Eleanor Kramer, 1930 – 2016

mom 1951

We’ll miss you mom.

 

When Winning Feels Like Losing #IllGoWithYou

For a lot of us who are cis and allied to the trans community, and who understand the bathroom argument is nearly over, and that trans people won, it’s easy to forget how much hurt is out there right now: so many outright anti trans bigots, and worse, so many people won over by the “feminist” concern about women and girls’ safety.

It’s easy to dismiss for those of us who know better. The trans people in our lives know, maybe intellectually, that they are about to win this one, especially considering the recent support from the White House.

But in the meantime, there is a lot of hateful rhetoric out there.

It doesn’t seem too bad if you’re not a trans person because so much of it is so, so stupid, or so, so obviously bigoted, but even the smartest, snarkiest, strongest trans people I know are feeling the weight of it.

So check in, if you can. Ask. Let the trans people you know rant if they need to. Do something good for them if you can. Keep arguing with the haters: as people who aren’t trans, we can take it moreso and they shouldn’t always have to do the heavy lifting.

It really does make a difference. And if internet arguments wear you down, you can try coming up with one line – “I am more than happy to share a bathroom with a trans person” – and just type it and go. The trans people reading will see it and see that not everyone is an asshole, it doesn’t affirm only gender-conforming trans people, and it doesn’t get lost in the weeds of the arguments. It just affirms that you, one person, understand that trans people need to pee and you know there is no threat in that for any reason whatsoever.

Another thing to do is make sure is to just post a quick link to #IllGoWithYou as a show of support.

Trans readers: stay strong. Take a break from social media. Do good things for yourself, whatever they are. & Try to remind yourself that the majority of people are on your side. We are.

What You Can’t Know

I don’t know how to do this. I keep reminding myself that nobody does but I have decisions to make: when to go home, for starters. My 47th birthday is Friday; my great niece isn’t born yet. Everyone wants to know when, Dr. Perl said, but no one can tell you that. So how long do you stay in a room watching her snore, oblivious to your presence? How long is dutiful, how long to repay her for your own life? I put her folded laundry away, wash my own socks and underwear in the sink.

I read.
I try to decide.
I talk to my wife about what to do.
I try to concoct a plan to get my hair dyed blue.
I respond to emails from students: yes, you can have an extension on your paper.

Suddenly there are 24 hundred hours in the day, all of them weighing too heavily.

It’s not when I’ve done what’s right. It’s not even when I’ve done what’s right by me, or for her. It’s more – how do I wait? More, how do I do this with grace? It’s more: could I ever be okay with leaving knowing I might not see her again? It’s knowing I will most likely get the call once I’m back in Wisconsin, based on what odds there are.

It will never feel right to go now, no matter when now is. There is no way to be there when she chooses to slip away. I may just be washing my hands, or typing this thing.

There are no guarantees of anything at all but this forward-moving, inexorable time, all the time, and the living going on living and the dying going on dying. Death is a giant fuck you to control freaks like me.

There is no easy way to do this. There is a way to do this, but it’s wrong. Every way sucks. I am offended by death for being so much, so terrible, but also nothing more than the passage from one minute to the next. I told people after my father’s death that the colors of the world changed. Now, I worry they will blanch, fade, disappear altogether. There is still no way to imagine a world without him in it and yet here I am, in this unimaginable world. It is spring in New York. It is spring in Wisconsin. Somewhere in the light of my mom’s eyes it is still the spring of her own life. Somewhere in there she has just met my father. Somewhere in there they have just conceived me; somewhere in there she is watching them fold the flag in tribute to his service to his country.

And that’s what goes: another link in the long chain of human memory, another lifetime further away from the first person who heard recorded sound or who walked across the Brooklyn Bridge or rode a train or heard a violin played the very first time, a not endless but exhaustively long line of links that lead to the start of things.

There is no way to do this. I’ll do this, with grace or inelegantly, with composure or keening or denial. Joe Heller once said he felt better about dying once he realized people dumber than him had done it. The same is true for mourning, I guess.

