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On the Backlash to The Equality Act and Its Odd Bedfellows

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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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COMMENTARY

Barr Blasted for Defending Trump and Claiming ‘Children’ Don Jr., Eric, and Ivanka Should Not Be Part of Fraud Case

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Former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr is defending Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump after New York Attorney General Tish James announced she is suing them, the family business, and other people associated with their business in a massive civil fraud case.

James says she expects to be able to stop Trump from engaging in certain business operations in the state of New York, after alleging he fraudulently inflated and deflated the value of his assets based on if it would help or hurt him.

Barr, who gained a brief moment of praise from Americans for making clear Trump should not have stolen classified government documents and should have returned them, is being equally criticized after going to bat for the Trump family.

READ MORE: NY AG Referring Criminal Charges Against Trump to the Feds, Alleges He ‘Grossly Inflated’ Net Worth by ‘Billions’

Despite years of investigations from James’ Office and other investigations, like out of the Manhattan DA’s office, Barr called the filing of charges a “political hit job” and “gross overreach,” while suggesting the actual case against Trump and his family is meritless.

“It’s hard for me not to conclude that this is a political hit job,” Barr said Wednesday on Fox News. “I’m not even sure that she has a good case against Trump himself, but what ultimately persuades me that this is a political hit job is that she grossly overreaches when she tries to drag the children into this.”

It was that phrase, “the children,” that angered many.

Donald Trump, Jr. is 44, Ivanka Trump is 40, and Eric Trump is 38.

Barr, who has a history of  using cherry-picked information focused on one aspect of James’ massive 220-page, $250 million lawsuit.

READ MORE: ‘Lacks Courage’: Experts Question Why Alvin Bragg ‘Stood Down’ on Trump Criminal Case After Bombshells in Civil Suit

Barr complained, “this is [Trump’s] personal financial statement, prepared by the CFO, accounting firms were involved in it.”

“The children aren’t going to know the details of that, nor are they expected in the real world to do their own due diligence and have it reviewed independently.”

Those “children” were or still are officers of The Trump Organization, and other Trump businesses. Given that Trump has created his empire as “pass-through” businesses, some have said they had an obligation to know what the valuations of the businesses were — and certainly once Trump became president, Eric and Don Jr., some might say, had a greater responsibility since their father told the American people he was stepping away from the business.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes did not hold back in his criticism of Barr, tweeting, “‘drag the children’ is an amazing phrase for grown-ass adults.”

“These ‘children’ were senior executives who ran the company,” reminds Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor. “Eric, for example, is 38 years old and took the Fifth over 500 times in his deposition in this matter.”

“When it’s infants being taken from their parents at the border, it’s ‘Oh well, sucks for them, shouldn’t’ve broken the law,’ but when it’s a 44yo, a 40yo and a 38yo doing white-collar crimes, it’s ‘HOW CAN THESE PRECIOUS CHERUBS POSSIBLY BE EXPECTED TO KNOW HOW THE WORLD WORKS?’,” tweeted journalist Bonnie Stiernberg.

“Bill Barr claimed on Fox News that it was a ‘gross overreach’ for AG James to sue Trump’s children,” says attorney and political commentator Dean Obeidallah. “Those ‘kids’ are currently Trump corporate officers in case of Don Jr/Eric while Ivanka is a former officer. They were personally involved in the wrongdoing. They HAD to be sued.”

“It’s amazing how white people can remain children well into their 40’s but black children are adults as soon as they can reach the counter,” responded author Patrick S. Tomlinson.

Attorney Dave Johnson sums it all up.

“N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law §715(h): ‘An officer shall perform his duties as an officer in good faith and with that degree of care which an ordinarily prudent person in a like position would use under similar circumstances.’ Barr is indisputably and intentionally lying to the public.”

Watch above or at this link.

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COMMENTARY

Critics Slam Reporters Over Obsession With Biden Flying to Vote in Delaware: ‘Desperate for a Scandal’

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Fascism and right wing extremism, the cost of rent and groceries, power outages, and voter registration in response to the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade are all on the rise, but White House reporters and the mainstream media Tuesday night were obsessed not with those issues facing Americans but with one question: Why did President Joe Biden fly to Delaware that evening to vote in his state’s primary election?

And they’re paying the price, at least from critics angered at what they see is the nationwide mainstream media desperate for a Biden scandal that does not exist, forcing them to try to create one out of thin air.

Bloomberg News and Bloomberg Business were among the most obsessed with what many on social media felt was a non-story.

READ MORE: FBI Grabbing Mike Lindell’s Phone May Yield Info on Fascist White Supremacist and Christian Nationalist He Is Bankrolling

“President Biden, who depended on mail-in votes to win office in 2020, unexpectedly flew Air Force One to his home state of Delaware on Tuesday to cast a primary election ballot in-person,” Bloomberg Business Executive editor for U.S. Government news Mike Shepard wrote in a tweet promoting Bloomberg News White House Correspondent Jordan Fabian’s report: “Biden Jets to Delaware to Vote Instead of Using Mail Ballot.”

Melody Murphy, the chief brand officer for Louisville, Kentucky’s Metro United Way, responded by summing up what many others were saying: “This is not news. Thankful for a President that exercises his right to vote as all of us should. So many other things to report on.”

Susan Bordson, a communications consultant also responded to Shepard’s tweet, saying, “Desperate for a scandal, eh?”

“I smell desperation from some of the DC Beltway newsrooms that primarily market themselves as *DC insider gossip* publications to have a scandal. They’re SCRAPING,” she added.

