I have a book coming out soon: “U.S. Proxy War in Ukraine and Donbass.” If anti-war activists in Nashville, Tennessee, invited me to come and do a book reading, I would be at risk of arrest – not for the contents of the book, but as a trans person speaking and existing in public.
On March 2, Tennessee became the first state in the country to ban drag performances. At least 14 other state legislatures have introduced similar measures. The law was cobbled together with numerous amendments in an attempt to withstand legal challenges on free speech grounds by claiming to ban only “adult-oriented performances where minors could be exposed.”
But state officials have made clear they consider drag performers and trans people to be inherently guilty of “lewd behavior.” No distinction is made between the millennia-old art form of drag and transgender people going about their daily lives, though they are different things.
Under a bill currently being considered in the Texas legislature, if I gave a speech at a protest in Houston, Texas – the fourth-largest city in the U.S. – I could be sued by anyone for “performing drag” in a place where a minor might see. This measure is based on a similar law enacted last year to encourage bounty hunting of anyone suspected of having or helping someone get an abortion.
A growing number of political activists, workers, and struggling communities understand the danger represented by these measures aimed at the trans community, and other LGBTQ+ people. Many more, however, have not yet understood how far-reaching they are or how they threaten everyone if allowed to advance without fierce, united resistance.
LGBTQ+ organizers are sounding the alarm, not only in Texas and Tennessee but in the many other states where similar laws are likely to be enacted soon. What will this mean for Pride marches in June? Could there be mass arrests? Will threats and lawsuits force smaller Pride celebrations to be canceled?
These are just some of the urgent issues driving a call by the Trans Radical Activist Network and other groups for a “Trans Day of Vengeance” weekend of actions in Washington, D.C., on March 31-April 1.
Internal refugee crisis
Since the beginning of this year, several states have enacted bans on gender-affirming health care for trans youth, including forced detransition of those already receiving care. Numerous other laws have been passed or likely soon will be that force teachers and other school staff to ignore students’ names and pronouns and to report any suspected “gender deviance” to parents and state authorities.
Among the worst offenders is Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis forced through a ban on gender-affirming care for youth and Medicaid recipients of all ages late last year through the authority of an appointed medical board.
Now state legislators are preparing to codify these executive measures into law, along with a bill that would allow parents to kidnap trans children who are receiving care or even suspected of doing so under another parent’s custody, even if they live in another state. The language would also permit children of trans parents to be seized.
Nor is it only youths and parents who are threatened. The bans on gender-affirming care are being “aged up” to include young adults, and measures are being pushed to forbid insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid from covering any gender-affirming care for anyone at any age.
These anti-trans laws have no basis in medical science – all major medical associations oppose them. Gender-affirming care has been shown time and again to be vital to improving the health and well-being of trans people and curbing suicide among trans youth, too.
The cruel measures to rob people of their health care and their very ability to live as themselves are accompanied by growing fascist violence and harassment on the streets, fueled by far-right media and social media campaigns that threaten trans people and others who stand up for them.
This was epitomized when Daily Wire host Michael Knowles declared to cheers at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that “transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely.”
At the federal level, Republicans in the House of Representatives have begun to present similar bills that would ban trans lives throughout the whole country. While they are unlikely to pass now, the ultra-right is laying the groundwork for anti-trans laws if they are successful in the 2024 presidential and congressional elections.
A refugee crisis is taking shape within the borders of the U.S. as increasing numbers of families and individuals flee the crackdown on queer lives. Like people in Latin America and the Caribbean who are forced to flee north, trans people are being uprooted from their homes, jobs, and communities.
So far, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and most recently, Minnesota have enacted laws declaring themselves sanctuary states for trans people.
‘Fight with us’
Struggle-La Lucha spoke with Tsukuru Fors, co-founder of the Trans Radical Activist Network (TRAN), who explained that this year “we are calling for Trans Day of Vengeance, instead of Trans Day of Visibility, because ‘visibility’ alone is no longer enough.
“The right-wing fascists have unleashed a misinformation campaign upon our community by creating narratives that we are a danger to society. They like to say that we are sexual predators and violent radicals, when, in fact, the only thing that’s dangerous about us is the fact that we are a threat to the binary systems that uphold the patriarchal, white-supremacist and capitalist power structure,” Fors said.
“In the face of urgent issues such as poverty, housing, health care, education, police brutality, and hate crimes against the marginalized communities, the fact that the trans/non-binary communities and the war concerning gender identity are being singled out as ‘the number one problem’ by right-wing politicians demonstrates to us that we are being used to distract people from the most important issues at hand.
“That is why we are calling for Trans Day of Vengeance. Vengeance means fighting back with vehemence. It is our battle cry to declare to the world that we the transgender/non-binary communities will neither be silenced nor eradicated. And we are calling to our allies, members of other marginalized communities to make themselves known and to fight with us.”
On Friday, March 31, in Washington, D.C., Queer Youth Assemble is hosting a March for Queer and Trans Youth Autonomy from Union Station to the U.S. Capitol, starting at 3 p.m.
Youth-led actions are being held across the country on March 31, including in Florida, where a call has gone out for protests on every school and college campus in the state.
Then on Saturday, April 1, the Trans Day of Vengeance march will begin at 11 a.m. in Washington, D.C., hosted by TRAN and Our Rights D.C. The gathering site and march route will be announced closer to the date. Follow Struggle-La Lucha and sign up with TRAN for updates.
We say fight back! We won’t go back!
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Organizers of the Washington D.C. march scheduled for April 1 have called off the action due to credible threats of fascist violence. The Trans Day of Vengeance protest became a flashpoint for far-right threats in recent days.
Our statement: “ This action will not be taking place Saturday due to a credible threat to life and safety. The safety of our trans community is first priority. This threat is the direct result of the flood of raw hatred directed toward the trans community after the Tennessee shooting. Individuals who had nothing to with that heinous act have been subjected to highly serious threats and blamed only because of their gender identity. This is one of the steps in genocide, and we will continue our efforts to protect trans lives. While we wholeheartedly believe in the mission and message we put forth for trans day of vengeance, we must prioritize the safety of our community and the people that make it up. In an ideal world we would have continued on in defiance of the attempt to silence our right to free expression. However, we lack the resources to ensure the safety of the protest and cannot in good conscience move forward with it. In our continued efforts to preserve trans and non binary life we have notified the appropriate agencies.”
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