After the election, a glimmer of hope

Shot of the transgender flag blowing in the wind at street
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

It wasn’t intentional for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to fall so close to Election Day, but the two have certainly grown in importance to each other over the years.

The memorial, held on the 20th of November, will fall between the actual election and a critical runoff between Hershel Walker and Reverend Raphel Warnock, a race that will further cement Democratic control of the United States Senate after a remarkable turn of events in the midterms.

Let’s back up for a moment.

As I have mentioned many times before, anti-transgender animus has become the norm on the American right. The former President, Donald Trump, waged an onslaught against transgender rights, rolling back programs and policies enacted during President Obama’s administration while expanding anti-trans discrimination in the military and elsewhere. 

Meanwhile, statehouses across the country, particularly in the wake of Trump’s 2020 loss, have ramped up anti-transgender bills, each trying to draft the cruellest way to strip the rights of transgender people and those who care for us. 

The latest move in that regard are anti-drag bills that was written so broad that they could imperil pride events as well as the day to day lives of transgender people — but I digress.

Everything went to another level in the 2022 midterms as transgender rights became a dominant part of the Republican campaign. 

Drag Queen story times dominated the news, with protests and violence marking these events across the country, spurred on by heated rhetoric by politicians eager for a culture war front they could dominate, even as they see their SCOTUS win against abortion turn against them. 

These same candidates spoke of “parents’ rights,” claiming that teachers and doctors were going to somehow cause children to magically become transgender, all the while seeking to take away the rights of parents who did want to see their transgender children survive in an increasingly hostile country. 

All of this rhetoric, however, has had an effect on transgender lives. Those of us who are transgender have tried to stay mentally well while hearing larger and more horrible attacks on us dominate the news cycle. We’ve had to worry about where we will go for our medications, even as children’s hospitals were closing over bomb threats spurred on by online anti-trans campaigns and clinics elsewhere were shuttered over legal challenges in deep red states like Florida and Texas.

But the biggest issue over the last few years has been how anti-transgender rhetoric helps fuel anti-transgender violence. Indeed, much of what has been said by the right has only helped give their followers a good excuse to target transgender people.

We have been equated with the worst of society, branded as “groomers” as if we have a deviant sexual purpose in caring for our transgender siblings. This language has emboldened those who might already be dangerous, giving them a way to feel heroic as they target us. I note that the Buffalo shooter over just a few months ago has a manifesto, and in it were pages dedicated to anti-Semitic and anti-trans conspiracies that are not dissimilar from the mainstream ratings of congresspeople such as Marjorie Taylor Green.

In the last few years, we have seen an increase in anti-transgender violence. Initially, it wasn’t more than a trickle, enough to make one consider it to just be an example of better reporting on such cases, rather than a real increase. 

But as we moved through the Trump presidency and into the often-unhinged post-Trump era, we have seen the numbers grow. 

Last year was the deadliest year for transgender people in the United States, just as the year before was, and just as the year before that was. So far this year, we have seen nearly three dozen anti-transgender murders in the United States.

Yet, in the space of all of this hatred, all of this anger towards transgender people, and all of this violence, I want to offer a moment of hope.

The right, lacking solutions to issues they themselves have helped cause, went all in on “culture war” issues, and transgender rights were the reddest mean they could find. The right went all-in on anti-transgender animus this election season. 

Our rights were under challenge by candidates every single day. Ads were broadcast in swing states across the country by Steven Miller’s America First Legal, painting us as a great evil that needed to be purged, while everyone up to former President Trump spoke out against trans rights on stump speeches. 

Already favored going into the election, they saw us as their meal ticket.

They were wrong.

They were unable to retake the Senate, and they stand pointed to either fail to regain the house, or win it by the narrowest of margins. Likewise, governor races and other state-level runs tended Democratic, as the fight to preserve abortion rights — and push back against Trump-era election shenanigans — dominated the ballot box.

Transgender rights were not the winning ticket they hoped for, and while the battle is far from over, this election showed that their lies do not have the strength they thought they did. 

Maybe, just maybe, we will see the rhetoric cool down, at long last — and maybe, just maybe so will the threats against our lives begin to recede. Maybe this year will not be the deadliest on record.

In the face of all this, I just feel the need to once again note: the number one right transgender people need is simply the right to exist. 

Today, post-election, I feel that right is one step closer to existence. 

Gwen Smith asks that you support your local TDOR event. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com/.