“I used to think people like you should be, you know, exterminated,” the nice young man said to me. “But after listening to you speak, I’ve really changed my mind!”
This was after a lecture I’d given a few years ago at a college in Ohio. He looked at me proudly, clearly hoping that I’d be cheered that my words had opened his heart.
But that word, “exterminated,” tempered my happiness somewhat.
Sometimes I forget that there are people who want to wipe me off the face of the earth.
I forget, even though the Trump administration does its best to remind me, every day. For the last three and a half years, this administration has done all it can to make the lives of queer people more miserable. I suppose it’s trying to push back on our “gay agenda.” You know, the one in which people like me keep asking for “special rights.”
What are these special rights I want? The same ones everybody else has. What is my gay agenda? It is the hope to live my life in peace.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court finally issued its ruling on Bostock v. Clayton County, a long-awaited decision that would determine whether it was legal to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender. It was with happy surprise that I saw that the court had ruled in favor of the L.G.B.T.Q. plaintiff, 6-to-3. Remarkably, the majority opinion was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the man whom Senator Mitch McConnell had wrangled onto the court after refusing to even consider President Barack Obama’s more liberal nominee, Merrick Garland.
Even in his dissent, Justice Brett Kavanaugh gave us a little rainbow shout-out, admitting that gay men and lesbians have “worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit, battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives.”
That was nice of him, although it’d have been nicer if his words hadn’t erased bisexual and trans Americans. It’d also have been nice if he’d, you know, voted yes.
But a win is a win. Until then, it had been a thoroughly miserable June for transgender people and our allies — and that’s not even counting the pandemic, the national economic collapse and the curse of police violence.
Last week, the author J.K. Rowling felt it necessary to unveil a screed against trans folks that ran to nearly 4,000 words, and read like a greatest-hits list of false statements and groundless fears.
She stated that trans men transition because being a woman is hard; they do not. She stated that trans women pose a threat to others in the ladies’ room; we do not. In fact, more Republican congressmen have been busted for causing trouble in public lavatories than trans women. But no one wants to throw them out of the Coast Guard.
The effect of Ms. Rowling’s manifesto was immediate and passionate — I heard from many young L.G.B.T.Q. people who’d grown up reading her books who responded to her words with sadness and fury. Surely Ms. Rowling was familiar with a series of books about a group of outcasts who were treated differently simply because of who they were?
It was nice that Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint all have released eloquent and unambiguous statements in support of trans people. I was especially cheered to see Mr. Grint join the fray — surely, Ms. Rowling, when you’ve lost Ron Weasley, you’ve lost everybody.
But it’s one thing to contend with hate from a famous children’s author and another when it comes from the most powerful government in the world. Later that week, the Trump administration finalized the change it had been threatening to the civil rights provisions of the Affordable Care Act, removing trans people from its protections. In future, the Department of Health and Human Services will apply those provisions only on the basis of “male or female and as determined by biology.”
Does it not occur to these people that trans people are who they are, in part, as a function of biology? Or that there is by now a broad understanding that gender is complex, shaped by a wide range of factors in addition to chromosomes? I suspect not; science has never been the chief concern of social conservatives.
Or of this administration. “This rule change serves no other purpose than to target and discriminate against L.G.B.T.Q. people,” said Sasha Buchert, an attorney at Lambda Legal, an organization dedicated to defending the civil rights of queer people. “The cruelty is the point.”
As Pride Months go, you could say this particular June has failed to cheer me.
And yet, there are signs of hope. Tens of thousands of people gathered nationwide on Sunday to take part in marches supporting trans people of color. This was in response to the murder of two trans women of color last week — Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, 27, of Philadelphia, and Riah Milton, 25, of Cincinnati.
“I believe in my power,” the activist Raquel Willis said at the rally in Brooklyn. “I believe in your power. I believe in our power. I believe in black trans power.”
The plague of murder and violence against trans people — at least 14 souls killed so far this year — is a national shame. But to see so many people gathered to fight back did lift my spirits.
And I was cheered, of course, to see the Supreme Court rule in our favor on Monday. Still, it’s infuriating that this case ever made it all the way to the Supreme Court in the first place.
I am tired of participating in debates about whether or not I deserve the same rights as everybody else.
I am tired of famous authors punching down to hurt and dehumanize some of the most vulnerable people on earth.
I am tired of being erased. I am tired of having to look into the eyes of a young man who has just told me, proudly, that I changed his mind about whether or not I should be exterminated, like a deer tick or a carpet beetle.
As the Supreme Court decision says, “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” And “every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”
Just kidding. That wasn’t the court. That was from the books of J.K. Rowling.