It was eight and a half years ago — in Spring of 2014 — that Time Magazine declared the “transgender tipping point” on its front cover. It certainly healed a coming of age for transgender visibility in popular culture, even as other trans needs were still sorely lacking.
If that was the tipping point, I would like to hope that 2022 is the crest of the backlash against transgender people.
2022 saw hundreds of bills introduced at statehouses across the country, with most aimed at transgender youth. 2022 also saw quite a number of celebrities and other notables going “mask off” about their opposition to transgender people. Likewise, politicians on the campaign trail pushed transgender issues as a moral panic, using anti-trans rhetoric as a reason to drum up votes.
Yet again, 2022 has been a bloody year for the community, with dozens known to be victims of anti-trans murders, and many more taking their lives in an increasingly hostile world. Hatred of transgender people, and the amplification of same, has very much left to violence and death.
This was the year of the Club Q shooting, which was fueled by anti-LGBTQ and anti-drag hatred, leaving five people dead.
This is why I hope we’ve reached a crest. This is simply too much for our community to continue to bear.
I do see things changing, too. While DeSantis of Florida and Abbott of Texas, both incumbents who pushed draconian anti-trans laws in their states, were successful in the midterms, many other politicians who were hoping to ride the backlash against trans rights into office were unsuccessful.
Likewise, many in the spotlight who have begun to embrace anti-trans rhetoric are seeing these attitudes affecting their bottom lines. J.K. Rowling’s movie projects are shelved, and Dave Chappelle is tainted. While I don’t expect their minds to change, I do hope that this will cause other celebrities to at least think twice before opening their mouths, if they do not otherwise repudiate their anti-trans beliefs.
Sadly, yes, we are already seeing new bills around the country, and are sure to see more attacks on transgender youth and others hit the statehouses. I do hold some hope, however, that these too will wane, as people grow weary of these once again cluttering the legislative docket.
It won’t end overnight, to be sure, but again, I will hope that 2022 may, at last, be the worst we see for a while, much like the failure of the Briggs Initiative in 1978 was the beginning of the end for anti-gay backlash of the 1970s.
Here’s the hard part: none of this happens without us.
If we want this to change, it is going to be us who helps foster that change. We cannot rely on a political white knight to step up. We need to be the ones to do that.
It will be on us to speak out, and to get people to listen. It will be on us to force the hands of the politicians who will support our causes, and shut down those who would stand against us.
The right has been very effective at putting persuasive propaganda into the world. They have led the way in getting people to believe lies about “groomers” at drag queen story times, and the medical industry somehow coercing young people into the “trans lifestyle.” It will be up to us to speak out, tell our stories, and counter that narrative at every turn.
Yes, it sucks that, yet again, we’re reduced to having to do the heavy listing, explaining everything from the most basic levels about who we are, once again pushing that stone up the mountain like so many of us did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Maybe we got complacent on the way to the tipping point and assumed that we no longer needed to do that work. We hoped, perhaps, that everyone now understood what we are about. Meanwhile, anti-trans forces were cooking up a whole new pot of lies to spread about us, as we went from “bathroom predator” to “social contagion” and finally saw the resurrection of the “gays recruit” nonsense of the 1970s in a whole new, more virulent, form.
It is also all the more important that we be here for each other. We need to stand up for our trans siblings, our nonbinary and gender fluid siblings, our LGBTQ siblings, our drag siblings all the stronger than we ever have before. We need to set aside petty differences, and have everyone’s backs in what has become a more hostile world.
Those who stand against us want to see our community divided. They are more than willing to support narratives that split us into factions and put us at each other’s throats, rather than saving our energy for our true opposition: them.
Yes, this will also mean that we need to do all we can to build our networks, help any of us in need, and provide resources within our community whenever possible.
More than this, I want you to take one thing into the new year, and that is hope. 2022 was a deeply difficult year for our community. We were left battered and beaten down.
However, even in these dark times there are just the smallest, faintest glimmers of hope to be had. Hold these, share these, and help them grow. It will be on our shoulders to fight back against the darkness and make the new year, 2023, the year we turn the tide.
Gwen Smith will always seek the light. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com/.