwen’s blog, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, and is republished by permission.

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U.K. Cited for Anti-Trans Human Rights abuses- is U.S. Next?

Transphobia swamped the U.K. left in just a few short years. If it can happen there, it can happen here. Unless we do something about it

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Graphic via Prism & Pen- Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling

By James Finn | DETROIT – Would you be surprised to learn Europe’s preeminent human rights watchdog Council of Europe just named the U.K. —with Russia, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey — as a primary driver of anti-transgender hate speech and hate crime? If you’re an LGBTQ person who follows trans news at all, you’re probably muttering, “No kidding!”

But if you’re an American who doesn’t closely follow LGBTQ news, even if you’re a politically engaged progressive Democrat, I bet you don’t know how bad things are on the U.K. left. You likely have not noticed how a cancer of leftist transphobia is spreading globally, threatening to invade our shores. You need to know, because signs point to things getting worse before (or if) they get better.

Leftist anti-trans hatred spreads like cancer

If you’re like I was until recently, you likely have little idea that intolerance of transgender people in the U.K. is increasingly a phenomenon of the political left. For example, when I first learned a couple years ago about the anti-trans hate group LGB Alliance, I dismissed them as fringe wingnuts, despite knowing their leadership pretty much all describe themselves as liberal or leftist.

It didn’t take me long to wake up to the danger, but when the U.K. government registered LGB Alliance as an official charity earlier this year, I was still shocked. I was just as shocked to watch the leftist Labour Party slow-march down a road of intolerance, with MPs and even shadow ministers flirting openly and often with anti-trans hate rhetoric.

‘LGB Alliance’ Anti-Trans Hate Group Wins Charity Registration

Who’s next, the Nazi Party? The KKK?

As LGBTQ journalist and trans-rights supporter Owen Jones has observed, even the U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian, which tacks hard left in its editorial pages, has a big transphobia problem. He notes that Guardian staff in the U.S. have “looked on in horror at the mainstreaming of transphobia in UK liberal circles.”

A few days ago when Labour leader Keir Starmer endorsed the notion that women are at risk of violence from trans women, and when he did so in support of a notorious Labour transphobe, few people outside the U.K. noticed. But Starmer’s endorsement represents the final act in a series of Labour steps dismantling full-throated political support for transgender people, who now have no uncontested political home in the U.K.

Could that happen in the United States?

As the publisher of a small LGBTQ online journal, I worry a lot about that. Trans writers I edit and know somewhat personally have been targets of violence. This summer, within the space of two weeks, two U.K. writers I work with were assaulted in broad daylight by people screaming anti-trans slurs. Then several days later one of them was assaulted again. And then again!

While anti-trans violence is far from rare in the U.S., it’s often a phenomenon of intersecting margins. We (tragically) expect it, but we don’t expect it in well lit city centers, especially not in traditional liberal or progressive spaces where my writer colleagues were assaulted.

Nor do we expect anti-trans political “violence” from the mouths of Democratic leaders and thought shapers. So far here, strong anti-trans sentiment is a largely a Republican, even Trumpian phenomenon, often inspired by leaders of the religious right.

Worrying signs point to problems

Should we be complacent, though? The Center for American Progress has been warning since at least 2016 that the New York Times is flirting with anti-trans rhetoric in the name of balance, which CAP calls “false balance.” Mainstream journalists at other leading left-leaning publications are speaking up about “intellectual freedom” in a manner eerily similar to how some U.K. journalists first began justifying anti-trans articles a few years ago.

Today, just a few years after CAP’s first muted warnings about NY Times trans coverage, LGBTQ activists frequently note editorial problems. The idea that the Times is “anti-trans” is received wisdom. While that might not be quite fair, we see what happened to The Guardian in the space of only three or four years, and we worry our own flagship newspaper of the left is headed down the same road.

A few months ago, the LGB Alliance opened up for business in the U.S. You can watch them on Twitter stirring the same kind of irrational hatred the U.K. branch is known for. They falsely call transgender “ideology” homophobic, push evidence-free claims that lesbians are under assault, oppose conversion therapy bans, wring their hands over “sexual mutilation,” and label trans supporters “misogynists.” And they do it all from a leftist, not religious-right playbook.

The road to leftist transphobia is not inevitable

Recent polling show Americans overwhelmingly oppose anti-transgender laws and strongly support equality for transgender people. For now, anti-trans rhetoric is almost unheard of in the Democratic Party. (But caution: only two or three years ago, even Theresa May’s Conservative Party, somewhat analogous to the Republican Party, promised stronger trans equality laws. Then with Brexit and Boris Johnson, public opinion took an almost overnight turn toward mean.)