I still don’t know when to go or how to go; I still don’t know how to do this.

Here we go.

To Jimmy

That day when you sat, looking tired and wan yet tanned by the sun, on that incline of lawn that sloped up to your house next to mine.

You told me you were sick.

You told me you got sick from the needles you used to do the drug you learned to do in the Army, a drug that let you escape those horrors, one doorway into hell replaced by an addictive other.

You told me in your way that you’d had some good life, the backyard parties of our families, our shared love of beach & brine & sun & sand. I didn’t know you were dying.

Before you died you re-painted your mother’s house and you painted JF high on the chimney I could see out my bedroom window. The other thing I could see was that beautiful pin oak, which was one of the only big trees to survive Sandy. I thought of you all the time when I lived there. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know when you died; just that one day you were there and then you weren’t, and no one told me about your wake or your funeral. They were sparing me something, I think, or maybe there was nothing for you. That’s how it was sometimes then.

Your mom, you know, became a powerhouse – not that she ever wasn’t – but for your sake she started the first support groups for families; she worked to dispel the myths; she demanded answers, research.

She laughed one day so hard in my family’s kitchen when she heard the lyrics

and I think that god’s got a sick sense of humor

when I die I expect to find him laughing

So hard she laughed, too hard maybe. She laughed like she wasn’t a good Irish Catholic lady for a minute. But she was, wasn’t she? So much faith, endless faith she had in the beauty of a laugh or a night with friends and other small charms this sick world offers, and all of that faith despite all of the misery she survived. She was my mother’s best friend. My mom still misses her.

She never met your brother’s child, her first and only grandkid. Your brother did come around, my mom tells me, eventually, to take care of your kid sister after your mom died.

We always felt a little guilty next door. We all lived, flourished in our ways, despite arrests and never enough money and our own invisible family traumas. Somehow we all made it, despite everything. Your eldest brother – that brother, who denied your mother the right of ever knowing her only grandchild – and your kid sister are all of you now.

Today is like that day I saw you – blue skies and a late spring sun, dandelions in grass that can’t grow fast enough.

I’ll be teaching students born years after you died about the disease that killed you tomorrow if I can manage. If I can I’ll tell them about you, but probably I’ll just put up a link so they can read this if they want to. I want them to know about your beat-up jeans and the blade of grass in your hand and in your mouth, your short auburn curls full on your young head. You were younger than I am now, so much younger. You were a picture then, and still are in my head, a young man who never asked why me but only longed, perhaps, for another day in the sun, another cold one, another clam on the half shell.

Just so you know, Jimmy, someone who owned your house finally painted over your initials, and since I noticed I’ve taken to writing or carving your JF where I can. You’re never forgotten, not while I live at least, and I think, I hope, that you’d appreciate that one of us Kramers breaks the law on your behalf as often as she can. I think that might make you laugh, and here I am now, laughing on your behalf but crying for you too.

You would have been 60 this year.  Godspeed and say hi to your mom.

b. May 17, 1956

d. August 14, 1989

Marginalized Minorities: Bathroom Backlash and Same Sex Marriage

This is a brief talk I wrote to give in China. I had an awesome translator – a colleague named Brigid Vance – and we got at maybe 10% of what’s here. The language is meant to be simple because I was speaking to a group who either had no or very little English and was also trying to take it easy on my translator.

That said, in the light of the ongoing bathroom laws, it might be helpful for those who are wondering how bathrooms became the place of contention, and maybe it answers a little bit of why.

Not that understanding will help you feel less angry. Nothing should. Stay angry. Keep fighting.

Marginalized Minority Backlash and the LGBTQ*

I want to talk today about the ways that minority groups have diverse needs even within group, specifically about how some types of marginalization may not be obvious or identifiable while trying to provide services to them. That is, different populations within a marginalized community may not access or use those services equally. I will talk specifically about how marginalized communities may not only not benefit equally, but will as well contend with significant backlash due to the change in the group’s status as a whole, and how that backlash is likely to target the most discriminated against group in order to undermine the group’s rights as a whole.

