The GOP War Against LGBTQ

“Let It Be”

– Paul McCartney, 1970

There’s a pervasive and perverted sickness in the land, and I don’t mean the opioid crisis or the coronavirus pandemic.

I’m referring to the Republican preoccupation and obsession with LGBTQ folks despite their acceptance by a majority of Americans, with GOP-led states recently passing laws to keep transgender girls and women from competing in sports.

This right-wing entity, controlled by a restrictive ideology and led by someone who shamelessly refuses to acknowledge he lost a presidential election, bears no resemblance to a sane political party. It is taking the entire country down with it, back to the 1950s.

Overall, the ‘50s were a quieter, perhaps more civilized time without a cacophonous social media despite a tough beginning with a war in Korea and some rough times with the Communist scare of the McCarthy era, the Suez crisis, the Hungarian Revolution and the Soviet Union’s subsequent invasion of Hungary and President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deployment of active-duty military to force the integration of a high school in Little Rock, Ark.

But there was even a darker side to those times, when racism was blatant, when gays, bisexuals, transgender people and others who weren’t heterosexual were bullied, ridiculed and scorned. It took generations, but we’ve matured with laws that legalize same-sex marriage, abortion and ensuring more equality for women, Blacks and other people of color.

We even have a presidential cabinet officer, Transportation Secretary Peter Buttigieg, who not only is openly gay but is married to another man and ran for president in 2020. And we’re about to have the first Black woman justice of the Supreme Court. That’s monumental progress.

Fully 7.1 percent of American adults identify as LGBTQ, a record, up from 5.6 percent in 2020, according to a Gallup poll released in February. Bisexuality is the most common trait, it said. Gen Zers, those born between 1997 and 2003 who have reached adulthood, are the largest proportion of LGBTQ people at 21 percent, the poll said. That generation includes 65 million Americans.

“They’ve really grown up in a culture where being LGBT was normal and not something that people had to be embarrassed about or try and hide,” Jeffrey Jones, a Gallup senior editor, told The Washington Post.

Among millennials, 10.5 percent self-identify as LGBTQ, the poll said. That generation, born between 1981 and 1996, has a population of 56.3 million.

Yet “across the country, extremist anti-LGBTQI+ and anti-transgender groups are waging a coordinated campaign to restrict LGBTQI+ rights and target transgender youth specifically,” according to the Equality Federation, a partner with the Center for American Progress (CAP), a nonpartisan policy group. The “I” is for intersex, someone born with both male and female traits.

“Nearly 400 anti-LGBTQI+ bills were introduced across the country in 2021,” CAP reported. “In 2022, state legislatures are currently considering approximately 300 anti-LGBTQI+ bills.”

Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and others, it said, enacted such bills this year. Further, 14 states ban “transgender students from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.” Four have outlawed or restricted access “to medically necessary, best-practice gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“These anti-LGBTQI+ attacks endanger the fundamental rights and well-being of LGBTQI+ communities,” CAP said.

Far-right Republicans, who have become the White Taliban of the West as they set an extremist agenda alien to many Americans, is staining and trying to stamp out the progress we’ve made publicly to put the human in human rights, to make people feel accepted who have been pilloried just for being how their maker made them. They are innocent of their own creation; they are not to blame for who they are.

It’s all part of a culture war theme intended to attract the conservative vote. It includes damning books, unilaterally ridding schools and libraries of reading materials that have been accepted for decades just because some people who don’t even have library cards think they don’t belong in the hands of children.

So, it is with abortion and forbidding the right of a woman to decide what’s good for herself, which this country resolved, I thought, 49 years ago with Roe v. Wade. Now it’s becoming an endangered species as more and more Republican-led states restrict abortion. There’s concern the majority conservative Supreme Court is about to do the same.

And now it’s sex and gender mixed with schools and education – a volatile arena – that have been tagged form attacks in a campaign for so-called “parental rights,” a misnomer if ever there was one. It certainly doesn’t include all parents, certainly not those who want their children to be exposed to all aspects of life, in the classroom as well as at home. It’s called growing up.

But instead of a healthy, serious nationwide adult debate about the ramifications of discussing subjects of a sexual nature and gender identity in schools, we get this nonsensical juvenile nonsense from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., that’s right out of the QAnon conspiracy handbook:

“The Democrats are the party of pedophiles,” she said in an interview she put on Twitter, which belongs in a dumpster. “The Democrats are the party of princess predators from Disney. The Democrats are the party of elementary school teachers trying to transition their elementary school-aged children and convince them they’re a different gender. This is the party of their identity, and their identity is the most disgusting, evil, horrible things happening in our country.”

Why would any teacher in any grade want to change the gender identity of any child? Why is Greene in Congress, giving her a once-highly respected platform to spout ridiculous crap, dragging it through mud?

I wanted to focus on LGBTQ folks because what the right-wingers are doing adversely affects kids, the people who are coming of age, who are wrestling with who they are, who deserve every break they can get so they can, as the Army once put it, “be all you can be.” That’s not just an empty slogan. To me, it means being at peace with yourself.

The introduction of anti-LGBTQI+ legislation “alone – and the often hateful, dehumanizing, and misinformed debates that surround them – causes concrete harm to LGBTQI+ people, especially youth, by exacerbating existing mental health disparities,” CAP said in a report on this year’s outlook for LGBTQI+ rights.

It’s difficult to be at peace with yourself, regardless of who you are. LGBTQI+ folks have it hard enough. Politicians should let them be in the hands, hearts and minds of loving family, friends and knowledgeable teachers and therapists who know how to “whisper words of wisdom” to those who feel different from the gender they were born with.

It’s their job, their calling, their expertise, not grist for the political mill.

“This is a political wedge issue and an attempt to win a culture war,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said about recent Republican anti-LGBTQ legislation during a recent podcast interview, the Post reported. “And they’re doing that in a way that is harsh and cruel to a community of kids.

“I’m going to get emotional about this issue, because it’s horrible. But it’s like kids who are bullied, and all these leaders are taking steps to hurt them and hurt their lives and hurt their families.”

To help LGBTQI+ folks, the Senate should pass the Equality Act, which the House adopted Feb. 25, 2021.

It amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to prohibit “discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit and the jury system,” according to Congress.gov.

Further, the bill “prohibits an individual from being denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity,” it states.

We live in a democracy, a self-governing free society that is dedicated, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, to equality and to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Senate could do no better than to endorse those words by passing the Equality Act. Kids ask a million questions, rightfully so. They deserve straightforward answers.

Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.