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On Wednesday, Republican Congresswoman Majorie Taylor Greene hung a sign outside her Capitol Hill office door that reads “THERE ARE TWO GENDERS: MALE & FEMALE”, with a smaller quote below that said “Trust The Science”. This was done seemingly in response to her cross-hallway colleague, Democratic Congresswoman Marie Newman, who posted a trans pride flag outside her own office door, in solidarity with trans and non-binary people, including her own daughter.
On Thursday, Republican Senator Rand Paul was widely criticized for his line of questioning during the confirmation hearing for Dr Rachel Levine, President Biden’s nominee for assistant health secretary. Dr Levine is set to be the highest-ranking openly trans politician in American history. Senator Paul opened his questioningby appearing to equate gender confirmation surgery with “genital mutilation” and by asking, “Dr Levine, do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”
This week has seen a jarring escalation of anti-trans attacks from Republican lawmakers, and it’s a reminder that for all the ranting about “identity politics” from social conservatives, they are consistently its biggest adherents and advocates, probably because it’s all they have left. It’s hard to imagine Rand Paul would have suddenly become concerned with transgender medicine if Rachel Levine wasn’t who she is. Without any good ideas on how to help the American people in a time of crisis, the GOP continues to campaign on hatred.
The Equality Act is legislation that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity throughout the United States. The bill is incredibly popular — about 83 percent of Americans support it, according to one recent poll. It’s necessary because although the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and affirmed LGBTQ employment protections last year, LGBTQ people still lack basic protections against discrimination in housing, credit, public accommodations, jury service, and other areas of public square in most states. Neither those Supreme Court rulings, nor President Biden’s executive action last month banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the federal government, apply to state laws. Thus, we need this legislation to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination throughout the country, once and for all.
Because of the bill’s overwhelming support among the public, Republicans have sought to diminish its standing by cruelly and erroneously claiming it would destroy women’s sports (it would not) and invalidating trans people as incompatible with science (also a lie). Unfortunately, in our era of disinformation, such falsehoods have taken on a new life through social media and conservative cable news, where fact-checking has long been absent in moderating the public discourse. This has led to the Republican Party taking advantage of anti-trans propaganda and weaponizing it to distract from broader political consensus. Senator Paul implied to Dr Levine that young children are receiving surgery and hormone replacements across the US, a common myth in conservative social media that has been repeatedly debunked by experts.
This issue is complicated by the fact that some pre-pubescent trans and non-binary children are prescribed “puberty blockers”, which slow the advancement of adolescent changes in order to give parents and their trans children more time to make critical decisions regarding their healthcare after careful deliberation with medical experts. But these are not hormone replacements, and they are certainly not surgery. In fact, far more cisgender children are prescribed puberty blockers annually for a medical condition known as “precocious puberty”. It’s a common medical approach that drew no scrutiny from anti-trans lawmakers in the past. The effects are reversible: once the puberty blockers stop being administered, the body again produces hormones and adolescent growth proceeds. Medical organizations from the American Medical Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics have repeatedly recommended gender-affirming healthcare practices for trans and non-binary children, which may include puberty blockers. Medical experts, biologists, and other scientists have consistently affirmed that trans and non-binary people are scientifically valid.
Congresswoman Greene’s claim that support for trans rights in the Equality Act would harm women’s sports, another increasingly common trope in anti-trans propaganda, has found little support among women’s rights groups and prominent women athletes. In December, Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Candace Parker joined a list of more than 200 prominent women athletes championing trans athletes at all levels and affirming that trans women are women and trans girls are girls. Organizations from the National Women’s Law Center to Planned Parenthood have repeatedly stood beside trans and non-binary people and pushed back against false and dangerous narratives that trans women don’t belong in women’s spaces.
This is all Republicans have left. They failed our country on Covid and economic recovery. They have failed our citizens on providing a reasonable approach to affordable and accessible healthcare (actually, any approach; there is still no GOP healthcare plan). They have no ideas, and thus, they have resorted to targeting vulnerable communities and weaponizing fear and bigotry against the most marginalized in our nation.
There are few reasonable adults who are surprised that cowards like Congresswoman Greene and Senator Paul would potentially damage the lives of trans and non-binary children with half-truths, lies, and innuendo. But for the sake of these children, we need to hold them accountable.