So the right wing is field testing trans athletes as the next cutting edge in the culture wars. Really? Sorry, Republican bigots: That dog won’t hunt.
About two years ago, I wrote a column noting that when you couldn’t get a majority of the (then) Republican-controlled U.S. Congress to pass a bill denying government-funded gender-recognition surgery to trans service members, the use of trans people to fire up and turn out the base was in retreat.
Since then, the right has lost its stomach for the so-called bathroom bills that once swept through Red State America.
North Carolina’s bill cost that state’s Republican governor his office. It was the main factor cited in polls for his defeat. And — in a humiliating about-face — the legislature had to (at least partially) repeal it. I mean, when the NCAA and the NBA threaten to move events out of your state, and when even NASCAR — which is like Woodstock for rednecks — comes out against your bill, it’s time move on.
In Florida, the bathroom bill was never even passed and hasn’t been reintroduced in three years.
In South Dakota — about as red as it gets — the Republican governor vetoed a bill in 2016 and declared he would again if it was passed a second time. It wasn’t.
In Kentucky, the outgoing Republican governor (just defeated this month) asked plaintively, “Is there anyone you know in Kentucky who has trouble going to the bathroom?”
And Texas? Even the Republican speaker of the House has come out publicly against a bill, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has backed away from his previous support.
So there you have it. This was their strongest attack point on transgender Americans, and it’s failed on every front and is in retreat. In fact, polls not only consistently show the American voting public has moved on, it specifically shows that the Republican voting public has moved on, too. Only hard-core Republican conservatives (translation: old, rural, white, non-high school graduates) are still left manning this barricade.
So the right wing is testing messages about trans athletes competing … and winning! Gosh, it’s just so unfair!
A transgender boy in Texas recently won the state championship — for girls — and the wingnuts are all over it. He’s already declared many times that he’d rather compete against other boys. Only he can’t do this because state rules force him to compete against girls.
This has not stopped Republican PR flacks, who are now engaged furiously testing new messages around trans competitors. They just used ads on the unfairness of transgender athletes to shore up incumbent Republican Gov. Bevin of Kentucky — who just lost. Good work, fellas!
Even Donald Trump Jr. is jumping into the act, attacking trans women in a new book for competing as women and then sometimes winning (note to readers: Cisgender women athletes sometimes win too).
On CBS News recently, taking the voice of a trans woman (OK, is it just me or is that kind of weird?), he opined, “'OK, I’m a man. I’ve become a woman. I’m now winning national championships, setting weightlifting world records.’ You know, displacing women who’ve worked their entire lives to get to a point in their careers, I think that’s wrong.”
Note that even Junior can’t get himself sufficiently worked up over the issue to proclaim that being trans is immoral, depraved, etc. etc.
(Note to tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who has lent a helping hand in the sliming of trans athletes by claiming they’re “cheating:” These are the same right-wing bigots who publicly attacked you when you came out a lesbian — they don’t really need your help. By the way, neither do we.)
Folks, the French — who have a name for nearly everything — have a name for this too: fin de siècle. It means the ending of a cycle.
And that’s exactly what we’re witnessing: the sputtering, dying, drooling end of the what seemed like endless cycles of demonizing transgender people.
Some now some are even pivoting away from transgender athletes and going after…Drag Queen Story Hour for kids at your local library (don’t ask).
None of this is working. So let me offer wingnut bigots free advice: When you can’t get your base worked up by screaming “Penises! Penises in the Little Girls’ Room!,” when no one cares about “Homosexual Drag Queens Perverting Our Vulnerable Children!,” when all you can do is point to trans athletes (occasionally) making it to the winner’s stand, the game is over.
Fini. Kaput. Terminado. Deader’n disco.
The “threat” of trans athletes won’t change a single vote.
We are finally seeing the beginning of the end of the queer culture wars. As I said at the beginning — this dog won’t hunt.
Riki Wilchins is an author and advocate.