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How Mike Johnson infuriated the anti-trans right

Hard-line anti-trans Republicans were incensed to see so many of their core propositions fail in the recent government funding fight.

Over the last couple years, trans people in the U.S. have been beaten down by anti-trans conservative state legislation, with dozens of states heavily restricting trans life, particularly for the youth. With President Joe Biden in office and Democrats narrowly holding the Senate, trans people in the U.S. have at least had a reprieve at the federal level. That break, however, was recently put into question. 

At the state level, restricting trans life has become one of the chief conservative policy goals, alongside restricting access to abortion, and some Republicans in Congress were hoping for their first big policy win federally. In negotiations over the massive $1.2 trillion budget deal that just passed Congress, Republicans pushed hard to add dozens of anti-trans riders. Their proposals included everything from barring federal funds from going to hospital systems that give puberty blockers to minors (essentially banning such blockers nationwide) to blocking federal funding for any form of gender-affirming care at any age. These bans would have rolled trans health care back several decades.

Hard-line anti-trans Republicans were incensed to see so many of their core propositions fail.

Fortunately, only one rider, a ban on using federal funds to fly Pride flags at U.S. embassies and military installations, successfully found its way into the final version of the bill. Some LGBTQ advocates were disappointed in the Biden administration and Democrats for giving in on the flag ban rider during negotiations. But with many likely worse proposals on the line, the compromise should be seen as a win overall for queer, and especially trans, people in the U.S.

Flying Pride flags at overseas government facilities has typically been a way for the U.S. to signal its openness to queer lives to the world, especially in countries that still criminalize LGBTQ lives (often with political funding from American evangelicals). Many queer and trans people in those countries dream of immigrating or getting asylum to the U.S. so that they can live relatively free of the persecution and violence they face at home. It is definitely a loss for queer people everywhere that our country’s foreign offices will no longer fly the symbol of queer freedom. 

But in the face of much tougher proposals, Biden chose the least impactful measure to compromise on. Hard-line anti-trans Republicans, on the other hand, were incensed to see so many of their core propositions fail. When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to vacate Speaker Mike Johnson, she specifically cited his failure to pass most of the budget riders that would have further persecuted trans people.

Though Greene has not forced the House to take up her motion, she told reporters that she’s laying the groundwork for a vote on Johnson’s job in the near future. Up until last October, with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a motion to vacate had never been deployed successfully. But now, thanks at least in part to the right’s anti-trans fury, we may see our second speaker of this congressional session deposed. And with House GOP members already humiliated by their previous attempt at replacing a speaker, not to mention holding an even smaller majority than they had during McCarthy’s ouster, even their control of the House could be at risk with a second motion to vacate.

That alone should give you some indication of how motivated the anti-trans conservative crowd is. They see restricting trans people out of public life as a moral mandate and will stop at nothing to see it through.

There’s been a lot of chatter online lately, ahead of the fall election, that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans, or between Biden and former President Donald Trump. But this budget battle is a fresh reminder that, at least for queer and trans people, only one party is willing to stand in the way of conservatives’ obsession with interfering in our lives.