It's Always an Option to Just MYOB
The former party of "small government" turns into the party of deranged busybodies, launching unprecedented attacks on trans people's mere right to exist.
One of the most depressing things about the last few years has been the reemergence of the religious right, and the way what used to be known as the Moral Majority has cast off any claim to morality and melded with the the white supremacist authoritarians of the Trumpist right to create a force that is somehow much worse than the sum of its parts. We’ve seen this force emboldened by the Supreme Court overturning Roe, but we’ve also seen it chastened within the GOP by vast midterm losses thanks to a pro-choice voter backlash.
That doesn’t mean it’s backing down on abortion. It does mean it’s being quieter on abortion — and getting a lot louder and more aggressive in its attacks on transgender and gay people.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers are pushing a rash anti-trans bills, some of which seem to have come from the warped fantasies of deranged busybodies, and others that are truly shocking in their unapologetic embrace of age-old bigotries and their incursions into the private lives of other adults. You really should read this New York Times article, because, no matter how you feel about the so-called “transgender debates,” what’s happening in many states should be appalling to anyone who values the basic individual freedoms every American should enjoy. For example:
Legislation in Oklahoma and South Carolina would make it a felony to provide hormonal or surgical transition treatment to transgender people younger than 26 — an uncharted incursion into adults’ health care. Other bills in both states, and in Kansas and Mississippi, would ban such care up to age 21. And bills in more than a dozen states would ban it for minors, which Arkansas was the first to do in 2021, against the consensus of major medical organizations.
A bill in Mississippi — declaring that “separate is not inherently unequal,” an allusion to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 ruling in which the Supreme Court upheld segregation — would define sex as immutably set at birth, denying transgender identities under state law. A measure in West Virginia would define “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display” as obscene, potentially outlawing transgender people’s presence around children.
When you’re leaning on Plessy v. Ferguson to declare that “separate is not inherently unequal,” you’ve lost the plot — or maybe you know exactly the audience you’re speaking to.
I don’t know of any other law that limits medical care to people over the age of 25. If I want to get breast enhancement surgery, I can walk into any plastic surgery clinic in the country and sign right up. If I want to get new boobs so large that I can not exercise, breastfeed, or stand straight up without discomfort, I may have a challenging time finding a surgeon, but there’s no law preventing me from altering my body in a way that others find weird, or would even argue is damaging. I mean, I can tattoo my whole face if I want! I can mess with my reproductive organs, too — there are all kinds of vulva and vagina surgeries that aren’t only medically unnecessary but reduce female pleasure and experience in the service of aesthetics. I personally think surgeries to give yourself a Barbie vulva for cosmetic reasons are profoundly harmful but, as far as I know, adult women aren’t generally legally barred from having them, and certainly don’t have to jump through nearly as many hoops as trans people do to access surgery or hormones.
Even more appalling, though, are the proposed laws that would make obscene “any transvestite and/or transgender exposure, performances or display.” What is a “transgender display”? What is “transgender exposure”? Because that sounds a lot like… a trans person just walking down the street.
There’s also the issue with how “trans people” are defined in some of these bills. To whit:
One in Nebraska, for instance, would apply to any show whose “main aspect” is “a performer which exhibits a gender identity that is different than the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, or other physical markers; and the performer sings, lip syncs, dances, or otherwise performs before an audience for entertainment.”
So what, like, k.d. lang? Annie Lennox? David Bowie? Harry Styles?
This is all flatly absurd. It’s an attack on trans people and, let’s be honest, it’s just an attack on fun and pleasure. The anti-trans movement has homed in on trans kids and kids who are questioning their gender identity, because that can be fraught territory. But these laws are not about children; they are about criminalizing adults simply for existing and doing their thing.
It is useful to learn, as an adult, that most people in the world do not live or believe like you do, and that’s fine. Life is a rich tapestry, and there are tons of people you are going to think are living the wrong way, or are weird, or are gross, or whatever. I personally cannot wrap my head around why most women marry the men they do, even though I am myself married to man. I am horrified and flummoxed by all kinds of things people choose to do, including choices people make that I think are objectively bad for them: choosing to eat fast food ever day; choosing to drive massive trucks that are wholly unnecessary for their work or lifestyle; voting for Donald Trump; converting to Scientology. But part of being a grown-up in the world is saying, welp, people get to make their own decisions, even if I think those decisions are bad or weird or wrong, and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else, it’s none of my beeswax.
For the record, I don’t think being trans is bad or weird or wrong; I think being trans is morally neutral, part of the fabric of life. I do think it’s pretty great when people find alignment in their lives between who they are on the inside and how they present on the outside; I think that is a gift that too few of us ever get to experience, and when you see it, man, it’s beautiful.
So I’m not really making this “mind ya business” argument for most of you who read this newsletter, who I would guess are pretty on board with the whole “let trans people live” thing. I’m making it for those who are uncomfortable, or don’t understand, or think being trans is unnatural or even an abomination. Ok! You can think that, and I can think you’re wrong, and that’s actually a totally fine state of things. There are probably more than a few things about your life that I find abominable and morally unacceptable, too, and that I would ban if I were a narcissistic busybody who wanted everyone else to conform to my narrow way of living.
What crosses a line is trying to regulate the hurts-no-one-but-maybe-you stuff out of existence. And no, “what about the children?!” is not an argument here. I wouldn’t feed my kids fast food on the regular or take them to a church that doesn’t allow women behind the pulpit, but it’s also not going to kill them to know that you do things differently.
The existence of transgender people is not bad for children. Drag shows are not venues for “grooming,” they are just fun performances. And children, if you’ve ever been around them, are often champion cross-dressers, because many children have not yet had creativity and playfulness and experimentation knocked out of them by small-minded adults.
Also: A home with a gun in it is objectively much more dangerous to children than a drag show or an Elliot Page film.
In any event: You are welcome to believe whatever you want about what other adults do with their bodies, what their genitals should look like, and what clothes and makeup they should or should not wear. But you are not welcome to legislate your personal preferences.
And you are always, always welcome to realize that other people are sometimes going to do things you don’t understand, and that you have the perpetual option of just leaving them alone.