In the United States, there have been significant gains for the LGBTQ population. Gay and lesbian people can now marry, serve in the US military, and in many places, adopt children. Crimes against them are now monitored and recorded in a way that they have never been before, and extra penalties are added to sentences if a crime against them was motivated by hate, or specifically, by homophobia – which is the specific fear/hatred of gay and lesbian people. For some people, these gains have happened very quickly, when it has taken decades of work by gay and lesbian activists to make this happen, which was, in turn, motivated by life and death issues such as the AIDS crisis, high rates of discrimination in employment, substance abuse, depression and suicide. Nationally, then, gays and lesbians have more rights and acceptance than they ever have in US history, but there are many more people than only gays and lesbians in the movement on their behalf.

The term LGBTQ* (or +) is used to indicate the many identities that make up the “gay” movement. The letters stand for lesbian, gay. Bisexual, trans, and queer people, but those are only the first few. Other times may include people who are agender (no gender) or androgynous, crossdressers, drag queens, drag kings, and those who are in some other way GNC (Gender Non Conforming). The diversity is diverse. It includes anyone who is discriminated against due to their sexual orientation (who they have sex with) and many people who are discriminated against due to their gender identity (who they are) or gender expression (what they look and act like).

This group as a whole is very small – estimates vary from 5 – 12% of the population, but the subgroups within are even smaller. Some are only 1-2% of the population, and in US politics, minorities often need to make alliances with similar others in order to make any political headway. Often, the governing idea is that the LGBTQ+ population is made up of all the people who other groups of people dislike for their gender and/or sexuality.

The US was one of the last Western nations to make marriage between people of the same sex legal, but it has now joined a growing number of countries which recognizes not only same sex attraction but the need to legally recognize those relationships. It is a very significant victory which solidifies the rights of gay and lesbian people as well as their children’s rights; in fact, the Obergefell v Hodges ruling underscores the rights of the children of gays and lesbians – by previous marriage, adoption, or reproductive technology – in its decision. Marriage, however, does not solve many problems for many other sexual and gender minorities; instead, it benefits those who are already in better shape than others. Continue Reading

Me, Bathrooms, Target

Says the journalist: “While she appreciates the sudden concern for women and children’s safety, she says there are a million ways to ensure that without restricting bathrooms.” (itals mine)

The favorite line of mine they didn’t use: “I think the line for the ladies’ room is long enough without adding paperwork.”

Comments my wife after seeing the segment: “Kramer vs Kremer”.

Female Masculinity

Update from NCTE re: Mara Keisling’s Arrest in NC

4/26: Mara has been released and is safe.

Bail is set at $1k. Donate if you can.

Thanks to everyone who has expressed support for Mara Keisling, who was arrested earlier this evening while protesting ?#?HB2?. We’ve been told that she has been treated respectfully, and that she even conducted an impromptu training for the detention center staff around how to treat trans people who have been arrested.

Mara’s bail has been set at $1,000, and we would appreciate any donations to NCTE to help us continue to ?#?FlushDiscrimination? in North Carolina and across the whole nation: http://www.flushdiscrimination.org/

Mara Keisling Gets Herself Arrested in NC

Mara Keisling has been one of our very favorite people for a long, long time now, and today even more so.

Today she used the ladies’ room in the NC state house and was interviewed by Buzzfeed about it. She was there delivering petitions to get HB2 revoked:

Keisling was with a group from the NAACP delivering proposed legislation that would repeal the state’s anti-LGBT law, which also prevents cities from raising the minimum wage or from passing new nondiscrimination ordinances.

The state has been sued in federal court over the law, dozens of businesses have asked state officials to repeal it, and numerous businesses have canceled ventures in the state.

Protests, attended by thousands, were held on Monday to urge lawmakers to repeal the law — the first day the legislature convenes for its spring session. LGBT groups said they delivered petitions signed by more than 150,000 people asking for the law to be reversed.

She has since gotten arrested with a few others who proceeded to conduct a sit-in after her use of the ladies’ room.

