We’re far from powerless against the anti-trans wave
Part of my daily routine is to post a thought piece and a scripture reading on Facebook, then on Twitter and Post I say “Black Lives Matter” and “Trans Lives Matter.” It’s a routine I’ve observed for years, so the latter two postings are a somewhat newer addition to the routine.
The first three have never drawn criticism. The last one, “Trans Lives Matter,” has.
Now, why is that? Is it because my critics are struggling in a genuine and heartfelt way to understand the daily realities of a people whose lives are seemingly front and center in our society in a whole new way? Or is it something else?
No matter; I’m taking it as an invitation to go “from preaching to meddling,” as it were, on a subject that has been dear to my heart since long before transgenderism became a CPAC talking point and Michael Knowles felt compelled to announce to his fellow conservatives that it “must be eradicated.”
What’s so regrettable is that bullies like Knowles think they’re just preaching to their own version of an “amen corner,” slinging that political red meat around and getting those heads nodding — those same heads that belong to the voters whose hearts, minds and wallets are the real focus of this new vile American political talk track.
They’ve created a political animal they can’t satiate
The problem with political red meat being, how do you satiate your political animals once you’ve given them the craving for it? And how do you know you’re fully in control of what they do with that new appetite?
The sad fact is that Michael Knowles and his ilk just don’t care. Look at what’s still happening with their January 6th mythology: Someone like Tucker Carlson can be handed 40,000 hours of incriminating footage and still refer to that day as nothing more consequential than a peaceful tour of the Capitol.
But the animal frenzy is real, and it’s already having dire consequences. You can hardly tune into the news without seeing just how much transgender people are increasingly the targets of truly vicious, unrelenting violence.
And this is in a world where the principal worldwide gathering of transgender people and their allies for almost a quarter century has been Transgender Day of Remembrance — literally a vigil honoring the dozens of people brutally murdered in just the preceding year.
But that’s not enough for the likes of Knowles and Carlson and their ilk. They’ve found a nerve they can tap on, and they’re going to keep tapping on it til that reflex kicks in and the backlash is in full swing.
And the evangelical church is here to play handmaid to the whole thing. Between them and their minions in the statehouses, they’re here to render transgender people — and those who love them — as miserable and legally unprotected as possible.
The shameful record our legislatures are setting
In my home state of Georgia, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 140, which would deny gender-affirming care to transgender youth. But are any of the Georgia Senate’s giants of spirit and intellect considering the real damage, the real consequences, of such a law were it to pass?
Of course not. It’s solely about tossing another slab of that political red meat to the folks back in the home district who believe Jesus is on their side in detesting everything they don’t happen to agree with or understand.
But we all know the potential fallout. The Georgia Psychological Association came out in opposition to the bill, saying:
Legislative mandates that place restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare interfere with a child’s and their parents’/guardians’ autonomy in making healthcare decisions; interfere with a healthcare provider’s ability to use practice standards and relevant research to guide their work; and are at odds with the relevant research, standards of care, and clinical expertise.
Further, Cathryn Oakley, the Human Rights Campaign’s state legislative director and senior counsel, called it “astonishingly harmful and discriminatory legislation,” saying:
There is no justification for the Georgia Senate to be advancing this bill — enacting this policy will only harm transgender youth, and would help nobody. It is truly disappointing to see Georgia lawmakers picking up the self-serving, discriminatory policies being pushed across the country at the behest of extremist groups. The truth is that best practice, age-appropriate gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization, and decisions about what care is best for any person should be between them, their family and their care providers — and politicians need to butt out.
Sadly, Tennessee’s already beaten Georgia to a very twisted finish line, with Arkansas not far behind.
According to HRC, which is currently tracking a whopping 410 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in statehouses, 175 of which (a record) are specifically anti-transgender, the breakdown goes something like this:
100 bills that would prevent trans youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care; four have already become law, in Mississippi, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.
More bathroom ban bills filed than in any previous year.
HRC summarizes the anti-transgender effort in 2022 alone as:
Politicians in statehouses across the country introduced 315 discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022 and 29 passed into law. Despite this, fewer than 10% of these efforts succeeded. The majority of the discriminatory bills — 149 bills — targeted the transgender and non-binary community, with the majority targeting children receiving the brunt of discriminatory legislation. By the end of the 2022 legislative session, a record 17 bills attacking transgender and non-binary children passed into law.
But this is just the very visible tip of an iceberg of anti-transgender violence and discrimination that includes physical and emotional abuse, social hostility, housing insecurity, employment discrimination, constrained healthcare access, and limited educational opportunities.
If we don’t take it upon ourselves to reverse this tide, history shows us what comes next.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
The Christian calling to affirm trans lives
We know what to do here.
Far from being delegitimized, transgender people deserve to be celebrated and respected for their contributions to society. They need more visibility, not less. Like anyone else, they come from all walks of life, hold a variety of identities and contribute valuable perspectives that help create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world.
To discriminate against transgender people or treat them as “less than” simply because of their gender identities, gender expression or life journey is not only profoundly un-Christian — it fails to recognize that transgender rights are human rights.
As Christians, now is the time for us to get off the sidelines and loudly advocate for transgender individuals. We must help make sure that they have access to the same basic rights as everyone else and ensure that they feel safe, secure, and respected in their own communities.
This includes fighting for anti-discrimination laws that protect against housing and employment discrimination, providing quality healthcare services tailored to the needs of trans people, supporting organizations that provide resources and education on trans issues, and creating policies that promote inclusion and acceptance of all genders.
We must also work together to bring an end to hatred and intolerance towards the transgender community by challenging incorrect stereotypes or assumptions about them, speaking out against any kind of bigotry, and fighting for the rights of transgender individuals.
As we move forward, let’s all strive to create a more just and equitable world where transgender lives are truly valued and respected rather than maligned and killed. Together, we can and must ensure that trans lives matter.
And that includes Sunday morning. We are called by Jesus to not just welcome, but truly affirm, the transgender person who wishes to sit in the pew next to us.
“Love others as well as you love yourself.” There is no other commandment that ranks with these. (Mark 12:31)
For those who can’t affirm that trans lives matter, then how exactly can they say they’re keeping this commandment? For those not outraged over the seemingly minor injustices hurled at our community because we’re perceived as easy targets, then what what is the yardstick for knowing when they’ve become major enough?
Unfortunately, they already are; the iceberg is fully formed, and we’re heading straight for it.
The fight for transgender equality is far older than today — and sadly it’s far from over — but its time is now. It’s incumbent on us to speak up loudly and advocate on behalf of our transgender siblings in Christ until they’re not only accepted but really affirmed, and in fact celebrated, in church and society.
One surefire way to get there is to commit to creating a world where everyone’s stories are heard, their contributions acknowledged, and their lives respected.
As a friend of mine says: “If you have to make laws to hurt a group of people just to prove your morals and faith, then you have no true morals or faith to prove.”
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner (he/him) grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980s and have been legally married since 2015.