The Rise of Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate in the Legislatures & Media
Transgender people are facing unprecedented levels of hostility and violence, spurred by a combination of media bias and legislative activity. Recent polling results are no surprise.
Erik Valenzuela | a Learn4Life CLMI fellow
It wasn’t all that surprising: a recent Washington Post-KFF poll found that 45 percent of all trans adults surveyed felt “unsafe at school and other places.” We’re now able to gain a much more complete picture of how difficult it’s become for transgender adults to live in a world that’s calling itself modern, but finds every opportunity not to act as such …
But, why would that be surprising? Public and fanatical far-right hostility targeting the the LGBTQ+ community is at its highest more than ever. According to a recent Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project report …
While white supremacy/white nationalism may be the most salient driver of far-right protest activity overall so far in 2022, anti-LGBT+ organizing5 has contributed to the starkest increase in far-right activity this year (14% of demonstrations involving far-right groups in 2022 have been anti-LGBT+, up from less than 3% last year). Anti-LGBT+ demonstrations have been on the rise across the country more broadly, with over 130 demonstrations already this year, up from nearly 60 last year, and six in 2020. These demonstrations are also taking place in more and more states: this year, they have been reported in 36 states and Washington, DC; up from 21 states and Washington, DC, last year; and six states in 2020.
And when you have “mainstream media” or large broadcast audience personalities like Tucker Carlson, Matt Walsh, and Ben Shapiro taking part in pushing and normalizing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric to their audiences, the open far-right hostility becomes that much easier. Meanwhile, Transgender people's lives are not only being threatened in media but also public policy. In primarily Republican-controlled state legislatures there have been countless laws proposed that aim to limit trans rights and restrict access to gender-affirming treatment. As CNN reports, more than 400 bills have been introduced in state legislatures which are designed to target or eliminate LGBTQ+ residents from public spaces or from those states altogether - an 893 percent increase since 2018. Nearly a dozen states have passed two-dozen laws that restrict LGBTQ+ rights completely.
In Florida and other red states, Gender Affirming Youth care has been banned. There have been over 120 bills alone in 2023 that propose restricting LGBTQ rights. These legislative attacks against the LGTBQ+ community will continue to get worse. A newly introduced bill in Florida could let a parent kidnap their children and bring them across state lines if the parent believes that the child is receiving gender-affirming health care — or even if the child is simply “at risk” of getting that care. More states will be proposing extremist bills to restrict the rights of the trans community.
The Role of Media
Escalated fearmongering caused by “mainstream media” outlets such as Fox has resulted in hate crimes committed towards the trans community.
Media plays an enormous role in the spread of hatred towards the trans community, especially when its from Tucker Carlson, Ben Shapiro or Matt Walsh. Arguably, the biggest perpetrator of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in media is the Daily Wire and, more specifically, their political commentators. Co-Founder of the Daily Wire Ben Shapiro is one of the more popular internet political commentators famous for his transphobic takes and debating in public spaces about transgender people. The most hateful and impactful person in the Daily Wire also political commentator Matt Walsh. He is directly responsible for a wave of terrorist threats against Boston Children's Hospital because he was spreading lies about the institution “turning the kids trans.”
Increase in media transphobia combined with the meteoric rise of anti-trans laws has unfortunately led people to commit hate crimes towards the LGBTQ+ community. Take, for example, the mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ+ nightclub in November 2022. Five innocent people were killed and 25 injured during the shooting. The shooter, facing charges of murder and bias-motivated crimes, consumed transphobic media and ran a neo-nazi website in which he regularly used anti-gay slurs. Or: Brianna Ghey was a 16-year-old British transgender girl from Birchwood in Warrington, Cheshire, England. On February 11, 2023, Ghey was at Culcheth Linear Park when two 15 year old teenagers attacked her in broad daylight and stabbed her multiple times before she was found dead. Leading up to the murder Brianna Ghey was constantly bullied and ridiculed at Birchwood HIgh School because she was transgender, which confirms this murder was most likely a hate crime. As Pocket’s Lucy Middleton argues …
While huge global progress has been made in raising awareness, growing visibility has brought with it increased hostility and resistance to change.
These so-called “hate crimes” are frequent examples of the ongoing “stochastic terrorism” pushed by organized groups, media personalities and policymakers. It’s happening at a time where many of us might feel more accepting or tolerant of LGBTQ+ communities. But, how much really? Despite the astonishing rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the South and some Midwestern-Western states, nearly 80 percent of all Americans support protections for LGBTQ+ people, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll in 2022 …
Nearly eight in ten Americans (79 percent) favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, including 41 percent who strongly support them. One in five Americans (20 percent) oppose such laws, including just seven percent who strongly oppose them. Support for these protections has increased over the past few years, with around seven in ten Americans favoring nondiscrimination provisions in 2015 (71 percent), 2017 (70 percent), 2018 (69 percent), and 2019 (72 percent), up to 76 percent in 2020.
What we continue to see, as we witness with other issues, is the continued policy making dominance on these topics by the very few in states that have the smallest populations or struggle with demographic diversity. A small minority of conservatives - for the most part white - still have their hands on key governance controls. However, that could slip fast due to resistance from younger generations of voters more willing to express their frustration at the polls. It all depends, eventually, on turnout. Protest alone won’t be enough.