The Tuesday headline was grim: “LGBTQ+ Americans are under attack, Human Rights Campaign declares in state of emergency warning.”
That headline wasn’t for us, for LGBTQ people. We know we are under attack — we’ve been living under an escalating threat from the GOP and the evangelical right since the Trump administration when Donald Trump’s first action as president was to take down the Obama-era LGBTQ web page. We’ve been living under threat as the courts have embraced religious freedom laws over LGBTQ civil rights and civil liberties.
No, that headline was for them: the people who hate us and their silently complicit supporters.
Those of us who are veterans/survivors of the AIDS crisis and the rise of the Religious Right, those of us who remember Anita Bryant and Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed, those of us who marched on Washington and, like me, laid down in the streets in die-ins and were loaded into police vans by cops wearing gloves so they didn’t catch AIDS from us, we have been down this path before. We know about sounding alarms and we know about hate.
Now the language is different, more succinct. “Groomer” is the most common buzzword from the people who in the 90s talked about the “homosexual agenda.” Not a day goes by without my being called that on Twitter. The message is the same: they believe we are corrupting their children when in fact they are trying to kill our queer and trans kids through Draconian laws that silence any discourse on sexual orientation and gender identity, as if “Don’t Say Gay” will make kids cis het through silence. And along with destroying the youth, they are trying to kill our elders by cutting off access to healthcare for them.
“Silence = death” was the mantra of my generation of 20somethings. That’s still true. The message from HRC was clear: If you aren’t standing up for us, if your voices aren’t raised for us, you are not our friends, you are not our allies, you may, in fact, be our enemies. As HRC President Kelley Robinson said in an interview with The Associated Press, “We need champions right now.”
Robinson said, “When Dobbs fell, you saw a federal response to deal with the abortion crisis that we’re in. We are in a crisis of even greater scale to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, and we need that same sort of response.”
A year ago in this paper I asked, “Are Democrats Failing LGBTQ People?” We aren’t supposed to challenge Democrats because the Republicans are so unremittingly terrible. But if you aren’t helping us, are you really our allies? As I say all the time on Twitter, no one is asking you to hide us in your attic for years like Anne Frank. But we are asking for help. We are asking for a collective voice. We are asking that you show up and shout down the people taking over school boards and pulling books from libraries and going to state capitals and declaring that we are the problem when their own bigotry is the real problem. We are asking that you take on Moms for Liberty, the far-right parental group known for protesting at school board meetings, which has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “hate group” for the first time ever.
For years I have been reporting nearly every week about some new awful law the GOP has put forward in the states or challenged in the courts. Or simply reporting on how many laws are being put forward against us — a number HRC now says is over 500 (and the year is only half over). Or reporting on the gratuitous cruelty of the GOP. Or reporting on how their new leaders like Ron DeSantis are building their brand with assaults on LGBTQ people.
A year ago I reported how pastors in Idaho and Texas called for the execution of LGBTQ people and no one blinked. At CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference ) in March, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles called for the “eradication of transgenderism.” In his speech, Knowles asserted, “For the good of society … transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely — the whole preposterous ideology, at every level.”
On Sunday night former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, one of 10 declared GOP 2024 candidates for president, told a CNN Town Hall that
trans girls in sports are causing teenage girls to contemplate suicide.
“How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room? And then they wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year,” Haley said. “We should be growing strong girls, confident girls.”
Haley said, “The idea that we have biological boys playing in girls’ sports — it is the women’s issue of our time.”
The women’s issue of our time is trans girls in sports? No, it’s not.
Nor is it the reason why girls are depressed and suicidal. Girls are self-harming and suicidally depressed because they are under threat from discrimination, sexual harassment and assault because they are lesbian, bi and queer.
The likelihood of an LGBTQ teen being suicidal due to repressive measures like Haley and other GOP candidates are promoting is real. What Haley said is dangerously false.
Attacks on LGBTQ people are so commonplace that people have become inured to what’s being said and done against us.
The iconic Black gay writer and theorist James Baldwin said, “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
We also see what you don’t do. And if you don’t stand up for us in this time of very real peril, ask yourselves why.