In the last year, Republicans have become experts on what being "woke" means. This is utterly ridiculous, because this is something they've manufactured along with anti-trans and anti-drag and anti-us hate. And their hate for those who are "woke' and who are anti-trans for example, is working — and that's scary.
In a recent poll, most Americans support these anti-trans hate laws. And repeating the word woke, and labeling the opposition as woke is working. It's a top issue for Republicans who plan to vote in the next election.
It’s getting harder and harder to write columns trying to make sense out of all this made-up wokeness, and the rampant homophobia, transphobia, and racism in red state legislatures around the country. It seems like a contest among the prejudiced about who can be most exclusionary. The race of the racists.
The reason it’s so difficult to write is due to the anger that is spilling from my fingers, as they try to put a finger on why the hate is so blatant. Ostensibly, the middle finger is getting the most rigorous workout as it flips off the audacity of state Republican legislators who discriminate in these dictatorial legislative chambers.
They are doing it out in the open, and professing their hatred of our community on the floor of those chambers. In Florida, Republican State Rep. Jeff Holcomb, said, “Our terrorist enemies hate homosexuals more than we do." The outrageous rhetoric and the insipid and offensive legislation are now morphing into kicking the marginalized to the curb.
As we reported earlier, Montana state. Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the only transgender lawmaker in Montana, was banned from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the legislative session. She wasn't even allowed to enter the chamber and had cast her votes remotely. She lost a legal challenge to the state and its legislative leaders to regain entry — the suit a proverbial middle finger to those who cast her aside like garbage.
The vote to remove Zephyr was called after she said her colleagues would have blood on their hands if they denied youth access to gender-affirming care. Her sanctimonious Republican colleagues took umbrage at her remark, so instead of telling her to cut it out, they cut her out. This is metaphorically what they’re trying to do to the trans community – isolate them from the towns and communities in which they reside with draconian, prohibitive, and discriminatory legislation.
Zephyr's expulsion follows an equally stunning move by the Tennessee state house that cast-off two Black lawmakers, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, from speaking out against gun control. They were eventually reinstated by their legislative districts. I spoke to Rep Gloria Johnson, the colleague of the two expelled representatives who joined their protest. She escaped expulsion because she was white. Johnson told me that the state’s Republicans are vindictive, so they will find a way to punish the two Black lawmakers for having the audacity to be reinstated.
Again, rather than warn them, rather than give a lesser punishment of a reprimand — if their actions even warranted a punishment in the first place — they pressed the pedal down hard, and tried to drive them out of the chamber.
Finally, in another outwardly outrageous move, Nebraska Democratic Sen. Megan Hunt, who has a transgender child, and who wisely voted against a bill that would eliminate gender-affirming care bill for minors, faces an ethics investigation for what a Nebraska lawyer said is a “potential conflict of interest.”
Omaha attorney David Begley complained — and this is so hard to write — that Hunt and her transgender child, “have a slightly more than average chance of obtaining Nebraska Medicaid coverage” for the medical needs of her son. Words escape me to try and describe the cruelty in this statement and the gall that they would investigate Hunt and her son.
Sorry folks, when you start targeting another member’s child, you have gone way, way over the line. When the devil’s spawn that is Marjorie Taylor Greene went after former Illinois Democratic Congresswoman Marie Newman’s trans daughter, Newman fought back. Newman told me in an interview, “What was more infuriating, loathsome, and despicable was bringing a child into it, and misgendering my daughter was absolutely, positively not acceptable."
Horrifically, with all these anti-trans bills denying gender-affirming care, Republicans are committing a legislative form of child abuse.
Zephyr was right. They all have blood on their hands.
Is this a trend we are witnessing? Will other state legislatures follow suit? Kicking out members who might be trans and advocates for their communities? Or their children? Or Black people who protest for gun control? Or drag queens in their off hours? A lesbian legislator who stands for marriage equality. Or a gay member who is married to a man? Or worse, a gay member who teaches on the side?
What’s striking and shocking is that these scenarios are not far-fetched as you might imagine. We are at the point where these are the logical next steps for these Republican narrow-minded nihilists. It’s not enough to deny medical care, bathrooms, performances, books, and gun control laws. These heavily Republican state legislatures have absolutely nothing to run on in terms of passing legislation that helps their constituents, so they manufacture these anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-gun crises to rev up the red-hot base which is a fraction of the Republican party. They're pushing out these bills, with the next bullet point in their power-point of criminality, pushing out legislators who don't look and think like them.
When she spoke to me last week, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi called these extreme legislators passing these laws “losers.” And they are. They are losing in the polls with independents and moderates with their extremism. They don’t take losing lightly. They are vindictive and nasty, so the next recourse, the next frontier, the next obvious step, is to not just legislate brutally, but with equal viciousness vacate legislators they deem “disruptive.”
If you are trans, if you are gay, if you are a lesbian, non-binary, a drag queen, Black, a vocal woman, or a combination of these identities you are thought of by these overtly prejudiced legislators in ways that take us back to the 1950s and before. When LGBTQ+ people were sinister, when Black people were segregated, where transgender people were freaks, when state legislatures were all white, straight, middle-aged, and old men.
These hideous human beings pretending to be serving their constituents are stirring up hate for all marginalized communities. When legislators like the Justins of Tennessee, Zephyr of Montana, and Hunt of Nebraska are singled out, it sends an ominous message.
There will be a breaking point. Someone is going to get hurt or worse killed. And when – not if – that happens, I’m afraid then these white extreme Republican legislators won’t care about the blood they have on their hands. When you marginalize someone, stir up hate, and cast them off as criminals, it never, never ends well.
It's a redux and restyled form of McCarthyism, where non-existent accusations of offenses are slapped onto someone who is only doing their job, and who is vilified, tarred and feathered, and convicted — wrongly — in the public square of legislative chambers because they don't "think" the way you do. McCarthy was the original manufacturer of "woke," and today's Republicans are proudly carrying on the dark and deplorable memory of this demonic man.
In June of 1954, the Army's attorney Joseph Welch famously confronted the out-of-control McCarthy and ended his career. Welch said, "Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness."
After McCarthy attempted to respond, Welch added, "Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?"
Although today's Republican Party would consider Welsh's words "woke," they ring more true today than they have ever.
John Casey is a senior editor of The Advocate.
Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.