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Debate on Equality Act stifles its true message

The Republican Party has decided to try a new approach when it comes to justifying and legalizing discrimination against transgender people. This new approach is quite the simple one – attempting to mask biases under the guise of worry and compassion, both for the fragile and innocent cis women and girls who are constantly being attacked by “transsexual predators,” and the confused and emotional people who simply “think” they are transgender but need to be corrected. This new tactic was used front and center this past Tuesday, April 3, when the House held the first congressional hearing on the Equality Act (H.R.5), a bill which would add explicit legal protections under federal law for LGBTQ+ people.

Though the entire bill seeks to protect people from many different communities, Republican lawmakers decided to pick the easiest targets and act as if the bill was focused entirely around trans people. House Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins said, “Under this bill, adolescents who can’t decide what major to pursue in college would be empowered to force doctors bound by anti-discrimination laws to administer hormones that could render these children sterile and conduct irreversible surgeries. Mothers and fathers who have watched their children deteriorate physically and emotionally as they transition away from their biological sex are begging Congress to listen before we leap.”

Now of course, this statement is filled with inaccuracies and lies, but facts were not the point of his argument. Because Collins’ true statement is actually something like this: It is dangerous to feed into a trans person’s delusions about who they are. Republicans have decided to feign worry about the mental and physical health of transgender people, but instead of making sure that more trans people have adequate health care that many in the community so desperately need, Republicans instead wish to prevent trans people from this health care so that they can try to “fix” us. That is to say, free us from our delusions, so that we are converted back into the happy and healthy cisgender people we are supposed to be. 

This new strategy of pretending to care about trans people didn’t stop some Republican lawmakers from pulling out some of the classic scare tactics at the hearing, including Arizona representative Debbie Lesko who said, “I believe that all people should be treated equally, but I am concerned that H.R.5, with the weight of federal law, forces schools, prisons, shelters, etc. to prioritize the rights of biological males over that of biological women.” Now if I wanted to, I could easily point out all the ways that Lesko is incorrect. I could bring up that it has routinely been found that there is no evidence showing that trans people using public facilities endangers cisgender people, and that if anything transgender people are the ones at a greater risk of violence. I could list every asinine quote said during these hearings and point out the fallacies and lies in each one, but the thing is they don’t actually care if what they’re saying is correct.

More importantly, my fears do not lie in the transphobic comments made by Republican lawmakers. It’s not like I assumed Lesko and Collins were amazing allies before this. My fears lie in the impact that comments like this can have if not challenged by cisgender people. My fears lie in wondering if the greater LGBTQ+ community will rally around their Trans siblings, doing more than using hashtags – actually fighting for us, like we have for you. My fears lie in wondering if I’m going to begin career searching post-graduation wondering what places will support my transition and which will wish that they could “fix” me. My fears lie in “Centrist” politicians deciding that supporting the LGBTQ+ population is fine, but that the trans community is simply too controversial and politically charged. 

I am not afraid of transphobes being transphobic; I am afraid of allies being silent.

An open letter to Jonathan Haidt

Why consent matters, from campus to Capitol Hill