At the end of January a right wing think tank closely aligned with the Trump administration, the Heritage Foundation, held a panel designed to further marginalize LGBT people, including, especially, transgender people. Andrew Sullivan’s support of those concepts in his February 1 article makes their claims all the more stunningly offensive. This guest post by a noted veteran LGBT activist explores and debunks these attacks on LGBTQ people.
Jan. 28, 2019, Heritage Foundation, Washington DC: Four self-defined feminists present on a panel entitled “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left.” Featured speakers: Jennifer Chavez, lawyer and board member of the Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF); Kara Dansky, lawyer and Board Member of the Women’s Liberation Front; Hacsi Horvath, adjunct lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco and formerly identified as transgender; Julia Beck, lesbian and producer of Women’s Liberation Radio News and former member of Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission. The panel was moderated by Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation.
From the Heritage Foundation description of the event:
Who could be against a law that promises equality and bans discrimination? Parents who’ve already experienced grief, despair, and witnessed medical harms as they attempted to get help for their gender-confused children. Medical experts concerned about how adding “gender identity” into civil rights law would cause physical and psychological harm. People who have transitioned, and then detransitioned, concerned with what this ideology will do to children. Lesbians who have been punished for having the audacity to say that men are not women. Radical feminists concerned that nearly all sex-segregated spaces, colleges, sports, dormitories, and women’s rights in general will disappear if “gender identity” becomes a protected class and the dangers this poses to women and girls.
Please join us for a panel discussion featuring speakers from the political left as they share their stories of the harmful consequences of what will happen if “gender identity” ideology is enshrined into U.S. civil rights law.
The Heritage Foundation? Concerns from the Left? It is confounding that anyone who calls themselves “left” would align with the Heritage Foundation. This organization’s track record is littered with dog whistles, bare-toothed vicious attacks, and rhetorical defecatory missiles launched to damage second, third, and fourth wave feminism; gay liberation and contemporary LGBTQ equality movements; sexual freedom and bodily autonomy/sovereignty movements; and any movement or theory that threatens or critiques male supremacy, patriarchy, and the subjugation of women and children.
What is the common thread uniting the very powerful US right wing political and propaganda machines and the relatively small sector of women who have come to be known as TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists)? Both seem to believe the freedom to self-define one’s gender and one’s sexuality is a seek-and-destroy operation to crush categories of “men” and “women.” Further, TERFs believe these freedoms to be an attack on “homosexuality” and/or lesbianism. Their new organizational ally, the Heritage Foundation, has never defended homosexuality, or gay rights, although it is deeply invested in protecting and defending traditional definitions of “men” and “women” cuz social fabric shredding. Voila! This newly minted partnership will work night and day to defeat The Equality Act, which seeks to extend non-discrimination protections to persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
And now, this partnership of truly odd bedfellows has been joined by Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic, long-time conservative gay commentator/pundit, and now, apparently, a defender of real men’s man. In an article published in New York Magazine on Feb. 1, 2019, entitled “The Nature of Sex,” Sullivan gathers his estimable analytic acumen to consider the destruction of homosexuality and the end of categories man/woman and categories boy/girl. He argues that these categories are under serious attack by the simple, if insistent, expressions of freedom of self-definition by persons whose sex at birth does not align with their own experience of gender. A man/boy likely engages in a years-long personal process to transition from category man/boy to category woman/girl, seeking to quell their own gender dysphoria, or the what/when/how of their discomfort or distress about the internal conflict over one’s at-birth assigned gender and the gender lived in real time. And please understand: the movement bullhorns obsessing about the dissolution of categories of sex and gender care very much more about the category man/boy transitioning to the category woman/girl than they care about the reverse.
The fevered fears of Chavez, Dansky, Horvath, Beck and the Heritage Foundation, and now Sullivan and the Canadian Sky Gilbert, flow from these tenets of faith, theory, and politics:
1. Biology is destiny. No, really. Forget about second wave feminist’s bold claim that women would not be automatically consigned to birthing rooms and kitchens based on their sex. Forget about those peculiar, minor, and (they hope) forgotten indigenous cultures that engaged in biology-busting recognitions and honoring of individuals whose lives were not defined by category man/boy or category woman/girl and whose lives were rich, full, and flourishing in a special category and roles all their own. The TERFs and the Heritage Foundation have given full throated endorsement to the old – very conservative — saw: it is biology that must be and is the controlling definition of category man/boy and category woman/girl lest sexual, social, and cultural chaos overtake us. See Sullivan here. Just as second wave feminism analyzed “biology is destiny,” gender identity transitioning challenges the notion that each of us can only be defined by the sex assigned us at birth and all the concomitant social expectations attached to that assigned at birth sex. This so-called “natural law” has been contested for many decades and remains contested now.
