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To be a public charge 

We must all stand on the right side of history

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Jose Guevara-Johnson is a community organizer and a DACA recipient. He’s pictured here with his husband. (Photo courtesy Guevara-Johson)

My name is Jose Guevara-Johson. I am a migrant from El Salvador who came to the U.S. to reunite with my family at the age of 10.

At the age of 15, I discovered two things that changed my life. The first was my sexuality; the second, my diagnosis with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. I have relapsed five times, but each time my family, including my husband, and my resiliency have kept me here.

Despite that, I have been an intern for the California Faculty Association, a Congressional Hispanic Caucus alumnus, where I interned in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, and I’m one class away from my bachelor’s in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles. Most importantly, I am an unapologetically undocumented husband. 

My husband is a U.S. citizen and he is sponsoring me to become a resident. He’s from a small town in North Carolina and even if he wanted to move to El Salvador, my birth country does not recognize our marriage nor will I have the ability to get my life-saving treatments. We are trying to adjust to my legal migration but we believe the Trump administration’s new public charge rules denying public assistance to lawful permanent residents are an attack on people of color, folks with disabilities, the poor, and on LGBT individuals that will further tear families apart.

Public charge rules have a dark history as a tool for racial exclusion. The rules began in 1882, five months before Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the United States. The Immigration Act was the first federal policy to bar a person likely to become a public charge, which also gave immigration officials the broad discretion to determine what “public charge” meant.

There are reports that when immigrants from Eastern Europeans countries arrived in Ellis Island they had to have $25 in cash and a ticket to their final destination. Many were Jewish and when they failed to meet the requirements, they were deported.

During the Great Depression, the law was utilized to stigmatize and deport people of color, including the mass expulsion of Mexicans, while those with European roots relied heavily on public relief.

Going through the process of adjusting my immigration status, our family must prove that our income is 125% above the poverty line. I have to do medical tests, fingerprints, a waiver for unlawful presence and travel to my country of birth for an interview—where our future will be dictated by an immigration agent even though I have already done much of this to obtain and maintain my status as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. 

Currently, the public charge is defined by immigration services as the primary dependence likelihood of relying on cash-aid for income support or long-term care paid for by the government. They rely on multiple factors specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act, including taking into account “affidavit of supports,” a legal contract by a sponsor indicating that they will financially support the immigrant who will not become primarily dependent on the government. They also consider if an immigrant has used welfare or supplemental security income.

The use of publicly funded healthcare, nutrition, and housing programs are not currently considered negative factors. However, starting Oct.15, the administration will consider some of these when making the decision to approve individuals seeking to adjust their status.

The new public charge rules will now include the use of Medicaid, the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program and Section 8, and any state or local cash assistance programs as grounds for refuse residency. They will also assess the proficiency of speaking English as positive and the lack of it as a negative. They also added the size of family, education, skills, and age. A medical condition is a negative factor and the ability to pay private insurance a positive. An important positive factor is having a household income of at least 250% of the federal poverty level. 

All these changes target the poor, unable bodies, people of color, LGBT+, women and children. In short, anyone that belongs to the most marginalized communities is likely to be excluded.

The administration has been clear that this is an exclusion of low-income families.  Ken Cuccinelli, acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Service, edited the famous Emma Lazarus poem on the Statue of Liberty to: “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” adding that the poem only referred to people “coming from Europe.”

The simple question is this: which America do you want to live in? The rule changes are not about legality—they are xenophobic. This is systematic exclusion. Do you want to wait until your friends, neighbors and family are in the place I and many others are in today? Or 10 to 20 years from now, will you be able to say you stood up against this?

Will you say: I voted this administration out; I stood on the side of humanity, dignity, and the common values that human beings are not measured on an arbitrary political scale with family members going through hell to stay together?

I can only hope that as LGTB+ folks we stand on the right side of history. 

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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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