20
Sat, Jul

What A Drag: "I Am What They Are Scared Of"

SAY WHAT?

SAY WHAT? - Sigh. ignoble House Republicans just took on "our raging national problem" - trans athletes, not gun carnage - in their fervent crusade to target and torment queer, trans, drag or other "others" out of existence. But facing a "goose-stepping dance line" where governance has become bad performance art, many are fighting back: With underwear, walk-outs, marches, much glitter, ceaseless filibusters and the first drag storytime in Lauren Boebert's district. The moral: "The world doesn’t need more hate these days."

Disagreeing, and intent on using their taxpayer-funded power in yet another hateful, pointless, trans-fixated charade, thus did the House just debate and pass HR 734, a “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023" that critics call a sick mixture of "vile misgendering" and grotesque misogyny - its threatened genital exams would never be inflicted on men - aimed at ostracizing an already powerless group for political gain. Ignoring and misstating the complexity of transgender issues, the bill would prevent trans girls from playing sports at schools that get federal funds by banning a person "whose sex is male" from participating in an athletic program "designated for women or girls." Because never mind all those recent stories of kids gunned down for knocking on the wrong door or turning in the wrong driveway: GOP lawmakers have their pudgy fingers on the now-tenuous pulse of the nation when they righteously proclaim, "We are in a battle for the very survival of women's sports." No, say critics, these bills just "tell some of the most vulnerable children in our country that they do not belong...Shame on you." “This isn’t about a problem that needs a solution, but about politicians looking for a target," charged Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.). "We want freedom and liberty for all...and they want the government to be in children’s pants. Disgusting.”

While the bill has no chance of passing the Senate, it's chilling to see a GOP Congress follow in the ugly footsteps of state lawmakers so intent on other-ing any humans different from them they've proposed over 400 bills nationwide targeting the trans and queer community. Over 20 states have imposed bans or limits on trans athletes; book bans are spreading like...book-burning fires, led by Florida and Texas; at least 14 bills seek to ban drag shows or story hours, which evidently pose an extra scary danger with all that hair spray: Montana would fine any school or employee $5,000 for letting a minor attend, Nebraska could arrest a minor who attends, South Carolina - "Defense of Children’s Innocence" - makes it a felony to allow a minor to attend. Florida, where "every day is Homophobia and Transphobia Day" thanks to kill-all-the-wokety-woke Gov. Little Mussolini, wants to declare drag shows “an immediate, serious danger to the public health (or) welfare,” punishing venues that admit minors to an "adult live performance" so broadly defined it could include a pride parade. This week, De las Santitas - “She among the little saints” - also unilaterally expanded their "Don't Say Gay" law through high school (after he'd said he wouldn't) to add to a likely ban of healthcare for trans minors and anti-trans bathroom rules. Up next: "Brown shirts, with armbands optional." 

Still, people are fighting back against these yahoos in diverse and often entertaining ways. This week, rights advocates dropped dozens of pairs of underwear emblazoned with "Leave my genitals alone" and "Fascism has no place in Florida" onto lawmakers debating those three measures, which transform the House into what Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby calls a "thunderdome of hate." In Nebraska, lawmakers haven't passed a single bill because tireless Dem state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has been filibustering for almost two months - speaking up to 12 hours a day about trans rights, the plot of Madagascar, her love of au gratin potatoes - to block a bill that would prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming care to minors seeking it. In February, she vowed she would "burn this session to the ground over this bill." Still at it today, Cavanaugh argues, "If the GOP decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful." Calling the new fixation on and dehumanizing of one segment of the population "a significant moment in time and in our history,” she insists, "If we don’t stand in the way, we may as well be joining the attack.” She's been joined by the equally fiery Sen. Megan Hunt, whose trans child has struggled to get care Hunt deems "a basic human rights issue." "No one in the world holds a grudge like me," she warned her colleagues. "I don't like you." 

In Nebraska and elsewhere, the kids too are striking back. Friday, students in Florida (again!) are promising the largest ever walk-out to protest "an authoritarian takeover (of) public education," with "the government censoring and erasing our history, culture and identities." The event will feature multiple rallies, voter registration drives, a 5-minute banned history lesson, the chance to enroll in a virtual, accredited, college-level black history course, and, if schools try to retaliate, lawyers to support them. In Kansas last month, a crowd of over 200 defiant queer and transgender kids, and their families, marched on the Statehouse to protest several appalling GOP measures: To restrict gender-affirming care, ban trans kids from playing with their cisgender peers (WTF), and establish a charged definition of "woman" that would exclude them from gender-specific public spaces - thus essentially making them disappear. Chanting, "We’re here. We’re queer. We’re not going anywhere" and holding signs - “I want my friends to live," "Make no mistake: They are killing us," "I'd rather have a trans kid than a dead one" - they insisted they won't go back in the closet, and they will vote. During a rally, many kids stepped up to tell their stories. “I can’t believe that I, a child, has to explain why I deserve to live, to breathe and to be happy," said Ian Benalcázar, a 13-year-old trans boy. “I am what they are scared of."

Finally, because "leave it to drag to make Republicans less of a drag," the queens are stepping up in platform heels and tiaras - including, for the first time, smack dab in the middle of Lauren Boebert's district. In a sweet blow against Boebert's up-front, longtime bigotry - she's mocked Pete Buttigieg's parental leave, opposed trans health care, attacked trans athletes, suggested kids shouldn't see queer TV characters (probably groomers), and warned drag queens to “stay away” from kids in her district, who besides should be in church, probably with guns - the Roaring Fork Divas came to Glenwood Springs' Bluebird Cafe to read for a Drag Story Time, picking their own books centered on self-love, inclusivity, the origins of Pride. "Visibility can be life-saving," organizers said, and the kids and parents loved what Steve Arauza called the "explosion of color and love." For more, enter the wondrous world of the “RuPublicans,” with its AI-generated images of GOP mucky-mucks in gaudy high drag, its creators note, "just as over-the-top and ridiculous as the false narratives around drag." Because they "appreciate the art and what it has done for so many," cue Mother Pence in pink feathers, a turquoise Lady Graham Cracker, SCOTUS' Claretta Corrupta, Texas' Cruzella Deville and a beefy Rhonda Shanty with "the only books left in Florida." Fuck these goons and their hate; drown 'em in glitter.

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected]  This article was featured in CommonDreams.org.)