Today’s Senate hearing on the Equality Act—legislation that would extend federal civil rights protections to LGBT Americans that recently passed in the House—was full of alarming if entirely expected transphobia from Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. And just as they have done for the past several years, they attempted to give this transphobia a palatable sheen by claiming that they care about women and girls, and in particular girls’ sports. According to Senator Ted Cruz, a noted father of two daughters whom he is happy to throw under the bus when doing so suits his political aspirations, the Equality Act, which would benefit quite a large number of both cis and trans women if passed, represents what he called the Democrats’ “war on women.”
Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall!!!
If you want a fuller run-down of what was said at the hearing, I highly recommend reading the threads posted by the journalists Katelyn Burns and Melissa Gira Grant on Twitter. It’s really not worth noting the arguments that Republicans and their invited witnesses—which included Abigail Shrier, the Wall Street Journal’s foremost purveyor of the wildly false idea that being trans is a “craze” that is “seducing” young people, and Mary Hasson, the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum who has lately focused obsessively on trans issues—made because they have been making the same tired arguments for years now. Their motivations are obvious and odious. Quite simply, they want to ban trans people, and in particular trans girls and women who they believe threaten the gender binary that their whole conception of what society should look like depends upon, from public life. They believe they can legislate trans people out of existence.
The only person worth listening to who spoke at the hearing was Stella Keating, a 16-year-old trans girl who gave her testimony and was then forced to endure the spectacle of a group of adults attacking her and other trans girls for the next two hours.
“What happens if I want to attend a college in a state that doesn’t protect me? Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states. How is that even right? How is that even American?” Keating said during the hearing. “What if I’m offered a dream job in a state where I can be discriminated against? Even if my employer is supportive, I still have to live somewhere. I have to eat in restaurants, and I have to have a doctor. And why am I having to worry about all of this at the age of 16?”
I hope everyone is showering Stella with love today because I cannot imagine being 16 and speaking before a group of powerful people who would like nothing more than for you to not exist.
Which raises, in my mind, the question of what the Democrats were trying to do by giving the Equality Act a hearing in the Senate, a hearing that gave noted transphobes a large platform to spew their hatred and bigotry. It’s important and much-needed legislation, but unless the Democrats commit to ending the filibuster, the bill has no chance at all of passing. Given this political reality, today’s hearing had the feel of Democrats patting themselves on the back for showing their support for trans rights, all while actually doing more harm than good.
As the ACLU’s Chase Strangio noted, the Equality Act’s “reintroduction at this time is fueling a harmful backlash against transgender people as we contend with systematic governmental assaults on trans youth in state legislatures.” He added, “But at the same time, a vote on a bill that is unlikely to become law feels more performative than materially consequential. Politicians could tweet out platitudes and well-funded organizations sent out our fundraising e-mails and press releases but we are going to need a lot more to build a movement to defend our community.”