More news as I get it, but let me say: Mara has been a stalwart activist who energizes her dedication with humor and love. The trans community could not ask for a cooler person.

 

Rest in Princeliness

prince 2016

Masculine Women! Feminine Men!

I’m teaching a fun tutorial on pre Stonewall LGBTQ identities, and this old favorite showed up in an article about the queer identities in the ‘pansy craze’ of the 1920s. (There’s a great little track called “B.D. Woman’s Blues” by Louise Bogan – the “B.D.” stands for bull-dagger, if you’re wondering.)

Contact Your Senator: SCOTUS Nomination

A friend who is a Wisconsin attorney recently posted this on Facebook, and I thought both the idea and the template deserved a bigger audience. This letter encourages one of our state senators, Ron Johnson, to do his job and call for a hearing on Obama’s selection of Justice Garland for SCOTUS. This letter does not expect or even request Johnson approve of the nominee; it only asks that he do his job and call for a hearing.

You can contact your state senator here. Please feel free to use this letter as a template.

Senator Johnson,

I am writing to you today to ask you to split from your obstructionist colleagues in the Senate and meet with (and push for a vote on the appointment of) Judge Merrick Garland.

I understand there is a mistaken notion that waiting until the new president is elected is “letting the people decide” but the logic there is extremely faulty. The people decided when they elected President Obama.

While you may disagree with President Obama’s selection, your “advice and consent” comes in the form of your vote to approve or not approve Judge Garland’s nomination. Advice to not nominate someone at all is not advice, it is obstruction of the President’s duty.

I do not know if the Senate will approve Judge Garland, but the people who elected President Obama, Senator McConnell, Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, and every other elected official in Washington deserve to have their voices heard by way of a vote on Judge Garland’s appointment.

I cannot pretend this will effect my vote for your seat in November, I am a firmly based lefty, I voted for Senator Feingold in 2010 and I will vote for him again in November, but I am a resident of Wisconsin and have been for most of my voting life and you are my Senator. Mine is one of the voices you represent. I am asking you to do the job you were elected to do and to uphold the oath of office you took when you went to Washington on January 3, 2011.

Mine is one of the voices you will continue to represent until at least January of 2017. With that, you have a responsibility to me and to the residents of this great, progressive State of Wisconsin to avoid the typical gridlock caused by the extreme and damaging partisanship in our Nation’s Capital.

The refusal to so much as hold a vote on Judge Garland (you must be truly afraid he’d actually be approved by the majority [or as I like to call it “the voice of the electorate”]) is not just an abdication of your Constitutional privilege/responsibility (and those of Senators McConnell and the rest of the Republican Judiciary Committee), it is an act of extreme cowardice. It is also an act of great presumption. It presumes you’ll be happier with the elected President in January 2017. It might be someone more liberal than President Obama. It might be Donald Trump. Don’t both of those options cause you to shudder?

I’ll be honest, there is a part of me that would love to see you and yours continue with the stonewalling tactics and then watch as Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders sweeps into office and immediately nominates President Obama to the highest Court in the land. Thinking about it gives me the giggles. I am sure that will not happen, but that is something you open yourself to with the continued refusal to come to the table.

I’m not asking you to vote for Judge Garland’s appointment, but I am demanding as a voter in the great State of Wisconsin that you call for a hearing on his appointment. That is your Constitutional duty and one you promised to uphold and defend. I may not agree with your stance on many issues, Senator, but I do expect you to follow through on the stances you take. When you asked my fellow Wisconsinites to send you to Washington D.C. you did so with a promise to uphold and defend the US Constitution. Now would be a really good time to show you meant it.

Guest Author: Lance Weinhardt, on Liberty Counsel and Bathroom Bills

Lance Weinhardt is a professor at the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Syracuse University.

Mat Staver, otherwise known as Kim Davis’ attorney and the founder of Liberty Counsel, is allegedly behind the mean-spirited, illogical, and fear-mongering ‘bathroom bills’ across many states, and is the same man who was behind the legal threats issued to the Mt. Horeb (Wisconsin) School District last year when they were planning a reading of I am Jazz to support a young transgender student.