How big a story did the media want this to be?

READ MORE: Judge Unseals More of Mar-a-Lago Search Affidavit That Appears to Confirm Trump ‘Did Play a Role’: Fmr. Fed. Prosecutor

Politico’s White House Bureau Chief Jonathan Lemire, an MSNBC host and frequent commentator, was among the first to report the news, kicking off the rush to report with a very incomplete tweet.

“NEW,” Lemire wrote for maximum attention. “President Biden and the First Lady are leaving the White House to make an unannounced trip to Wilmington, Delaware.”

To the average American that easily could sound like a crisis. Was the president sick?

25 minutes later Lemire added this tweet, explaining, finally, that the President was off to vote:

CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O’Keefe posted four tweets Wednesday morning about the President’s trip to vote, reporting on questions the White House press secretary was forced to field.

“Aboard AF1 to Detroit, @PressSec pressed by reporters on why @POTUS and @FLOTUS flew back to Delaware Tues. for primary day and didn’t vote early in person or absentee,” O’Keefe tweeted.

READ MORE: ‘Many Crimes’: Hannity Mocked for Defending Trump by Scrolling Long List of Investigations

“In response, @PressSec said the president has maintained a busy schedule and ‘It worked out best for him to vote on Tuesday. He thought it best for him’ to vote in person. (But the president was home in Delaware Saturday and had nothing on his schedule besides afternoon mass.),” he added.

His last tweet on the topic reads: “Should add: @PressSec said @POTUS and @FLOTUS Biden wanted to vote in person in part to thank election officials and poll volunteers, who’ve been the subject of scrutiny and harassment in recent years like never before.”

Responses to O’Keefe’s Twitter thread were angry.

One read: “You realize that the President was modeling democracy and showcasing the importance of everyone engaging in the civic process of voting, correct? Jesus. This country is in the grave political peril that is because of the national media and rubes like this.”

Blomoberg’s Jennifer Jacobs, one of the most prolific reporters during the Trump years, frequently serving up important scoops, was also among those focused on President Biden’s travels, posting several tweets about the news.

Daily Kos’ political director David Nir responded, “On top of everything else wrong with this tweet, there *was* a very important statewide primary for auditor. The incumbent was convicted of corruption in July and got ousted tonight. So this tetchy complaint isn’t even accurate.”

Economist David Rothschild, a frequent commentator, added: “(1) Good example to vote in all elections (2) Previous president flew masses of US employees each weekend to his resorts, then charged US millions to house and feed them.”

National security and civil liberties journalist Marcy Wheeler also weighed in, blasting Jacobs:

“Jennifer Jacobs’ big scoops about Trump were that he and several other people in the White House were lying about COVID Dxes. Her big scoop about Joe Biden is that he did his civic duty.”

Attorney Eugene Freedman also served up criticism of Jacobs’ tweets.

“The extremist takeover of school boards is based on this mentality that they are not high-profile elections, so they’re not worth voting. It’s why books are banned. It’s why state legislatures are gerrymandering state & Congressional districts. All elections are important!”

Will Stancil, a policy researcher at the University of Minnesota, responded to one of Jacob’s tweets, saying: “The last president tried to hold G8 at his private resort, moved White House operations to his other private resort for half the year, and regularly charged the government for stays at his corruption hotel, and you’re gonna complain about Biden using government resources to VOTE?”

 

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COMMENTARY

Mike Lindell Is Bankrolling White Nationalist Christian Fascist Vincent James

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For years, right-wing conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell has been using his fortune to fund a wide variety of far-right efforts. In addition to spending tens of millions of dollars pushing the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, Lindell has long used his MyPillow company to provide financing to right-wing media outlets and activists by allowing broadcasters to receive a portion of the profits whenever their audience purchases MyPillow products using targeted coupon codes.

White nationalist Vincent James has become the latest far-right voice to benefit from Lindell’s largess, announcing during a livestream broadcast last Thursday that Lindell recently offered him just such a personalized code for his Daily Veracity website.

This has been going on for for a week now. Big shout out to Mike Lindell. Can we get a capital W’s in the chat for white Mike Lindell? Because he has given us an opportunity to sell some pillows on DailyVeracity.com, which is awesome. We get like 50 percent of whatever you get from MyPillow.com with the [coupon code] ‘VinceJames.’

Mike Lindell, [I] got off the phone with him. He’s like, ‘Vince, we need you to sell some MyPillows for us.’ And I’m like, ‘Say no more, fam. Give me a code.’ ‘VinceJames’ is the code. You could buy a pillow and I get like 50 percent of whatever you spend on MyPillow, which is fucking awesome. Big shout out, big 07s in chat; let’s get a big 07s in chat to Mr. white Mike Lindell, to the white man himself.

The code ‘VinceJames’ does in fact give buyers a significant discount on MyPillow products:

James currently serves as the treasurer of the white nationalist organization America First and is an unapologetic racist, antisemite, misogynist, conspiracy theorist, and fascist who declares that when Christian nationalists such as himself seize power, they intend to “dominate without mercy.”

What would a nation under the control of someone like Vincent James look like?

LGBTQ people would be thrown off of buildings and have their children kidnapped by government task forces.

Women would not be allowed to vote, wear pants, or have any rights.

In short, it would look exactly likeThe Handmaid’s Tale” but “even worse.”

There can be no denying that Mike Lindell is now using his corporation to fund overt Christian fascism.

 

This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.

 

 

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