2. TERFS argue If category man/boy is permitted willynilly to self-define into category woman/girl, category woman/girl will no longer exist as a legal term of art. Non- discrimination laws, they claim, will no longer be applicable to persons in category woman/girl because no one will be able to present and hold an un-challenged claim to the category. For those of us who lived through the 1970s nationwide political campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, this particular feature of the nascent national political campaign to crush the Equality Act will ring bells in our memory banks. (See Eagle Forum/Phyllis Schlafly.) More recently, gender identity anxiety has arisen in opposition to anti-discrimination laws at the local and state levels, in fear of the presence of transgender people in restrooms appropriate for their current gender expression.
3. Further, if category man/boy can transgress without consequence category woman/girl, women-only and especially lesbian-only spaces will disappear. This argument is especially troubling because it falsely hoists enormous responsibility for disappearing lesbian spaces onto the shoulders of category man/boy >> category woman/girl. In reality, these spaces disappear because of women’s/lesbian’s relative lack of economic agency and access to money to operate those spaces; the phenomenon of online social and political spaces for women/lesbians; the welcomed- by-many emergence of cultural and political spaces for both lesbians and individuals category man/boy >> category woman girl who share a same-sex sexual orientation, or who may not share that but are glad to share space/time for political, social, and cultural gatherings. But what’s a contemporary lesbian separatist to do? How about some good old-fashioned organizing rather than laying blame on those who prefer different company and solidarity?
4. TERFs and the Heritage Foundation (and Andrew Sullivan and, the late Phyllis Schlafly) are not ready, willing, or able to acknowledge that category man/boy >>> category woman/girl persons are women. The best of it, from Sullivan, is that these persons are trans women and ought to be treated with respect, given support, and allowed to live in peace. The worst of it, from TERFs, Heritage Foundation and the late Phyllis Schlafly, is these persons are category men/boys from which there can be no exit, no escape, no freedom. TERFs and Sullivan each imagine—in mirror images of desperation–gender as colony like spaces that define people, who, if they decide to free themselves, become dangerous and threatening gender outlaws.
5. Now, about homosexuality, as sexual practice, not as cultural or social space, but about who touches whom, where and why and what kind of pleasures can ensue. Sullivan and Sky Gilbert, a Canadian playwright, filmmaker, and university professor (See Gilbert here), for their parts, are very super worried that category woman/girl >>> category man/boy persons will destroy (male) homosexuality as we know it.
Consider this fantasy (true story, told to me by a pal): What if, seeing across the room a superhot and handsome (H&H) man, a male person approaches to explore the possibilities of an assignation. The two proceed with flirtatious chat because H&H perceives category man/boy person hot and handsome, too. And both are horny. So, they repair to a home space after establishing HIV statuses and parameters of sex relative to that and other personal tastes. Male person, assigned male at birth and remains so, thinks H&H man is also straight up category male, because he has not said otherwise and besides which there is a telltale bulge in H&H’s jeans. They commence to more than chatting, moving right into pack and play. The bulge is not connected to H&H’s body and is, instead, a dildo. Male person is undeterred since H&H remains all he wants in a man that night; H&H is also undeterred and turns out to be a real pro with that packed rubber dongle.
For Sullivan and Gilbert, the above story might reveal duplicity, disappointment, derogation, and deflation of erection. Why? Because H&H isn’t really a man, assigned male at birth and remaining so. He is one of the escapees from the opposite category woman/girl. In this terror dream, escapees from the woman/girl colony space are threatening and dangerous because they pose as something they are not, pretend to have genitals they do not, has one too many holes down there, and cannot, for a “real man,” satisfy in a way that would be exciting and hot. Or, Sullivan and/or Gilbert maybe would give H&H a toss in the hay and next day, be singing a different tune about category woman/girl >>> category man/boy persons’ capacities to uphold and expand the experiences and meanings of homosex. End of fantasy scenario.
In addition to other misleading commentary in Sullivan’s New York magazine piece, he holds out that the Equality Act will include—gasp—gender identity, as if it has never been thought of before, as if gender identity non-discrimination is a shiny new object about which we know nothing. But that is not the case, not at all.
From the ACLU web site:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia all have such laws. Their protections vary. For example, Nevada’s law bans discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations like restaurants, hospitals, and retail stores; Maine’s law covers those categories plus access to credit and education.
At least 200 cities and counties have banned gender identity discrimination, including Atlanta, Austin, Boise, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Dallas, El Paso, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and San Antonio, as well as many smaller towns.
The governors of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania have issued executive orders banning discrimination against transgender state workers. Some cities and counties have also protected their transgender public employees through local ordinances, charter provisions, or other means. People discriminated against by public entities on the basis of gender identity might also be able to argue that the government’s action was unconstitutional.
