Transphobia on the Rise: An Overview of the State of Transphobia and Attacks Against the Trans Community Here in Virginia

Virginia is an important battleground in the United States in the fightback against transphobia.

The Vulnerability of the Trans Community to Right-wing Attacks

In an article in The Washington Post, entitled “Attacks on U.S. Jews and gays accelerate as hate speech grows on Twitter,” the discussion of how hate speech leads to hate crime is gone over:

“‘In the past three to four months, we have seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ incidents, and you can see a statistical correlation between these real-world incidents and the increased use of the term ‘groomer’ on Twitter,’ said Alexander Reid Ross, a Network Contagion analyst who shared the findings with The Washington Post. He did not say that use of the term had led to the violence.”

The article appears to play it up more as a question than an active issue, but the loosening of scrutiny over hate speech on Twitter will no doubt contribute to the current spate of attacks against the trans community, both physical and, yes, verbal (which can only lead to more terroristic attacks).

The allowance of hate-speech on Twitter is not the only thing to look out for. State legislatures across the country have seen a barrage of over 100 anti-LGBTQ+ legislation being introduced or proposed already in the year 2023 (such as one that ban “all forms of gender-affirming care for anyone under 26 years old” or another bill “that would fine people $1500 for using the correct pronouns for trans people”). This comes at a time where gun violence is on the rise and remains a uniquely American phenomenon in its sheer scope. And in Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s book Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, she maps how civilian use of arms was used to bludgeon and attack other communities such as Indigenous peoples and minority groups within the country itself. “There is no doubt that the United States is exceptional among wealthy nations—and even many poorer nations—in legal permissiveness about gun ownership, as well as in gun deaths per capita. By 2016, nearly all the states allowed open carry for firearms with various limitations regarding licensing, loaded or unloaded, weapons training or not, gun types, and so on.” This makes it only easier for civilian terrorist groups such as 3 percenters here in Virginia to enact vigilante attacks against trans folks. It was not that long ago that Kyle Rittenhouse killed two protestors during the mass protests in 2020 in part because of the culture of vigilantism in America. The murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a case of both racism and American vigilantism, also underscores that many are at the mercy of right-wing terrorist groups or even individuals that have essentially have the license to kill people, whether they be poor or non-white or, for our purposes, apart of a sexual minority, and so on and so forth.

We must accept that, leaving aside the attacks that already happen, there is not much protecting minority groups within the United States to begin with; it is not just a matter of the ultra-right being on the offense but of the vulnerable having virtually no defense to speak of. We speak of the situation worsening over the years, but what happens when there is a “tipping-point” in favor of the ultra-right, some sort of victory on their part, that galvanizes the fascistic forces that have been coalescing for some time? For example, it would not matter if the Democratic Party continued to push forth center-right Joe Biden for a second term. All it might take is for a Republican Party, known in the popular imagination for being the leaders of the “right-wing” in the United States, to score a victory with DeSantis or Youngkin, and give a psychological impetus to an ultra-right that only needs to test the waters before it can continue up the ante. And if the ocean is favorable that fine day, then a day is all it would take for them to escalate things to a new level entirely.

The Current Hate Crimes Against Trans Folk And The Possibility of Further Escalation

According to the Virginia Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (in their Advisory Memorandum entitled “Hate Crime Statistics and Incidence in Virginia”) “LGBTQ and Muslim communities are most likely to face physical assault with injury.” From the memorandum, there is also an element of under-reporting or missing information. “LGBTQ victim’s face hostility, discrimination, and possibly other pressures, may be reluctant to come forward to report.” According to the Human Rights Campaign, in a report entitled An Epidemic of Violence, “At least 34 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2022.” It goes on to say: “We say “at least” because the stories detailed in this report very likely undercount the number of transgender and gender non-conforming people who were killed in the United States this year.” also reports “a staggering 56% increase in transphobic hate crimes in this country over the last year.” *

The next few years, and perhaps even months, may be uniquely crucial in how one prevents a further galvanization of fascistic ultra-right forces. If the Republican Party continues to normalize transphobia to a grotesque extent, then whatever victories they score will only continue to give psychological and moral support to this behavior. Indeed, many are also apathetic to how Republican rhetoric can further enforce the attitudes and views of not just their immediate base but others outside it (liberals, moderates, non-voters in general, etc.).  There is too much flippancy regarding the talk of people such as Trump or DeSantis. Isn’t it always? They talk a big game but do they really “mean it”? Yes, we can say that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans, at least on the national level, though perhaps also on the intermediate and local level as well. Yet all too often this talking-point or current of thought does not want to face the issue head-on and give a good answer to it; instead, it side-steps the issue almost entirely. He’s just talking, so they say, and therefore we can shrug and say “the Democrats are still as bad as the Republicans.” A convenient way one washes their hands to be done with it.

The position that this article holds is that talk isn’t always just talk, especially when it’s not “just Trump” that’s saying it, and especially when the Republicans still have at least a solid third of the nation at their beck and call that will repeat it to everyone and anyone with fervor. There are, of course, huge swathes of the United States that will vote Republican simply because it’s expected of them or because of pressure to do so, though it’s fair to say that that it’s irresponsible and immoral, even if, say, a minority of Republican voters are indifferent to the issue of trans rights itself. Indifference, especially on an issue like this, is not a good trait to have. Yes, there are degrees and levels to these things. The degree to which much of the Republican base is actively fomented to be a unique brand of American fascists in the 21st century is different compared to the Democratic base. Yes, we’ve seen it: Democrats and their voters will hem and haw about the injustice that Ukraine is facing while shouting “Slava Ukraini” (a fascist slogan in reference to Nazi collaborators during Germany’s war against the Soviet Union). And no doubt the Obama administration had a hand in creating and giving support to the government that has existed there since 2014 ever since the Maidan coup (while liberals remain blissfully unaware of that and the fact that the US government has a history of aiding, abetting, and allowing Nazis to run rampant… under both Republican and Democratic administrations).

But it’s also fair to say that there are people here that are now at the mercy of ultra-right tyranny, that in the immediate term that’s what is going to matter. Yes, think long-term, we often hear. Yes, think about the whole picture. But also: think in the here and now. One needs to also survive the moment itself; while Marxist-Leninists may look at things in the “the longue durée” doesn’t mean that we act like the immediate present doesn’t matter.

As Joe Sims says in his article “It’s going to take a mass movement”:

“While the class struggle burned red hot, the demand for equality was also at the center of the fire in recent months. In response to alarm at the Dobbs decision, a marriage equality bill was signed into law at the White House in December. This was an important preemptive measure against a potential right-wing attempt to rescind the right to marry. And there’s real reason to worry; the far right has also pledged to step up their attack on trans rights. This attack must be met head on.”

Elijah Jones

Further recommended readings on related topics (paperback versions are advised):

Communists in Closets: Queering the History 1930s – 1990s by Bettina Aptheker

Transgender Marxism by Jules Joanne Gleeson et al.

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