The Republican Party's assault on queer Americans has ramped up in the past two years, as evidenced by its bills seeking to ban school lessons about gay and transgender people, measures intended to bar gender-affirming care, and policies barring trans kids from participating in youth sports.
And on Thursday, we got a look at how the GOP is trying to loop Black people in on its homophobic and transphobic agenda. The revelation came courtesy of Vernon Jones, the right-wing Georgia congressional candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
In an interview on former Trump adviser and racist provocateur Steve Bannon's podcast, Jones went on a diatribe that attempted to draw a distinction and drive a wedge between queer activism and pro-Black activism.
“Civil rights for Blacks and gay rights for gays are two different things,” said Jones, who is Black.
“They can actually change," he continued. "You know, you can go from being straight to being gay to being transgender and all these other genders. But when you’re Black — I don’t have a choice."
"When did gays come over here in ships?” he added, referring to ships used to transport enslaved Africans to the Americas.
Jones’ remarks rest on all kinds of ignorance. For example, the idea that people “change” their sexual orientation or gender runs counter to what we've learned about these characteristics.
The sex someone has been assigned at birth — usually in accordance with whatever genitalia they have — can be different from how that person identifies. Trans and nonbinary people have an innate understanding of their gender that doesn't align with their sex assignment at birth. They're not simply "changing" genders.
On top of that, Jones’ apparent slave ships reference reeks of ignorance as well.
In her 2008 article “Black Atlantic, Queer Atlantic: Queer Imaginings of the Middle Passage,” professor Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley examined the fluidities of both Black queerness and the "traumatic dislocation" of enslaved Africans.
“Eurocentric queer theorists and heterocentric race theorists have engaged their discourses of resistant Black queerness as a new fashion — a glitzy, postmodern invention borrowed and adapted from Euro-American queer theory," Tinsley wrote.
By ignoring or failing to learn about the documented history of queer slave-era narratives, Jones is a living embodiment of those “heterocentric race theorists” and feeds into the bigoted tradition of trying to otherize queerness in the Black community.
With this year's midterm elections approaching, it’s important to root out these fallacies. The GOP is pushing a fascist agenda that prioritizes straight white men. Jones proves the party is willing to pit marginalized groups against one another to advance its white supremacist goals.