As well, the Equality Act also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is included in a plethora of laws, policies, and court interpretations in 25 states in the US. The Equality Act would bind up this patchwork into a blanket of federal protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. (See Movement Advance Project map.)
So, what were the four self-defined feminists doing at the Heritage Foundation? They want to make common cause with religious rightists, and conservative thinkers in order to attack and discredit the burgeoning freedoms of people to self-define their gender. As well, these women want to amplify their message by attaching themselves to the Heritage Foundation bullhorn. Jennifer Chavez at the Heritage Foundation panel said:
One of the significant differences between here and the U.K. is that there are journalists in the U.K. speaking out about [the issue]. And here there are journalists speaking out but not with the sort of national reach and name recognition that the journalists who are speaking in the U.K. have had and I think that has made a humongous difference. So, we need journalists to speaking about this and covering both sides of the story at least.
Here is the real rub for all of those who bleat about the faux dangers of gender identity non-discrimination protections. That train left the station, see above. For a seminal text on the topic generally, see Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by the brilliant queer scholar Judith Butler (Routledge1990; second edition 1999).
More so, the reality train of people choosing to transition likewise pulled out 68 years ago, as per the first very public transition in the United States. From the web:
Christine Jorgensen (May 30, 1926 – May 3, 1989) was an American trans woman who was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery in her 20s. Jorgensen grew up in the Bronx, New York City. Shortly after graduating from high school in 1945, she was drafted into the U.S. Army for World War II. After her service she attended several schools, worked, and around this time heard about sex reassignment surgery. She traveled to Europe and in Copenhagen, Denmark, obtained special permission to undergo a series of operations starting in 1951.
She returned to the United States in the early 1950s and her transition was the subject of a New York Daily News front-page story. She became an instant celebrity, using the platform to advocate for transgender people and became known for her directness and polished wit.
To all the TERFs, to Andrew Sullivan and Sky Gilbert and even to the late Phyllis Schlafly, you are late to the story and you (exception taken to Phyllis who is deceased) are welcome to join the millions of people who believe the Equality Act should be enacted into law forthwith. And, we invite you to embrace the not-new, not-shiny, not- dangerous idea that humans can be freed from the constraints of socially policed notions of gender. Welcome to the not-new world!
Sue Hyde serves as the Executive Director of the Wild Geese Foundation. She was director of the Creating Change Conference/National LGBTQ Task Force, 1994-2018. Hyde is the author of Come Out and Win: Organizing Yourself, Your Community, and Your World (Beacon Press, 2007). Hyde is a proud resident of the People’s Republic of Cambridge, MA.
© Sue Hyde, 2019
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‘Just Three Words: Call Your Lawyer’: Legal Experts Weigh in on Bombshell Report Naming Republicans Involved in Jan. 6
Legal experts including a Harvard professor and a top election and voting rights law attorney are weighing in on Sunday night’s bombshell report from Rolling Stone naming members of Congress and the Trump administration who were involved in the planning and organizing of the January 6 rally and/or “Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss,” according to two of the planners of the “Stop the Steal” rally.
Rolling Stone reports “planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C., have begun communicating with congressional investigators and sharing new information about what happened when the former president’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Two of these people have spoken to Rolling Stone extensively in recent weeks and detailed explosive allegations that multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump’s efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent.”
Those named in the Rolling Stone report as allegedly being involved include Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), and these members of Congress or their staffers: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).
Harvard professor, CNN Analyst, Grip Mobility CEO, well-known national security expert and former Obama Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem says clearly: “Mark Meadows, just three words: call your lawyer.”
The protestors were acting fearlessly, as if someone had given them blanket immunity. From @RollingStone, which has been doing terrific work, we may now know why. Mark Meadows, just three words: call your lawyer. @hunterw @NoahShachtman https://t.co/a9Ma3EMXlz
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) October 25, 2021
Marc Elias, a top election law attorney who oversaw the 50-state response to the Trump campaign’s attempts contesting the 2020 election for the DNC calls for every member of Congress involved to be “expelled.”
Every Member of Congress who was involved should be expelled.
Every staffer who was involved should be fired.
Every lawyer who was involved should be disbarred.https://t.co/hsUqo9oFi6
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 25, 2021
Elie Mystal, the Justice Correspondent for The Nation says this is a matter for the DOJ:
People think this is what the Jan 6 committee is for but really this is what the Department of Justice is for. https://t.co/dxRl5kOpMt
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) October 25, 2021
“The potential that Members of Congress were deeply involved in the failed Trump Coup is another reason AG Garland must appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Jan. 6th,” says former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean, who also makes clear this is a matter for DOJ. “There are Congressional staff who can testify to the involvement of Members.”
Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor for 30 years, is calling it the “mother of all cover-ups.”
Attorney Maya Wiley, an MSNBC and NBC News Legal Analyst and senior vice president for social justice at The New School says it “Certainly explains how hard GOP tried to derail” the January 6 Committee.
