This week, Democratic state Sen. Mallory McMorrow gave a powerful floor speech in response to a colleague who in a fund raising email to supporters accused McMorrow of grooming and sexualizing children. “I sat on it for a while wondering why me,” she said. “Because I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of ‘parental rights,’ if another parent is standing up to say no.”
McMorrow’s nearly five-minute floor speech drew on her own Christian faith in striking back against hateful Republican attacks on queer and trans kids. It quickly went viral on social media.
McMorrow’s is a useful template for Democrats who maybe believe that weighing in on this issue is beneath them, or too risky. They could also look to another state-level floor speech we heard this week for inspiration, when state Rep. Ian Mackey of Missouri gave a fiery address about growing up gay in a conservative part of the state.
It is a scary time to be queer in America right now. Conservatives have given in to their basest bigotries, and everywhere they look, they see an insidious LGBTQ agenda in everything from Disney productions to your child’s textbooks. It’s a ridiculous conspiracy theory, obviously. Queer and trans people just want to be left alone to have a shot at a happy life, just like anyone else.
But this ambition appears to be a bridge too far for today’s Republican movement, which has launched an all-out assault on anyone who appears even marginally supportive of gay or especially trans people. Conservatives are increasingly smearing pro-LGBTQ people as “groomers,” implying that liberals who want trans kids not to be forcibly detransitioned by the state are akin to pedophiles.
It’s easy to assume that conservative activists are playing this issue up as its next big election diversion, similar to the mysterious refugee convoys that always seem to pop up exactly two months before a major election. But that would be a mistake. Republican leaders are acting in extreme ways against LGBTQ lives. Earlier this week, Florida’s state health agency suggested that trans kids not be allowed to “socially transition,” which means style of hair and clothes, name and pronouns should remain associated with the child’s birth sex. A few weeks ago, Alabama’s state government essentially made it illegal to be a transgender child. Texas is stretching an already strained child protective services agency in order to ostracize and separate families with trans kids.
The Republican rhetoric on LGBTQ issues has escalated so rapidly that for the most part it has left Democrats struggling to respond.
It’s all deeply dystopian.
The Republican rhetoric on LGBTQ issues has escalated so rapidly that for the most part it has left Democrats struggling with how to respond. McMorrow and Mackey are exhibiting the type of behavior that queer and especially trans people need right now. The level of violent rhetoric getting tossed our way is nearly unbearable, and penetrates even my stone cold heart on a near daily basis, and I cover transphobia for a living.
We can see firsthand the impact when people speak up for what’s right. Following both Mackey and McMorrow’s speeches, Democrats in the Minnesota state legislature proposed a bill that would make the state a sanctuary for families with trans kids to escape to. The bill would ban several out of state enforcement mechanisms related to conservative actions against trans families, like extradition and state court orders. It’s a call back to interstate conflicts over runaway enslaved people in the lead up to the Civil War, and it’s not likely to pass the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.
Even so, trans people need to know that we’re not alone in this. If you’re silent as conservative wing nuts baselessly accuse LGBTQ people of pedophilia just because we don’t believe the government should be involved in medical decisions, we’re going to assume that you are intellectually hostile to our existence.
It’s not personal, it’s a survival mechanism.