We Trans People Will Never Surrender, but Fighting Bigots Is Exhausting

ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty
ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty

Put a fork in me. I’m done.

Let me be clear: I’m not giving up the fight for transgender civil rights, for inclusion in sports and across society. I just can’t go on like this.

On Friday, a Texas judge decided to stop the Lone Star State from launching child abuse investigations of parents who sought gender-affirming care for their transgender children. The case will likely will be appealed by Governor Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and co. It’s a victory, but not the end of the fight—and a small consolation given the wave of hate spreading nationwide.

Texas Leaders Intensify a Vicious War on Trans Kids and Their Parents

It should be comforting that President Biden warned Texas that the administration will challenge Gov. Abbott’s executive order labeling gender-affirming health care as child abuse, but let’s face it, the harm’s already been done. Families are choosing between fighting for their rights or fleeing the state. One family targeted by Paxton had invited him to their home for dinner six years ago—as told to The Daily Beast here—to see for himself the joy their transgender son had found in living his truth. Now their son is 14.

My already broken heart took another hit this week when Republicans in Florida succeeded in their effort to send the “Don’t Say Gay” bill to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Florida, my former home, home to my best friend, my family’s favorite vacation spot for generations, is now a place I will not step foot in.

DeSantis signaled his intent to sign that bill into law when he announced, “We are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten.”

DeSantis sycophant and Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham took the cue from his homophobic press secretary to repeat the lie that opponents of the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” are “groomers” looking to recruit children, a buzzword Republicans are seizing upon from the Anita Bryant playbook of the 1970s.

Nobody seems to care that even the catchy nickname given the “Parental Rights in Education” bill erases both bisexuals and trans people. The point of calling it “Don’t Say Gay,” of course, is to generate buzz, but why has it taken so long for business leaders, national LGBTQ organizations and teachers’ union leaders to step up?

“Discrimination is bad for business,” says today’s newspaper ad organized by the Human Rights Campaign featuring the brands Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s, Apple, Meta, Google, Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., Ikea and REI. Well, duh. What took them so long?

Ina Fried, chief technology reporter at Axios and a woman who just happens to be trans, reported corporations were more inclined to take action when just one or two states were pushing anti-gay or anti-trans legislation, like North Carolina’s bathroom bill.

“Now, however, battles are occurring in states all over the country ranging from whether trans kids can play on school sports teams to access to health care to what can be taught about gender and sexuality in schools.”

Why did it take until Thursday for GLAAD to announce changes to its annual Studio Responsibility Index? It’s promising to grade Hollywood studios like Disney on its political donations to anti-LGBTQ candidates and PACs. As The Daily Beast reported, the Mouse provided big bucks to every single Florida lawmaker backing that bigoted bill.

Why did it take threats of a boycott and shaming by no less than the Los Angeles Times for Disney to finally come out against the bill? Too little, too late, in my view. As a shareholder and a former “cast member,” as Disney calls its employees, I hope CEO Bob Chapek gets the ax—despite his eloquently stated contrition Friday.

News about Florida’s bill has consumed the attention of my friends in the LGBTQ community, while most mainstream media has been focused on Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Even there, however, I’ve seen stories of trans and nonbinary people who cannot flee their war-torn homes because their passports show a gender identity different from the authentic one they are living.

You won’t see it on the news, but there’s a war going on here in the U.S., too, and not just in Florida and Texas. There are 10 other states with laws restricting transgender rights, including Arkansas, with new anti-trans bills in the works in Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri and Idaho.

Idaho is by far the most hateful of these states of hate, proposing a life sentence for parents who dare to provide gender-affirming care.

‘While you’re looking at cat videos, I’m blocking haters’

I call Connecticut home, but even here, opponents of inclusion are appealing a federal judge’s decision to toss out a lawsuit, claiming allowing trans girls to compete is unfair to cisgender girls. The plaintiffs have the support of the same conservative Christian law group that co-authored so many of those anti-trans bills, the Alliance Defending Freedom. That’s right, the ADF, the same group labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group.

One barely-watched cable news outfit, NewsNation, found time for eight minutes of TERF talking points. Branding it as an “exclusive investigation,” their reporter asked an anonymous college swimmer what she thinks of her trans teammate Lia Thomas’s “male genitalia.”

For months, my social media feed has been filled with transphobia about Thomas, about “fairness,” about “biology” vs. “ideology.”

Blocking isn’t a bad thing. It’s a tool of self-protection, in my case. While you’re looking at cat videos, I’m blocking haters.

Day after day, I block trolls, transphobes and TERFs who hunt for and hound people like myself, trans women who are bold enough to identify ourselves on social media by our actual name and photograph. They challenge us to debate our existence, speculate about our anatomy, deny our authentic gender identity, and call us men, “biological males” and worse.

In my case, they dredge up my pre-transition pictures, nine-year-old articles about my well-publicized stumbles following my coming out, mock the death of my wife from cancer and the end of my network news career, all in an effort to discredit not only me but anyone like me.

But I don’t have it so bad, really. Not compared to the lives of other trans Americans, given that the majority of the 57 or more trans victims of murder in 2021 were Black or Latinx trans women. It’s nearly mid-March and this year’s toll is at least six murders.

I worry for my best friend, who is Latinx, and for another friend who’s Black. And I am intensely worried for my trans daughter who is taking her first steps toward transition.

Feeling overwhelmed, this week I deactivated Facebook and Twitter, just to catch my breath. I am concentrating on the last tweet I saw before suspending my account, from the ACLU’s Chase Strangio. We cannot give up, he pleaded, recommending “We fight better.”

We will. I will. But not today, for I am exhausted. I can only hope that one of my many cisgender allies sees this and decides to stand in for me, just until I get back in the fight. All we’re fighting for is something called the 14th Amendment to the Constitution: equal protection under the law. And we will never surrender.

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