Feeding frenzy: stripping away LGBTQueue rights

Many of us knew in 2017 that an end of era was upon us. We were criticized and laughed at, even by other liberals, for our fear of a right-wing take-over. Comparisons to Hand’s Maid Tale became popular, but eyes rolled hard at this comparison. Referring to certain politicians and leaders as Nazis and fascist were met with derision. Those of us concerned were called fear-mongers and told to calm down.

Well, folks, here we are. It’s 2023, and the shift we’ve watched in horror within the Republican party through the last few years,have morphed into a full-on werewolf. Teeth bared, they tower over several states, claws ripping democracy to shreds. A steady hunt creeps across the country. And now, those of us who rang the bell in 2017 don’t seem so silly.

Republicans are targeting protections for people of color, people impacted by food insecurity and homelessness, disabled people, women, non-Christians, LGBTQ people. What is happening does not belong in a democracy; this is textbook fascism. In particular, Republican-led legislators are on a hunt to erase LGBTQ people from existence. In 2022, 315 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced across the US, which was a record. Ninety percent of these bills failed to pass into law. So, in 2023, after recent elections, Republicans are in a blood-rage, introducing and passing bills like it’s a feeding frenzy.

Several states have passed, or are in the process of passing legislation that removes freedoms for LGBTQ people, creating a dangerous climate, especially for trans people.

• Utah passed a banned healthcare for transgender youth.

• Alabama passed several anti-trans bills, including criminalizing parents for gender-affirming care and censored material and conversations on LGBTQ issues.

• An Oklahoma judge ruled that a gay mom must give up rights to her child to the sperm donor.

• Florida passed its Don’t Say Gay bill, among others.

• South Dakota passed legislation banning gender-affirming care to youth, and criminalizing doctors who provide this care.

More than 300 similar bills have been introduced in state legislators in 2023. There is no war on Christianity, no war on men, no war on white people. Follow the records, you can see who war is being waged on.

Asking you to sit in a booth next to a gay man at McDonald’s, is not a war on you.

Asking you to work on a team with a transgender co-worker, is not war on you.

Asking your children to learn about the world and its diversity, teaching them to be kind, respectful, generous adults, is not a war on you.

What is war is asking people to deny who they are. Dismantling protections, ensuring everyone has a right to live and exist is criminal. Asking you to occasionally interact with an LGBTQ person did nothing to your legal rights. You created a made-up war, because you’re ingrained in toxic, patriarchal ideals. The culture war is waged by you; you’re the one breaking the peace.

News this week has a developing story about the concern over how The New York Times covers stories about transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people. More than 30,000 people have signed an open letter, including NY Times reporters, editors, contributors, subscribers and readers, demanding action.

A few of the issues the open letter addresses are an article supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation in Alabama and the NY Times labeling gender diversity as a new phenomenon, and an OpEd in defense of J. K. Rowling.

And without fail, critics, most looming in far-right corners, are calling transgender and gender-nonconforming people bullies. Sure, taking issue with how your community is represented and demanding change equates to bullies. Wonder how this would play out if it were a bunch of white, straight men demanding change. Would they be labeled bullies? Doubt it.

I can anticipate the arguments. I can hear them echo in my head.

“We’re not saying it’s wrong to be gay or trans. We just think there’s a way to go about things.”

“It’s freedom of speech; people are allowed to share their opinion.”

“You are just trying to silence those you disagree with. It’s okay to disagree.”

Here’s the thing, people are not political issues. Needs and identities should not be up for debate. I don’t like assholes who mansplain, and then get defensive when I point out how wrong their argument is, but I’m not insisting we introduce bills stripping rights from them. Although, maybe we should. Because it’s these assholes making life difficult for so many people.

Calling LGBTQ people and their allies bullies for demanding change and action is just a distraction, a loophole to fire up the far-right base. And let’s not mince words- if you voted Republican, you’re now a part of the far-right. Claiming people with differing opinions are allowed to share their opinions is moot, because it’s not an opinion to hold whether LGBTQ people belong or are real; it’s a fact.

The bully argument is an illusion that does not engage in a dialogue, but is intended solely to perpetuate myths and mischaracterizations about Queer people, allowing state-after-state to pass legislation that is harmful to LGBTQ people.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, if you don’t have skin in this game, sit down and shut the fuck up. If you don’t have a lived experience, and you don’t know people with said lived experience in your circle, perhaps you don’t have the perspective required to form an opinion.

When the majority of a group of people say something is a problem, maybe we need to listen instead of criticizing the methods they use to make us aware of the problem. Instead of thinking with compassion and empathy, you stick to the same playlist, insisting people with an experience different from yours don’t have the same rights to protest and demand change. You don’t get to call non-criminal methods criminal just because you don’t understand the issue, or are uncomfortable with it.

Non-disabled people shouldn’t get to tell disabled people what we need, what services and programs are offered to us. When we lift our voices and demand change, equitable treatment and fair representation, non-disabled people literally have nothing to add to the conversation, because it’s not their lived experience, it doesn’t impact them. And they don’t get to tell us how to use our voice, where to use our voice or the words we use for change.

I feel the same way about being a woman and a body with a uterus. If you were born male and still identify as male, you should have no say in my body, my rights. And certainly not how I choose to inform the world about women’s issues.

LGBTQ people are not committing crimes. This open letter is not a criminal act. Despite what the NY Times and you think, trans and LGBTQ people have existed since the beginning of time. Only recently has it been safe for many to reveal their true selves. But now, a fascist regime is hell-bent on stripping rights from human-beings. These are the criminals; these are the bullies.

I don’t know about you, but when a bully pushes me, I fucking push back.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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