New York celebrates LGBT+ Pride Month (Photo: BRENDAN MCDERMID via REUTERS)
LGBT – June is the month of LGBT+ celebrations, visibility and political marches. And perhaps even more so in the United States, where the Stonewall riots took place in 1969. On May 31, it was undoubtedly in thinking of these early activists that American President Joe Biden officially proclaimed June 2022 as “the month to celebrate the generations of LGBTQI+ people who fought to ensure that our country provided equal opportunities for all Americans”.
A formula that sounds more like pious hope in the 2022 edition as many states across the country have multiplied this year the texts and bills aimed at restricting the rights of LGBT + people and more particularly trans people. A reactionary offensive which gives this month of June a particularly political coloring.
According to a count made by the NGO Human Rights Campaign, no less than 300 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced and sometimes signed in dozens of states in one year.
In blue, the states where LGBTphobic laws have been proposed, in red the states where texts have been adopted (Photo: Human Rights Campaign)
Trans people in the sights of the reactions
These numerous texts particularly target trans people and children as well as their families. And some proposals are particularly recent.
Earlier this month, Ohio passed a law prohibiting trans women from participating in female sports competitions at school or university. The law also specifies the “verification process” that may be requested in the event of a “report”. This step thus provides in particular for an examination of the internal and external genitalia, a particularly humiliating practice for athletes, some of whom are very young.
A text that has shocked many parents, but which unfortunately is part of a series of similar laws. In May, after Dakota, Arizona, Utah and Kentucky to name but a few, Indiana joined a cohort of more than fifteen states that limit the rights of trans athletes.
And sport is not the only area targeted. This spring, after a lengthy legal process, Texas again allowed investigations into parents and doctors of trans children. This law echoes a directive put in place by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, which equates certain “sex change” procedures concerning minors with “ill treatment”. This is enough to inspire Alabama which, in a text adopted in May, now threatens legal action against doctors providing gender-affirming care to trans people under the age of 19.
Stop saying “gay” or “trans”
This form of moral panic is essentially carried out under the pretext of protecting children. It is thus on the grounds of their protection that, following Florida’s example, North Carolina passed the law nicknamed “Don’t say gay or trans” in May. Concretely, this text of law prohibits discussing gender and sexual orientation in class. As for trans athletes, the law initially passed in Florida has also inspired similar texts in nearly a dozen other states. And pledge that this frenzy can concern all areas. Texas could soon crack down on drag queen shows by banning them for minors.
However, if children are at the heart of the Conservatives’ arguments, they could well be among the first victims of this legislative armada. “The institutionalization of these bills is a clear form of structural transphobia and homophobia, and it flies in the face of all public health evidence that supports creating a safe and supportive environment for young people and transgender, non-binary, queer, gay and lesbian teachers can flourish”, analysis for our colleagues from NPR, Arjee Restar, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington.
The roots of this “institutionalization” are deep and echo a narrative arc regularly used, and spawning with conspiracy, by the most conservative fringes of the political class, who regularly accuse LGBT people of “manipulating” or ” coax” children to “recruit” and abuse them. This was for example already the case in… 1977, when singer Anita Bryant launched her “Save the children” campaign.
A line of political campaign
But it is no coincidence that these speeches are currently returning in force across the Atlantic. These hateful messages have become a veritable totem of elected Conservatives, to the point that some have even produced and broadcast campaign clips specifically targeting trans athletes. And after Donald Trump’s tenure marked by offensive remarks towards minorities and a lackluster start to Joe Biden’s presidency, all eyes are now on the midterm elections next November.
Last December, in a long report, the independent expert for the United Nations, Victor Madrigal-Borloz thus recalled that anti-trans stories, beyond their obviously deleterious impact on the people concerned, are increasingly used to energize and galvanize the political bases with convincing results in electoral campaigns.
What also corners the Democrats, very difficult to hear on the subject, who are struggling to step up and formulate a convincing counter-attack on these issues. As for Joe Biden, he may be considered one of the most pro-LGBT presidents, but his room for maneuver in Washington remains limited.
It is in this sense that the Democratic president tried to weigh in at the end of May, by encouraging the rapid adoption of the Equality Act, which would prevent states from adopting LGBTphobic laws. Adopted in the House of Representatives without pitfalls, the text now skates in the Senate where the Democrats do not have an absolute majority.
The risk of a conservative tidal wave
Final adoption of this text would be an effective first defense as another titanic battle threatens to set the United States back decades. By the end of June, the US Supreme Court will give its opinion on the Roe V Wade decision, which authorizes abortion in the United States. A working document unveiled by Politico beginning of May showed that the eminent American institution was preparing to reconsider this right.
If the Supreme Court were indeed to question this judgment, it would then offer a real avenue to the most conservative elected officials to go even further in questioning the rights of LGBT people. Because the Roe V Wade judgment is based on the “right to privacy”, and it is on this argument that many texts in favor of more equality and quite simply respect for LGBT+ people are based.
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This article originally appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.