Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., introduced a bill in Congress on Friday that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors across the country. It’s the most sweeping and draconian piece of legislation conjured by an ever more radicalized and violent anti-trans movement. While the bill sports only 14 Republican co-sponsors, its passage would likely become a priority if the GOP were to retake Congress this fall.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene introduced the most draconian legislation conjured by an ever more radicalized and violent anti-trans movement.
Since the 2020 presidential election, reactionary forces in the U.S. have increasingly become more focused on trans issues, particularly issues concerning trans children. Physicians and staff members at Boston Children’s Hospital were threatened last week by a far-right gender-critical internet mob that spread lies about the facility’s work with transgender adolescents. The harassment campaign was kicked off by Chaya Raichik, who runs the anti-LGBTQ social media account Libs of TikTok, along with the anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ media personality Matt Walsh. Both told the lie that the hospital was performing hysterectomies on children.
The hospital was forced to hire extra security as administrators warned its staff of violent threats. The hospital also released a statement explaining that no hysterectomies or genital surgical procedures are performed at the hospital on people under age 18.
Individual doctors who had appeared in several videos on the hospital’s YouTube page were also targeted, with online extremists threatening to execute any staff members involved in transgender care. Those videos have now been removed.
We’ve seen this type of movement before. Violent mobs protesting medical providers and conservative politicians drafting more and more restrictive laws to satisfy an insatiable base closely resemble the anti-abortion movement.
Though it didn’t have the hypercharged propaganda playground of social media in its early days, the anti-abortion movement has always depended on the dual threat of the conservative legislature and the mob. That movement led to abortion foes’ murdering doctors and shooting up or burning down clinics. And as we now know, it triumphed legislatively when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this year.
Threatening hospitals is part of a growing and extremely violent cultural backlash to treatment of transgender youths in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, about which I have written here before. Several weeks ago, trans advocate and YouTuber Clara Sorrenti, known online as “Keffals,” was doxed and swatted in her own home when someone impersonating her wrote emails to local police and government officials threatening violence and claiming she had murdered her mother.
Even though Sorrenti had met with police and warned them she was at risk of being swatted, police still responded to the impersonation by waking her up with a gun in her face, arresting her and locking her up in a men’s jail for 11 hours. It’s clear the anti-trans movement has morphed into something much scarier and more violent than the mostly academic discourse it was born from.
The movement has so far taken a two-pronged approach to rooting out trans people from public life. First are people like Raichik and Walsh, both large social media influencers, who incessantly spread falsehoods in increasingly more outrageous ways to elicit visceral reactions from their mostly far-right audiences. From there, large internet mobs can be launched at any perceived threat or target, usually a trans person or advocate or a medical facility, such as Boston Children’s Hospital. The second prong is conservative politicians’ introducing ever more draconian anti-trans measures and policies to satiate this violent base. The state of Florida this month barred Medicaid coverage of transition care for trans people of all ages, including adults, deeming such care to be “non-medically necessary.”
It remains to be seen what happens to private insurance coverage of transition care in the state, but the private insurance market often mimics the state’s coverage plans.
Once contained to targeting transition care for minors, the new Florida measure denying trans Medicaid recipients coverage for transition care represents a new escalation in the war against trans existence, and without firm and clear action from a whole host of parties — from the federal government to the heads of Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies — this movement will only continue to grow more extreme and violent.
Despite the apparent success of the anti-abortion movement, we don’t have to go down the same path with trans care. Changing course requires careful and swift action. Heading this movement off at the pass may help us understand how to solve the larger problem of a growing violent far right.
It starts with social media companies’ taking action to actually enforce their rules against violent threats and the purposeful spread of misinformation. Thankfully, it appears they’re starting to take notice. On Wednesday, Facebook appeared to permanently ban the Libs of TikTok account for spreading misinformation about Boston Children’s Hospital; the account is still on Twitter.
Social media companies can’t solve this problem on their own. Federal legislation is needed to protect vulnerable trans kids.
But social media companies can’t solve this problem on their own. Federal legislation is needed to protect vulnerable trans kids from the meddling of lawmakers such as Greene and her conservative colleagues. We need to pass the Equality Act, which would codify LGBTQ rights for trans kids into federal law. To do so, Democrats need to hold the House and add a couple of more Democratic senators in this fall’s midterm elections.
However, if Republicans manage to seize control, trans-affirming care for kids and adults would be at stake, just as abortion care has been at stake for the last 50 years. All those opposed to what the far right is doing need to defend trans people now. We can’t let the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene win.