Column: Solidarity, community will counter anti-transgender efforts

By Emme Zanotti, Michigan Advance

American moms and dads are being punished for loving their transgender children. Stop and think about that. The LGBTQ community is on the verge of access to vital familial and societal acceptance, but from Lansing to Washington D.C., Republicans are impeding that progress — by prosecuting parents.

On Feb. 22, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a bounty. The governor encouraged his constituents via a directive to report their patients, neighbors, and family members to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). In the directive, he called on DFPS to act swiftly with investigations into the private lives of its citizens, for the “crime” of providing children with access to scientifically valid and life-saving healthcare.  

Resilience of a community, coupled with modern medicine’s de-stigmatization of our identities, have increased our nation’s level of acceptance and understanding of transgender people. In response to their declining ability to convince the American public that their neighbors are not equal, Republicans have made human rights violations against transgender Americans a staple of their political strategy.  

Abbott’s directive fits the mold and is an increasingly familiar embargo on our nation’s compassion and empathy, locking not just LGBTQ people in the GOP’s crosshairs, but also the community’s allies.  

The directive is a textbook Christian conservative plea of: Love thy neighbor, just not those ones.

It may be tempting to sit in Detroit, 1,400 miles from the Texas capital of Austin, and think this is a Southern issue, a Bible-belt problem. Though reality is telling us something different. This is not in fact a Texas issue. This is an American issue. As such, I urge my community and our allies to resist this temptation of distance and tread speedily around our apathy.

The Human Rights Campaign reported more than 290 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in 33 state legislatures across the country in 2021, with 25 being signed into law.  Unfortunately, 2022 is not shaping up any differently. 

Accompanying Abbott’s directive, the Florida House of Representatives passed their dehumanizing “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill. The bill bars educators from discussing even the mere existence of LGBTQ people. The 2020s have quickly become a decade marked not just by the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a pandemic of human rights abuses against the trans community. An assault on civil liberties from sea to shining sea.

Republican leaders in Lansing are less than secretive of their support for this war on transgender Americans. It takes no imagination to envision the Republican caucus in Michigan enacting similar laws, denying the freedoms, invading privacy, and effectively banning the pursuit of happiness of its citizens.     

Responding to an LGBTQ Michigander, the Office of State Representative Andrew Beeler (R-Port Huron) wrote, “we support the position of Gov. Abbott on this issue,” and went on to describe parents showing love and support of their transgender children as “sickening” and “abuse.”  

As a transgender woman, I have directly witnessed the benefits of an inclusive society on the physical and emotional health outcomes of our community, including children. Which is why I write to call my community and our allies to take a stand.

Speak out. Vote. Call your representatives. Educate friends. Lean on family. Defy the sanctioning of hate with unconditional love. Especially if an increasingly aggressive GOP wants to make unconditional love illegal.    

Rabbi Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

Our community must rise and fight for ourselves. Our allies must fight with us. If we choose not to fight this battle now, we may not be guaranteed a chance to fight later.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected] Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

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