First they came for the transgender kids, and I did not speak out—because I am not transgender.
Then they came for the bisexuals, the gays, and the lesbians, and I did not speak out—because I am none of those.
Then they came for the same sex couples, and I did not speak out—because I am married to a woman.
Then they came for me—but by that time the puritans, the fascists, and the power-hungry were in complete control, and speaking out was not allowed.
Of course, that is not what German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller wrote back in the 1930’s, of course. What he said was this:
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.
Hitler’s supporters responded to Pastor Niemoller’s warning by sending him to a concentration camp, where he stayed for eight years, until World War II ended in 1945.
His warning is regularly revised to reflect the threats of the times. I was in college when I first encountered it, and, as I recall, that version began “First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–because I was not a Jew.”
I’ve rewritten the lines because of what is going on now, here in the United States and elsewhere. Do you think I am kidding? Read this:
Robert Foster, a former Mississippi House lawmaker who lost a 2019 bid for governor, is using his social-media platform to call for the execution of political foes who support the rights of transgender people. “Some of y’all still want to try and find political compromise with those that want to groom our school aged children and pretend men are women, etc,” the former Republican representative from Hernando, Miss., wrote in a Thursday night tweet. “I think they need to be lined up against (a) wall before a firing squad to be sent to an early judgment.” Here’s the full story:
Michael Knowles—right-wing political commentator associated with the Daily Wire—said “for the good of society… transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely” at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday afternoon.
As you are reading this, dozens of states are considering draconian legislation–more than 120 bills were introduced before the end of January–that threatens the lives of young people struggling with their sexual identity. Other states have already passed legislation, which their Republican governors have signed. The ACLU has a good list here. Another organization, GLSEN, is also keeping watch here.
Banning what’s called ‘gender affirming care’ has been high on the list for politicians like Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Governor Jim Abbott. Florida is one of many states that has passed anti-trans legislation over the last year, including a ban on gender-affirming care for minors.
“Gender affirming care” sounds drastic, but it’s not, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The goal is not treatment, but to listen to the child and build understanding — to create an environment of safety in which emotions, questions, and concerns can be explored,” says Dr. Jason Rafferty, lead author of a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) on gender-affirming care.
Florida’s DeSantis has made anti-LGBTQ ideology a central tenet of his gubernatorial tenure as well, passing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and defunding diversity and inclusion efforts in universities. But it’s not just Texas and Florida, as that ACLU map makes clear.
Consider Indiana: Blogger Steve Hinnifeld, who follows Indiana politics and education, offers a chilling look into the Hoosier state:
“They call it a culture war, but it’s not culture that’s under attack. Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly have declared war on real people: teachers, librarians, students and, especially, trans kids and their families. They’re the ones who will be harmed if legislators get their way.
And several education culture-war bills have advanced at the midpoint of the session. Three are especially egregious: ACLU Indiana calls them part of a “slate of hate.” One would ban medical treatment for transgender children, one promotes book-banning, and another would force schools to “out” children over their gender identity.
The American Medical Association, hardly a liberal organization, made it clear two years ago that politicians should keep their paws off the issue of transgender care, urging governors “to oppose state legislation that would prohibit medically necessary gender transition-related care for minor patients, calling such efforts ‘a dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine.’ In a letter to the National Governors Association (NGA), the AMA cited evidence that trans and non-binary gender identities are normal variations of human identity (emphasis added) and expression, and that forgoing gender-affirming care can have tragic health consequences, both mental and physical.”
The right-wing Republican politicians paid no attention, and now Republicans in Congress are putting forth their own anti-transgender legislation, hoping to put Democrats on the spot with voters.
While it’s easy to get lost in the nuances–what bathrooms should transgender students use?–the central point is what matters, and this is serious. You must not remain silent or stand on the sidelines. Even if you are straight, you know people who are not. Even if you are straight like us, you probably have gay family members and friends. Like us, you may also have same sex couples in your family and circle of friends.
They are all endangered…and so are you, because the anti-transgender people won’t be content with winning the transgender battle. These are the people George Orwell warned us about in “Animal Farm.” They don’t believe in equality, or democracy, or religious freedom, or tolerance, or in the principles of our Constitution. They want power and control.
What to do? If you are a Republican, speak up against DeSantis, Abbott and others who are targeting transgender children, apparently just to please their base. You do not have to be a ‘liberal’ to oppose illiberalism. Work against politicians whose main platform seems to be the culture wars. Support mainstream Republicans wherever you find them, across the board.
Democrats and Independents cannot be passive on this either. They must demand and then support candidates who believe in equity and tolerance.