Republicans insist on home rule unless they think besieged minorities are getting uppity. Behold the Florida House:
Florida’s House bill is similar to legislation passed in Idaho, which was quickly challenged in federal court and is now on hold after a judge ruled the state cannot ban transgender students from sports teams. Similar bans have been signed into law by Republican governors in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. Lawmakers are debating them in dozens of other states.
The Senate version would allow transgender athletes to join girls’ or women’s teams if their testosterone levels are below a certain limit for a year before they begin competition.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, denied that the bill would ban transgender girls from playing. She argued that the bill “does not even mention the transgender language” and repeatedly referred to transgender girls using an anti-trans slur: “biological males.”
Having discarded with the relief of the morally constipated the fiction of believing in “fiscal conservatism” when Donald Trump raided the public larder, Republicans can turn their attention to what animates them: wanton cruelty to American citizens they can caricature. The attitude is not new. Writing during the Clinton impeachment about a political press whose nepotism and venality didn’t prevent them from affecting an unearned sanctimony, Greil Marcus remarked, “The secret weapon was that some belong in the United States, and some people don’t; that some are worthy, and some are worthless; that certain ideas and opinions are sanctified, and some are evil.”
No GOP legislator can point to a case where the boogeyman of a rapist preys on girls in bathrooms by pretending to be trans. “Perhaps they believe that, in picking a fight with children, they’ve chosen a war they can actually win,” Adam Serwer writes.
Conflicts between civil rights and religious freedom can certainly present thorny legal dilemmas, but most of what I’m describing here involves Republicans consciously choosing not to leave people alone. There was no threat to life or liberty that demanded same-sex-marriage bans, Sharia bans, or draconian state-level immigration laws. They embraced these causes because they believed that picking on these particular groups of people was good politics, because of their supporters’ animus toward them, and because they believed that their targets lacked the votes or political allies to properly fight back.
He refers to the attacks on trans Americans taking place in state after state with Republicans in the governor’s seat and majorities in legislatures. Thanks to ghouls like Samuel Alito, “religious freedom,” a concept as foreign to the Constitution as “liberty of contract,” has turned into a considerable weapon.
Finally, the human cost. To be queer is to dislike oxygen because it tastes like fear; to be queer is to dwell in a world where relatives and friends know its language and have learned its habits without sharing either with you. Transgender adolescents deal with an additional layer of disruption. “The capacity to invoke fear, whether of gods or humans, is all about power: who can act coercively, who can control thoughts and behaviors,” Ashon Crawley writes this week in a marvelous piece about the impact of Lil Nas X’s “Montero” video on her. It’s as if conservative legislators had indeed watched the video, and felt afraid themselves: their assumptions, appeals to an old order, and perhaps their own suppressed desires stirred by forces they can stifle with pieces of paper signed by governors.