As we know, the Mt Horeb community did not take kindly to these threats to their teachers, school board, or the derision aimed at the students. They responded with love by organizing public readings of the book that attracted far more attention and support for the student than would have happened in the first place.

It seems to me that when you start targeting vulnerable children in your efforts to continue to marginalize LGBT people, and try to pass clearly unconstitutional and discriminatory laws across the country based on your supposedly Christian beliefs, you have hit rock bottom and appear truly confused about what it means to be Christian and an American. Having lost your battle against marriage equality is no excuse for this kind of behavior. Perhaps that is part of the reason the group is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. It is good to know who is behind these efforts, and what their motives are. Spread the word.

Spoon Theory

I’ve been suffering with a lot of pain lately – I’m scheduled for back surgery next week – and I’ve come to relate very personally with a theory I learned via disability studies. It’s called the Spoon Theory, and the basic premise is this: for everything you do in a day, you expend a certain amount of energy and effort. For most people who are able-bodied, there’s an endless number of spoons, but for those with lupus and other conditions that leave them differently abled, there is a set number that they have to guard carefully in order to get through a day.

Here’s the original post about Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino.

It takes me twice as long to walk to work, for instance. Putting on socks is a kind of torture. I use up a lot of spoons doing ordinary, easy things, and because I’m on pain meds, I lose a few more spoons – not physical ones, but mental ones – loss of focus, inability to concentrate, etc.

I’ve been very lucky: having no chronic physical ailments, and mental health issues that have been helped by decent access to health care. But this recent injury has made me so much more aware of how much the world is designed for people who don’t need breaks to rest, who can sit or stand or walk or sleep when they need to, who don’t have to figure out how to manage limited energy and focus to get through an ordinary day.

I hope I don’t forget once I’ve recovered from my surgery, so that I keep working to make the world a little easier for those who carefully count, and guard, their spoons every single day.

Interview With An Out Crossdresser

A really nice short interview with crossdresser Miqqi Gilbert about Casa Susanna. There’s so few out CDs who are willing to be publicly know, and Miqqi has been for forever.

This is a nice 4 minute introduction to the topic.

Daily Show: Trans Special Edition

They didn’t call it that, but Friday’s episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah pretty much was a trans special edition: from coverage of the trans bathroom bills, to an interview with Meagan Taylor about getting arrested in Iowa, and another with Angelica Ross of TransTech, it’s a good mix of funny, serious, and info. Do check it out.

About 11 minutes in, there’s a scene where a small group of trans people ask Jessica Williams all the stupid questions they get asked was particularly satisfying. (Also, “they can go shit in their fucking hat” is now officially part of my lexicon.)

Stuff I Said

Last night at my talk at The Tool Shed in Milwaukee, a couple of people live-tweeted the event. So here’s some stuff I said, in the order I said them:

“I was the very enthusiastic girlfriend of a crossdresser & the not very enthusiastic wife of a trans woman.”

“I wasn’t bothered by my gender identity until my boyfriend was better at walking in heels.”

“I was aspiring to be at least as feminine as she was, but I gave up because I was bad at it.”

“The agreement we made: she would transition as slowly as she could, and I would catch up as quickly I could.”

“It’s not our liberation. We’re involved in a struggle that is not our struggle.”

“Transition is, by its nature, a very self-involved process.”

“For partners: if you feel like you’re not getting any support back, that’s because you’re not.”

“I keep saying “pass” but I hate it. Has anyone found a better word?” *crickets*

“Trans therapists don’t understand what we’re going through, tend to be ‘get on board or get out.’”

“As long as I expected her to be my husband, I couldn’t be the kind of friend I should be.”

“Don’t expect the same marriage after transition that you had before transition.”

“Nobody really knows what’s happening in people’s relationships beside the people in it.”

The audio was recorded, so if I get a copy of that, I’ll try to post that, too.

