In a sign that sanity is possible amid today’s culture wars, the Republican governors of Utah and Indiana this week vetoed mean-spirited bills passed by their legislatures to address a fake crisis about transgender student athletes.
This year already is on record for producing the largest number of anti-LGBTQ — and specifically anti-transgender — bills in statehouses in history. NBC News reports that so far, 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in state legislatures and most of those target transgender persons.
“Target” is the right word here. What these conservative Republican legislators are doing is throwing red meat to their constituents around an issue none of them understand but that sounds very scary. What’s worse is that fear of the “other” likely is being reinforced from the pulpits of the churches these voters attend.
Political and theological conservatives in America today are obsessed with transgender identity as though it were the new communism. As with the McCarthy era, Republican leaders in states like Texas not only want to reach into a family’s home to tell parents how to raise their children, they want to punish parents and children who don’t conform to their narrow ideals.
This is sick.
Even if transgender student athletes were a widespread reality — and they’re not — these awful bills still would be cruel and unnecessary because they are based on fake science built on little more than a fear of the unknown.
I have just one bone to pick with Gov. Spencer Cox of Utah. In explaining his veto, as reported by the Associated Press, he said: “I struggle to understand so much of it, and the science is conflicting.”
Actually, the science is not conflicting. It is only conflicting if you consider the pseudo-science of Fox News commentators and self-appointed internet authorities as “science.” We know so much more about transgender identity, gender dysphoria and effective treatments than ever before. And the real science is clear: Age-appropriate therapies for gender alignment save lives. Refusing to acknowledge the reality of transgender identities leads to suicide and family trauma.
But kudos to Gov. Cox for moving beyond his view of “conflicting” science. Here’s what he said in the next breath: “When in doubt, however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion.”
What an incredibly novel idea. That sounds like Jesus.
If kindness, mercy and compassion were the guiding principles, none of these anti-LGBTQ bills would see the light of day. They are all punitive, harsh, reactionary and pointless.
To further illustrate the insistency of this campaign, consider that in both Utah and Indiana, Republican legislators intend to — and have the votes to — override the governors’ vetoes. Have I mentioned that they are hell-bent on adopting these unnecessary laws?
“Doing nothing is taking a step backward for women. Finding a solution to this complicated issue is necessary to maintain fair competition now and in the future,” Utah Senate President Stuart Adams said.
Sorry, Sen. Adams, but that’s just baloney. There is no rush of transfeminine student athletes threatening to keep other girls from winning trophies.
In Utah today, there are four known transgender players out of 85,000 competing in school sports. Four. Out of 85,000. That’s 0.000047% of the student athlete population in Utah.
Further, as AP has reported, “there are no public concerns about competitive advantages” by these transgender athletes. None. Thus, it is fair to conclude that the only motivation for these awful bills is to stir up voters by creating a class of invading hordes that doesn’t exist.
The stupidity of these bills is further illustrated by the fact that Gov. Cox, after announcing his veto, called for a special session to provide taxpayer funding for lawsuits filed against school districts and youth sports organizations he knows will be sued for discrimination when the legislature overrides his veto.
“Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”
In a letter explaining his veto, Cox wrote: “Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live.”
For that reason, I’ll believe Gov. Cox when he claims to be “pro-life.” But I won’t believe the Republican legislators in Utah, Indiana and elsewhere who do not give a fig about whether transgender children live or die. In fact, it appears they would prefer for transgender children and their families to just go away, to disappear.
But that’s not going to happen any more than you could legislate people to no longer be born gay.
Transgender children, youth and adults are a reality of creation. We must believe that they, too, are created in the image of God, who has declared them “good.” Same with gay, lesbian and bisexual children, youth and adults.
The science is increasingly clear on this too: Same-sex attraction is a part of the natural order. We cannot legislate it out of existence any more than we can legislate the sunrise or the tides. But that won’t keep social conservatives from trying, as we’ve recently seen in Florida with a bill that aims to keep kids from knowing LGBTQ persons exist.
Sadly, that’s mild compared to the outright attack on transgender children and teens, which begins with a similar idea that if we don’t talk about gender identity everyone will just fall into two distinct lines like choosing teams for dodgeball.
“This is all part of the same cloth of perpetuating the Lost Cause of white supremacy, which includes heterosexual male supremacy.”
Eleven states already have enacted bans targeting transgender athletes — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. And legislators in at least 12 other states are considering some form of a ban on transgender student athletes.
Let’s not forget that these legislators who say they are concerned about transgender athletes having an unfair advantage are the same people who don’t want schools teaching real American history about slavery and racial oppression. They clearly don’t want Black, Latin or Asian kids having advantages either. This is all part of the same cloth of perpetuating the Lost Cause of white supremacy, which includes heterosexual male supremacy.
Christians across America would do well to emulate the best of Gov. Cox’s attitude and err on the side of compassion.
Today’s Republican state legislators, most of whom would claim to be Christians, cannot sing with a straight face the old song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” There is no love in these attacks on LGBTQ persons and transgender children.
But we, the body of Christ, can do better because as the Apostle Paul wrote, love endures all things. True love does not need to inflict pain on others in order to advance its self-serving agenda.
Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global.
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