‘We’re in Trouble’: Steve Schmidt Issues Dire Warning About Changed GOP After January 6th Insurrection
Appearing on MSNBC’s the 11th Hour with host Brian Williams, former GOP campaign consultant Steve Schmidt warned that Democrats need to accept that the Republican Party has changed drastically after four years of Donald Trump and the Jan 6th riot — and failure to recognize that simple fact puts the entire country at risk.
Using one of Schmidt’s tweets where he called Trump’s “truth” a “hideous deception” as a jumping-off point, the former Republican warned, “We’re in trouble.”
“Objectively, since the insurrection on Jan 6th, the Republican Party is far more radical,” Schmidt began. “Far more committed to the lie that Trump has told, fully committed to the authoritarian movement.”
“Should the events repeat themselves, the Republican Party is in a much different place than it was this past election with regard to being prepared to subvert the legal and lawful results,” he continued.
“The Democrats have done nothing since coming into office,” he added. “They have done nothing to prevent any of the abuses we have seen, done nothing to harden any of the infrastructures”
He later added, “This is a serious moment.”
Republicans Just Filibustered a Critical Voting Rights Bill. Here’s Why Everyone Is Blaming Joe Manchin.
Minutes ago Senate Republicans filibustered critical voting rights legislation – actually, filibustered debate on voting rights legislation. They refused to even allow debate on protecting the most important, most critical element of a democracy: the right and the ability to vote.
“If there is anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it is protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out,” Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after Republicans blocked debate on the bill.
While Republicans absolutely should be and are being held accountable, many on social media are blaming Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) for the failure to pass the Freedom to Vote Act.
Back in May Sen. Manchin insisted he could get Republicans to come to the table, to act in good faith, to do the right thing when it counted.
He insisted the filibuster had to be protected at all costs, and he’s steadfastly refused to budge on eliminating it. Even as Republicans in state after state after state enact anti-democratic legislation designed to make it harder and harder for people, especially minorities, to vote.
In short, he failed.
Not a single Republican crossed the aisle – much less ten to get the necessary 60 votes – not even to allow debate on protecting voting rights.
And now many are blaming Manchin.
That’s it. The bill will not move forward at this time. No more handwringing about compromises or baloney talk from Joe Manchin of winning over 10 Republicans. NOW IT IS TIME TO REFORM THE FILIBUSTER!
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 20, 2021
Can someone please ask @Sen_JoeManchin what happened to 10 Republicans he promised would support Freedom to Vote Act & how he plans to pass his voting rights bill without changing filibuster rules?
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) October 20, 2021
Joe Manchin on May 27, 2021 on why he refuses to reform the filibuster: “You have to have faith there’s 10 good people.”
There weren’t. Not even one. By Manchin’s own logic, there’s no longer any justification to retain the filibuster.pic.twitter.com/ty5mbCP40M
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) October 20, 2021
For real, though, Manchin’s theory of change — that Rs could be coaxed to support reasonable, moderate compromise on critical issues — has been disproven.
He said he had “faith there’s 10 good people” in the GOP caucus to support these bills. There are not.
— Dan Lavoie (@djlavoie) October 20, 2021
Asked last month about his plan to get the Freedom to Vote Act passed, Joe Manchin replied, “It’s to get 10 Republicans.”
Today, the bill got zero Republicans. https://t.co/HBckbx2nIi
— Steve Benen (@stevebenen) October 20, 2021
I thought Joe Manchin was going to find 10 GOP votes for this bill??? https://t.co/cKixpLhITm
— Tim Fullerton (@TimFullerton) October 20, 2021
This was the bill that Joe Manchin insisted on writing himself because he assured us all he could get 10 Republicans to support it. Turns out this was just another stall tactic by Manchin to keep us in idle while the clock ticks down to Too Late.
— Mattie Gage — Please Wear A Mask–I voted for Joe (@BlueSkyDays17) October 20, 2021
Manchin helped write a voter protection law bill in place of the one we had. In doing so, he said he was confident he could get 10 republicans to vote for it. Well they vote on this voter protection act today and it’s being said not one Republican will vote for it. FAILED! pic.twitter.com/RYQJJprLpe
— katherine ✌🏻❤️🎸🌎🧚🌺🌼🌸 (@katherineOma) October 20, 2021
Bear in mind this is Joe Manchin’s baby, the bill he swore up and down would get 10 @GOP votes if only Democrats would stop trying to lead.
So much for that.
— Max Burns (@themaxburns) October 20, 2021
I think it’s time to turn Joe Manchin into a balloon animal because he would provide more joy in that way then being a senator because almost everything he does makes society worse. 10 republicans my ass. Throw in Kyrsten Sinema too
— Älia Meth 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@meth_alia) October 20, 2021
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