The Calculated Republican “Trans Bathroom” Wedge Strategy (ARCHIVE)
Over the course of less than 12 hours, lawmakers in North Carolina bulldozed through a sweeping anti-LGBT measure that blocked employment protections for not just LGBT folks, but also included absurdly specific and detailed regulations about bathroom and changing room use (1,2,3).
It also sought to supercede both local and federal attempts to address anti-discrimination through exercise of States Rights, and as such seems, to be a blueprint of an ideal Republican stance on this.
There are 14 more of these bills floating around in 9 other states. 44 have been proposed since the beginning of this year — 21 were proposed last year out of 85 anti-LGBT bills total. This is clearly escalating. This is also clearly planned, the second-stage strategy for the Religious Right culture war due to waning support on same-sex marriage. A wedge issue they can use to divide centrists from progressives, and a front they expect to conquer.
The planning for this strategy goes back to summer of 2014, although the rhetoric goes back much further. During the Southern Baptist Conference in June 2014,transgender rights were presented as the “next phase” of the gay rights fight, after the diminishing returns of suppressing same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, “gay rights organizations” like the Human Rights Commission are backing Republican candidates.
The Family Research Council, still licking it’s wounds from the gay marriage Supreme Court ruling in June of 2015, soon afterwards released their own statement and platform on transgender rights.
It lays out broadstroke soundbites about pathology and politics, a Cliff Notes of anti-trans rhetoric.
In January of this year, the Republican National Comittee approved a resolution, itself populated with dogwhistle language around “same-sex facilities”, focusing specifically on pushback against recently passed gender identity-based employment and housing protections — as per usual, under the guise of stopping imaginary “bathroom predators”.
However the resolution also makes references to other “Obama administration gender identity policies”, such as 2014 Executive Order protecting transgender folks from employment and housing discrimination.
This bill recently passed in North Carolina superseding both federal and local attempts to codify anti-discrimination policies was clearly a response to protections being awarded in the city of Charlotte. The state’s General Assembly called it’s first emergency session in 35 years to address this.
Ironically, Governor Pat McCrory said one of the issues with the Charlotte protections was “government over-reach” even as he ratified a state-wide bill to shut down a city policy.
Even in a city like Seattle, which has had transgender protections on the books for a decade, there has been a battle taking place the past few months. Right-wing activists are proposing one the most extreme anti-trans initiatives to appear on the election ballot this year, setting back decades of progress.
Despite the fact that there are similar ordinances in Austin, Dallas, Ft Worth, Plano, San Antonio, and El Paso, Houston recently lost a battle for transgender employment and housing protection due to misinformation campaigns by rabid activists.
Time and time again, the larger LGBT movement told us they’d come back for trans folk if we stuck to the plan of prioritizing the fight for marriage over ending violence against trans people, providing resources to homeless queer youth, and so much other shit that isn’t resolved with a private party and a slip of paper from the government.
And now, as the national conservative movement pushes to systematically bar and exclude us from being allowed in public, I want to know if and how those organizations are going to support us.
Make no mistake, this isn’t just about bathrooms. And if you won’t come back for us, rest assured, they will come back for you.
(originally published April 21, 2016)