Me Tomorrow at The Tool Shed, MKE

Tomorrow (Thursday 4/7) I’ll be doing an event in Milwaukee at the awesome Tool Shed as part of Milwaukee’s SHARE (Sexual Health and Relationship Education) week. It’s called “PROMISES YOU CAN KEEP: Through Transition Together”

8:30 PM

Here’s where you register for it.
Here’s the Facebook event.
Here’s the FetLife listing.

Tim Hanna for Mayor

The Wisconsin primary is Tuesday, and you’re not going to get out of me who I’m voting for, because frankly, I think either Sanders or Clinton will serve this country well. I’m saving my energy for getting whoever gets the nod into office.

Because the opposition is hateful – every single one of the Republican nominees is ridiculous, divisive, and hate-minded.

But locally is a different issue: our incumbent mayor Tim Hanna, who is far from perfect, has been challenged by an ambitious newcomer, Josh Dukelow. I know both of them, and I like and respect both of them personally.

But as an LGBTQ+ person, Tim Hanna has already proved himself a supporter of my rights as a citizen and my rights to choose my family. He’s supported a diversity coordinator position, domestic partnership rights (when we still needed them, before marriage became legal on the federal level), and trans rights, and he has been transparent and upfront about supporting those rights.

Dukelow, however, wants to make the diversity coordinator position regional, which I think is a mistake. Right now Appleton has some of the strongest laws protecting us in the region, and our diversity coordinator already works with local governments on their issues.

Moreso, he hasn’t actually said he supports and will defend LGBTQ+ rights unequivocally. He also supported a family values candidate for school board.

But the important thing is this: as LGBTQ+ people in Wisconsin in a presidential election year, we know a few things:

  1. That Governor Walker is not our friend.
  2. That his nominee for State Supreme Court, Bradley, called us degenerates.
  3. That we don’t know who will become president, no matter how much I want this country to find its sanity and actually elect a competent person, which this year, means a Democrat.
  4. That it worries me that my city mayor may be the only elected representative between me and my rights, because with Walker in charge, and potentially one of these hateful Republicans as president, it will come down to whether our local representatives have the wherewithal to make sure we are valued, treated equally, and treated with respect.

All of which leads me to conclude I must, absolutely, vote for Tim Hanna again: because he has said it, he has done it, and I have no doubt that he will continue to do so despite the political climate otherwise.

Dukelow just hasn’t. I think he has some good ideas and I look forward to a day when he is ready enough to be mayor that he will absolutely, without question or hesitation, support my rights even in the face of opposition or the loss of votes. I hope he will court us in some future election for mayor, and that he might serve some other office and prove, due to his actions and not just his words, that I am valued and equal.

He hasn’t, yet. Tim Hanna has — which is why Tim Hanna is getting my vote for Mayor of Appleton.

Guest Author: Finn Enke

TFP FinnA very good piece about bathroom legislation, NC, and why public accommodations are not just about us.  Enke’s book , Transfeminist Perspectives, is one of my favorites of recent years. 

In 2015, 21 different anti-trans bills were put before legislatures in over 12 states. In the first 3 months of 2016, politicians have brought us another 44 bills in still more states. Most of these bills focus on public facilities that are sex segregated; most criminalize transgender and nonbinary people for using public facilities; most suggest that these bills are necessary for the “safety” and “privacy” of “the public;” most include a definition of “sex” as that determined by birth assignment and confirmed by birth certificate, and chromosomes. Many focus on public schools. In their rhetorical conflation of transgender with perversion and predation, and in their legitimation of excessive surveillance, they disproportionately impact people who are already most targeted: trans and queer people of color, trans women generally, and nonbinary people.

Whether or not they pass, these bills produce a climate of fear and suspicion, and they have already contributed to an increase in violence in and around bathrooms.

As a white transgender person who doesn’t “pass” well in either bathroom, I am more nervous than ever every time I need to use a public restroom (roughly 1,500 times a year).

