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Saturday 12 November 2016

Not/Trans America?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 5th January 2016

California's Christian Right has failed to get enough signatures on a referendum petition to trigger an attack on that state's transgender child health and safety legislation. When it comes to transgender rights, there seem to be two Americas.

The Californian Christian Right have been trying to convince the populous state's general public that allowing transgender children into gender-appropriate changing rooms and toilets is somehow tantamount to permitting 'sexual predators' into these spaces. Needless to say, their lurid fantasies about imaginary 'transvestite sexual predators' is not substantiated by any resort to official statistics or to anything other than isolated, comparatively rare and questionable instances from tabloid media. Bear in mind that California is dominated by the Democratic Party, given that that state's Republicans have been captured by aforementioned demented religious social conservatives and that the state contains two large metropolitan centres, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with large LGBTI communities. Nevertheless, the misnamed "Privacy for All" transphobic hatemongers tried to gain enough valid signatures on their anti-transgender petition. They failed to do so, even given a year's grace. In itself, the organisation's name is Orwellian, given the regular harassment and intimidation of transgender children and supportive parents and educational institutions that goes on within US Christian Right attacks on transgender child safety. Even given "Privacy For All"'s support from other US Christian Right pressure groups such as the misnamed "Pacific Justice Institute", Family Research Council and Traditional Values Coalition, it still failed to pass the finish line. It was a wonderful seasonal gift for the Californian transgender community.

It must have been especially satisfying, given the setback in Houston earlier this year, when the Texan Supreme Court forced Houston Mayor Anneliese Parker and her city council to hold a referendum to overturn Houston's trans-inclusive HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance), with the sad outcome that US and Texan Christian Right pressure groups and fundamentalist activists succeeded in rolling back antidiscrimination protections for LGBT inhabitants of Houston, largely due to the ludicrous "bathroom bill" scaremongering tactics of their opponents. But then again, despite its petrochemical wealth, Texas is still a Southern US state, with all that implies.

As Steven Pinker noted in hisBetter Angels of Our Nature(2013), the Southern United States is literally "another country" compared with the civilised Pacific Northwest and New England. Soberingly, Pinker cites a range of official statistics that show that the South has higher homicide rates, poverty and income inequality, instances of firearms violence, numbers of social security claimants, homeless and untreated mentally ill individuals, divorce, STI and HIV rates, cancer and infectious disease hospital admissions, low educational attainment, alcohol and drug addiction, unemployment and so on. It isn't surprising that Southern fundamentalist Protestants see a quagmire of dysfunction and urban malaise around them, given that their own core heartland festers with such negative social indicators. However, the above malevolent social environment means that Southern US citizens are gullible and susceptible to hatemongering due to their ignorance, paranoia and fear, thus providing a constituency for successful initiatives like the anti-HERO campaign. Conversely, mainstream Western societies have undergone several positive social reforms that have enabled the growth and maintenance of healthy democratic political institutions and a robust and diverse NGO civil society network of interest groups. These are the growth of the modern state infrastructure, greater global commerce and trade interdependency, feminism and multiculturalism, as well as the expansion of secular evidence-based scientific and medical knowledge and expertise as a source of political initiative and social authority. To put it bluntly, the Southern United States should not be considered as part of the western cultural consensus and mainstream.

What about attempts to export this campaign? In Canada, they failed spectacularly. Although Canada's vanquished Conservatives halted the passage of trans-inclusive Bill C-279 due to wrecking amendments thanks to "REAL Women of Canada" and other dependent craven and unrepresentative satellites of the US Christian Right, the Liberals won last year's federal election in October 2015, with the consequence that a trans-inclusive Canadian Human Rights Act is back on the agenda, with the assistance of the New Democrats in the House of Commons. In short, REAL Women has failed. As for Family First New Zealand, its highly selective news coverage of overseas Christian Right "news" websites has failed to note the failure of their Californian counterparts against transgender child health and safety, predictably. However, apart from TVNZ'sBreakfast,most mainstream media outlets have failed to register much interest in Family First's imported hatemongering campaign. Apart from sporadic " news" reports on its website, their anti-transgender campaign has ground to a halt. Given the End of Life Choices Bill and newfound strength of the euthanasia law reform movement, they're probably under pressure to give more substantive focus on that priority and leave anti-transgender fulminations alone.

Given its secularism, New Zealand is not comparable to the Southern United States in terms of the available constituency for any anti-transgender political campaign. New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups are far weaker than their transpacific counterparts and many of the others resent Family First for its lack of strategic focus and prioritising when it comes to the "far graver" and "threatening" issue of euthanasia reformism. Bob McCoskrie needs to shelve the cheap transphobic carnival sideshow and get on with much more urgent issues insofar as conservative Christian political activism is concerned.

Not Recommended:

Privacy for All:

Family Research Council:

Traditional Values Coalition:http://www.traditionalvalues. org

Family First:

REAL Women of Canada:http://www.realwomenofcanada. ca


National Coalition for Transgender Equality:

Steven Pinker:The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:London: Penguin: 2011

[Graphic: Stop Transphobia]

Craig Young - 5th January 2016

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