The right's latest anti-trans hysteria just blew up

Anti-trans hysteria isn't just baseless — it's harmful

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published October 26, 2021 1:02PM (EDT)

Greg Abbott (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Greg Abbott (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — who is on quite the rampage against the rights, and even lives, of Texas residents — has struck again. On Monday, the governor signed a law barring trans athletes from teams corresponding to their gender. The law requires students to play on teams based on the gender listed on their birth certificate, not the one they live as, even if they take gender-affirming hormones that could affect their athletic performance. This impacts not just minor students in junior high and high schools, but legal adults who are in college athletics. 

The cover story for this attack on trans rights is that it's about "protecting" girls and women, on the unevidenced grounds that trans girls and women have unfair advantages in sports. Rep. Valoree Swanson, the Republican who is the lead sponsor on the bill, has been maximally smarmy in her rhetoric about her supposed love of girls, her desire for them to be safe, and her enthusiasm for their ambitions. 

"It's very important that we, who got elected to be here, protect our girls," Swanson said earlier this month in defense of what she described as a "need a statewide level playing field."

She is lying.

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Swanson doesn't care about girls or women, and, in fact, is a classic Aunt Lydia type, a standard female misogynist. Like Abbott, she has a long track record of backing laws that will derail the ambitions of young women, make their lives much harder, and undermine both their health and safety. For instance, she not only voted for SB8, the infamous Texas law that bans abortion through a literal bounty hunter system, but also has a long history of sponsoring anti-abortion legislation, as well as opposing contraception education that can prevent abortions. Far from wanting young women to have fulfilling lives chasing their dreams, Swanson wants to wield forced childbirth as a weapon to derail their ambitions. The language about "protecting" girls is just bad faith posturing, trying to make a vicious attack on the rights of young trans people sound somehow ennobling. 

RELATED: Greg Abbott is not ignorant — he's a liar: Why the difference matters for the future of democracy

Unfortunately, time and again, Republicans are able to get away with lying to the press about the motivations behind their anti-trans beliefs and actions, pretending that they're just trying to "protect" women. Their history, however, shows that they will hurt women and undermine women's rights every chance they get. Texas' latest attack is particularly egregious as the anti-trans law comes right on the heels of the state's passage of a draconian abortion ban that has gutted Roe v. Wade and left thousands of women and girls, many of whom are rape victims, facing the dire prospect of forced childbirth. 

The extreme bad faith driving the current anti-trans hysteria sweeping the country is also evident in Virginia, where Republicans are campaigning for gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin by bashing trans people and hiding behind phony postures about the "safety" of women and girls as an excuse. 

While most of the theatrical displays of incoherent right-wing outrage at school board meetings has been about white parental anger about kids learning historical facts about racism, there's been a hefty side dose of hysterics at the idea that trans kids might be allowed to use the bathroom and play on sports teams in peace. In the closing weeks of the gubernatorial race in Virginia, the GOP's culture war strategy has zeroed in on Loudoun County. 

The deeply troubling situation in Loudoun County involves a rape that happened in the bathroom of one of the county's public high schools in May. Rumors started to fly throughout the community, aided by national right-wing media, that the accused rapist was "gender fluid" and was wearing a skirt during the attack. The implication was that the school's pro-trans policy regarding bathrooms allowed the kid to pretend to be female in order to lurk in the bathroom and attack students. 

RELATED: The GOP's war on trans students hurts all kids: The right is coming for cis girls, too

This right-wing spin on the story, unsurprisingly, turned out not be true.

The rapist — who has been identified in the press as a "boy" and whose gender identity and clothing was not discussed during trial — was convicted in juvenile court on Monday. Testimony revealed that the true story was one of dating violence, and has nothing to do with the bathroom policies at the high school. As the Washington Post reports, the rapist and his victim had been seeing each other and "had agreed to meet up in a school bathroom," and "chose to go in the girls' bathroom because the two had always met in the girls' bathrooms in the past." Once there, the boy the victim thought was her friend raped her. 

It's a terrible situation, especially as the school district appears to have mishandled everything, allowing the assailant to attend another school, where he attacked another girl. But notably, this story is yet another example of the ongoing problem of sexual violence being minimized and disregarded — a problem that exists predominantly because of sexism. Indeed, the same Republicans seizing on this story have a robust history of sticking up for accused sexual predators, even in the case of Donald Trump, who has been accused by over two dozen women and is on tape bragging about his crimes

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This case has nothing to do with trans rights but is very much about the ongoing problem of dating violence. But, of course, the same Republicans up in arms over trans kids aren't super interested in doing anything to fight back against domestic violence, which is an actual threat against girls and women.

Multiple GOP candidates for Senate in the 2022 race have histories of violence against women, and by and large, it doesn't seem to be affecting their chances. The majority — 172 — of Republicans in the House voted against the Violence Against Women Act earlier this year, with nary a ripple of protest from the same people pretending trans people are a threat to women and girls. In Texas, a law that would mandate dating violence education, which could help prevent crimes such as the one in Loudoun, was vetoed by Abbott over the summer

In a recent speech, Rep. Madison Cawthorne, R-N.C., instructed parents, "if you are raising a young man, please raise them to be a monster," on the grounds that non-monster men are emasculated. Of course, the primary victims of monster men are girls and women, as any look at the epidemic of sexual and domestic violence will demonstrate. There's no universe in which Cawthorne's advice can be squared with claims of "protecting" girls and women. 

The abuse of trans people and the abuse of women are tied closely together, both rooted in support for cis male supremacy that depends heavily on rigid gender policing. The reality is that trans people are more likely to be victims than victimizers, and the vast majority of sexual assailants, regardless of the victim's gender identity, are cis men. There's no conflict between protecting cis women and girls and protecting trans rights. On the contrary, both require fighting sexist oppression that normalizes violence, deprives people of sexual autonomy, and demonizes anyone who rejects patriarchal gender roles. Above all, don't get it twisted — the same people who are attacking trans rights are also out to destroy the rights of cis women and girls. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Abortion Rights Commentary Greg Abbott Loudoun County Rape Trans Athletes Trans Rights