These bills don’t originate from public concern or from any documented problem, and protests against them show that many people aren’t buying it. After all, trans people have been around forever, and there is no record of any trans person harassing anyone in a bathroom, ever. Plus, the bills themselves are staggering in their fantasies that sex could simply be flashed at the door with the wave of a birth certificate. Most people know that these bills don’t make bathrooms safe and only marginalize trans people, even making it impossible for us to use any bathroom.

We know we are political fodder. The GOP made a sudden “issue” out of our access to public facilities in order to galvanize a crumbling party. It wouldn’t be the first time the GOP has created a political platform around vilifying already-marginal communities. As John Ehrlichman explained in 1994, Nixon advisors designed the war on drugs in order to derail the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam Antiwar Movement. In the midst of the Cold War, the GOP also consolidated itself around anti-abortion platforms. And from the 1990s on, the GOP turned gay marriage into the fuel behind their campaigns rather than addressing economic and environmental crises.

But even more specifically, the rhetoric surrounding these bills relies on a very old trope of white women needing protection against sinister intruders. In Wisconsin during a 9 hour public hearing about its bathroom bill, we heard from quite a few men who didn’t want their daughter or granddaughter to be vulnerable to men preying on girls in the locker room. One said, for example, “we don’t allow exhibitionists and child molesters to hang out outside of school buildings, so how can we even be talking about letting them into girl’s locker rooms?”

North Carolina State Senator David Brock shared a similar concern in response to the state paying $42,000 for an emergency session to pass SB2 which criminalizes trans people for using public facilities: “you know, $42,000 is not going to cover the medical expenses when a pervert walks into a bathroom and my little girls are in there.”

Or we can look at the campaigns against Houston Proposition 1 during 2015. Prop 1 was an Equal Rights Ordinance barring discrimination in housing and employment on the basis of gender identity as well as sex, race, disability and other protected statuses. These are rights that should already be guaranteed under the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and elaborated by Title IX and the American with Disabilities Act. Refusing to affirm these rights, those who opposed the bill claimed that the bill would allow men into women’s bathrooms. They created TV ads depicting large dark men intruding on white girls in bathroom stalls. They rhetorically turned a housing and employment nondiscrimination ordinance into a “bathroom bill,” and they succeeded; Prop One failed to pass.

And let’s not forget that the North Carolina bill also contains unchallenged sections that discriminate against workers and veterans. Against the more graphic iconography of predatory men in women’s bathrooms, the rights and workers and veterans are easily lost from view.

This is not the first time that demands for equality across race, sex and gender have been resisted with the claim that public accommodations will become spaces of unregulated danger against innocence. The face of the intruder may change slightly, but across centuries, the victim is ever and always a young white girl.

It’s also not the first time we have seen white women used in the service of sexist and racist and transphobic violence. Feminist historians have conclusively shown that the 19th and 20th c. trope of protecting young white womanhood was foremost about securing white masculinity, domesticity, and white supremacy.

Though they cause real violences, these bathroom bills are not primarily about transgender people or bathrooms. Nor have lawmakers, for all their concern about young girls being molested in bathrooms, shown similar concern about the most common forms of sexual violence and assault against girls and women (across race) that take place outside of bathrooms.

As mean as these bathroom bills are, something much larger is also at stake.  The North Carolina bill is designed primarily to strip the right of local municipalities to set their own anti-discrimination and protection laws.

We have lost all semblance of constitutional, democratic process.

These anti-trans tactics work because they succeed in directing fear away from the corporate demolition of democracy; they succeed by making people believe that the reason they are struggling and vulnerable is because some other group of people is dangerous and taking away something “we” worked hard to earn.

How, then, can we best address the fact that these bills increase everyone’s vulnerability and directly make the world less safe for people of color, people who are known or perceived to be trans, nonbinary, queer, or gender non-conforming?

While politicians vie for corporate favors at the expense of their constituents, and as more and more people struggle to maintain jobs, health, and life, we can still refuse to perpetuate hatred. Our only hope may be to refuse the rhetoric that pits people against each other. As politicians and corporations dismantle democracy, it is more crucial than ever to organize across race and class and ability, across queer and feminist and trans and straight; and to be brilliant in our resistance to cooptation.