Erik Carnell, a London fashion clothing manufacturer, managed to place his creations in US Target stores. They are, as he says on his site, “unapologetic, loud, proud and colorful.” Or more directly, part of the gay pride push. And to demonstrate it, they are adorned with texts such as “Cure transphobia, not trans people”; “We belong everywhere” and “Too queer for here” .
Almost immediately, he began to receive hundreds of hate messages that included insults and death threats, incorrectly accusing him that the collection was allegedly purposely targeting children, with the aim of preparing them for an encounter with pedophiles. Carnell says he wanted to create items beyond “just a random rainbow stuck on a t-shirt.”
Within days, Target removed the merchandise from its stores and from its website.
It was a well-organized campaign, which included calls to boycott Target. On Tik Tok, the story says, “a video circulated showing a Target employee being asked if she supported “satanic pride propaganda.” And numerous articles in the right-wing press called the businessman “Satan.”
The people who participated in the successful campaign, whose lives are spent anonymously online, believe that it is their right to hate others for the way they are, and to take action accordingly.
But those who campaign against trans people do so in the well founded hope that hostility towards that group will spill over into an equivalent animosity against others, against whoever defends trans people, or understands them, or accepts, or affirms their rights. Or against any liberal, atheist, democrat, socialist, Jew, gay or a student at one of the “elite” universities.
All of them, according to their twisted and dissonant logic, would be accomplices in almost always imaginary crimes, and deserve punishment.
That’s why they won’t let trans people go. Their attack will not be interrupted. Not because they care so much, but because it ignites the enthusiasm of the base, that is, due to the good political results that their crusade is going to have.
So now they tirelessly seek new horizons to harass transgender people, such as banning trans women from competitive sports. Imagination has no limits.
The hatred they cultivate does not necessarily come from simple or ignorant or misguided people. It comes from above, from the government.
State and city governments enact coercive laws and find ways to justify them with the need to protect children. For example, those that prohibit gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender youth under the age of 18 even if the parent or guardian has consented. In South Carolina and Oklahoma, for those under 21. At that age one can already get married, vote, buy alcohol or tobacco, enlist in the armed forces, etc.
It is shocking to learn that Jessica Watkins, sentenced this week to eight and a half years in federal prison for organizing a group in the fascist Oath Keepers militia and leading a column during the attack on Congress in 2021, is a young transgender woman. At her trial, she asked for clemency because all the discriminatory attacks against her led her to extreme positions.
“You could have been an example to your generation, a role model for other people who are going through the same thing,” federal judge Amit Metha told her. “And I say this at a time when people who are trans in our country are so frequently slandered and used for political purposes.”
These attacks are popular in the centers of power in numerous states governed by Republicans. According to Human Rights Watch, state legislatures in those states have passed 315 anti-trans laws. Because they were openly discriminatory, 90% of those proposals did not become law. But the remaining 10% – 32 laws – did succeed, and they constitute the basis for a second wave of prohibitions and rejections that will come in the near future.
Another version affirms that 450 laws in a single legislative season were directed against gay people.
The ACLU recognizes six different fronts in the anti-gay offensive. These are: informative update in official documents; laws that allow employers and even hospitals to turn away LGBTQ people or deny them equal treatment; restricting access to books about gay people and censoring their shows; blocking health coverage for transgender people; ban on transgender people using public restrooms and changing rooms; and “to prevent trans students from participating in school activities like sports, force teachers to remove students, and censor any discussion in school about LGBTQ people and issues.” Also, to promote bills that prevent future local protections against discrimination.
California is an example of the opposite. Here is where new regulations grant people protection, and where attacks from the anti-trans lobby come to die.
The machinations of other states have not made a dent in California. True, one bill, AB 1314, required the school to notify parents if their child displayed gender-inconsistent behavior, regardless of whether the boy would be severely punished or the observation was out of line with reality. The motion was defeated, thankfully, because legislators realized that if approved and applied, the law could endanger the student’s life and violate anti-discrimination law by making him more susceptible to bullies.
The 2022 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Youth, by the advocacy group The Trevor Project on transgender suicides, found that only one in three transgender youth felt safe to report their sexual identity at home.
This led to the Legislature’s LGBTQ group denouncing the bill, saying that “Conversations between children and their parents about gender identity should occur on their terms, at a time and place that the children deem appropriate.”
And yet, that same law was recently signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Other attempts to discriminate based on sexual preference have failed in California cities where certain groups wanted to advance them. California differs from the rest of the country in many aspects, and the protection of the gay community is one of the most important.
The result is that the percentage of gay people in the California Legislature is a national record 10%. This information can help prevent gay people from giving up on active participation in the democratic process, and from missing an opportunity to improve their situation. It is, yes, a vicious circle.
These are some of California’s many achievements in gay advocacy laws, initiatives and regulations.
In 1999, the state legalized domestic association, or the existence of common-law couples, with a law that gave them the same rights as heterosexuals, something that the city of Berkeley had in its laws since 1985. As of 2003, it allowed stepchild adoption and joint adoption by same-sex couples. Consider that in 1977 the same Legislature, with a huge majority, defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. But in 2008, it passed the law legalizing same-sex marriages, and though it was suspended three months later due to lawsuits, it was revived nearly five years later when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to strike it down. In 2009 the state recognized these marriages performed in other states.
This happened in a state where until 1975 the law punished sodomy with 1 to 14 years in jail. For half a century and until 1950, the sterilization of prisoners for “sexual perversion” was legal and practiced in California, with almost 20,000 victims.
Even more. Between one and another law or plebiscite for the protection and recognition of homosexual couples, there were laws and plebiscites that dictated the opposite, and both were decided by majorities.
In 1994, Californians passed the draconic Proposition 187, which would have kept the children of undocumented immigrants out of school, their families out of hospitals, and their parents out of their jobs. Ultimately the courts annulled almost all of its parts, but the effect it had on the Latino community was to awaken it politically. Currently all elected positions in the state, starting with the governor, are held by Democrats, who also hold absolute majorities in both houses of the Legislature. And Latinos have been an important part of this.
Since then, the state has become more and more liberal. Since then also, non-Latino whites have ceased to be a majority and are not even the first minority. The state is 39% Latino, 35% White, 15% Asian American, 5% African American, and 5% multiracial.
It is this composition that dictates the political path of the state, as opposed to those states where, in some cases terrified by the prospect of losing it, whites are still the vast majority.
And it is in this context that protection laws for trans people occurre, as well as for other minorities or marginal or historically discriminated groups.
Founder and co-editor of Latino Los Angeles. Editor Emeritus of La Opinion, former Editor-in-Chief. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a journalist, columnist, blogger, poet, novelist, and short story writer. Was the editorial director of Huffington Post Voces. Editor-in-chief of the weekly Tiempo in Israel. Is the father of three grown children and lives with Celia and with Rosie, Almendra and Yinyit in Los Angeles.