President Biden has not been able to push pro-LGBTQ legislation through a divided Senate, but he’s taken strong executive action to protect trans people, especially students. When he told trans students last April that he has their back, Democrats cheered.

But caution must be the order of the day

The U.K. has historically done a better, faster job of pushing LGBTQ equality than the U.S. Many Americans don’t know this, but The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 legalized homosexuality in England and Wales two years before Stonewall and decades before Lawrence v Texas struck down the last sodomy laws in the U.S.

Trans people in the U.K. were getting free access to gender-affirming healthcare while many U.S. trans folks were still fighting with insurance providers for even basic care.

If any nation looked likely to make the top of Council of Europe’s anti-trans hate list, it was NOT the U.K.

The irrational vitriol coming from the islands these days isn’t just frightening, it must serve as an object lesson in mob mentality. If you frequent LGBTQ Twitter at all, you know what I’m talking about. Commenting on trans issues on English-speaking Twitter is pretty much impossible without being bombarded by leftist U.K. transphobes, who attack trans people with false, mean-spirited, even hateful rhetoric.

For just one over-the-top example, see my recent article examining how a mob of U.K.-based tweeters “accused” a woman teacher of being trans after she allegedly raped a teenage student. The teacher is not trans, and no news reports suggested she might be, but based on her booking photo, the mob went wild, using the incident to scream (yes, that’s a fair descriptor) about how trans women put children in danger.

Gender-critical ‘feminists’ revel in misogyny and sexism

What makes incidents like this so worrying (besides that they’re inspiring actual street violence) is that they would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. In 2017 or 2018, Britons would likely have snorted at the idea that stodgy Labour supporters could band together in online anti-trans mobs. The idea just isn’t British, is it?

But it’s happening and with increasing frequency.

The idea that Europe’s leading human rights watchdog could ever cite the U.K. as a leading human rights abuser (alongside Russian and Hungary!) would have been equally unthinkable, but here we are.

I’m worried as hell, because Americans on the left are far more likely to be influenced by U.K. leftists than by Russian autocrats or Hungarian populists. These days I often hear American-based anti-trans activists parroting rhetoric they clearly picked up from the U.K. gender-critical (TERF) crowd. These activists are most often self-identified Republicans or members of the religious right, but as the LGB Alliance USA demonstrate, our left is in danger too.

What can we do to help? Push back!

We all need to educate ourselves about trans issues and trans people, who face astonishing levels of violence and discrimination in the U.K. and the U.S. The National Center for Transgender Equality is an excellent place to start learning. Then, when we see false narratives, we need to push back with the truth. Here are just a few critical elements of that truth:

  1. You don’t have to understand someone’s identity to respect it. You don’t even have to agree with it. The most important thing to understand about trans people is that they want to live in peace and be left alone. As autonomous human beings, they deserve to, just like everybody else.
  2. Trans women are at high statistical risk of violence and pose statistically unmeasurable risk of violence toward women in women’s spaces. Claims of danger from trans women are not based on data, which would be readily available if such claims were true.
  3. Lesbians are going strong, with the number of self-identifying lesbians increasing rather than decreasing even though the number of women identifying primarily as bisexual has increased dramatically in recent years. The notion that trans men who “should be” lesbians are shrinking lesbian populations is not supported by data. But even if it were true, see point 1.
  4. Politicians do not know more than medical experts who spend their lives studying transgender health care. In nearly every other medical situation, politicians defer to the judgement of health care professionals. Politicians must keeps their hands out of decisions that are best left to trans people and their doctors and medical professional associations, who make decisions based on data.
  5. Trans kids don’t need protection from their families and doctors. “Save the children” rhetoric is old, stale, repackaged homophobia. See point 4.

I don’t know how much of a threat anti-trans rhetoric poses to LGBTQ people in the United States. I don’t know if waves of hate speech the Council of Europe has noted are peaking or just getting started. But I’m not comfortable dismissing them as as generational problem that will fix itself.

Maybe that’s the case, maybe it’s not. Time will tell, but whatever happens, liberal folks in the U.S. need to be a guard.

Transphobia swamped the U.K. left in just a few short years. If it can happen there, it can happen here. Unless we do something about it.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Queer Nation and Act Up NY, a regular columnist for queer news outlets, and an “agented” but unpublished novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to [email protected]

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen- Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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