The Present Age Weekly Recap: February 25, 2022
This week was absolute chaos, but we're all doing our best!
Welcome to the weekly recap. In this post, I’ll be linking to my work from the week, sharing some stories from others I thought were interesting, and providing a few casual thoughts on [gestures at everything]. If you’d like to receive this weekly email ONLY, please go to your account page and under “Email notifications” uncheck every box except “TPA Weekly Recap.” If you don’t want to receive the weekly recap, leave all boxes except “TPA Weekly Recap” checked.
About this week…
On Tuesday, I shared a post about Ric Grenell, the GOP strategy of attributing tiny inconveniences to Democrats’ heavy-handedness (real or imagined) to keep the outrage flowing. In addition to that, you’ll learn a bit about a parasite that can live in chlorinated water for days and can give you diarrhea for weeks!
After that… well, let me level with you.
It was a bad week. At the start of the week, a handful of pundits and journalists floated the idea of trying to come to some sort of compromise on “culture” issues with Republicans, which nearly always means “Time to throw trans people under the bus.” I got really bummed out about it and planned to write something.
Then the next day, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) released a document dedicated to outlining what Republicans will do if they retake control of Congress in 2022 and the presidency in 2024. There are a few nods to policies that would effectively wipe out trans people’s legal recognition among the many bullet points. For instance, one portion of it mentions something about no government document ever asking about gender identity or sexual orientation, which is a nod to policies that have been floated in the past to make it illegal for trans people to update legal documents to reflect who they are.
My wife Kayla’s shop, Tiny Werewolves, is selling pins and stickers, which you can buy here:
You may wonder why this matters. To help explain, let me share with you a post from the ACLU in April 2018:
Stacie Ray knows firsthand how dangerous it can be to have ID documents that don’t reflect who she is, especially when they out you as transgender to other people.
For instance, in 2016 Stacie attended a new job orientation along with 10 other new employees, and they were all required to present their birth certificates. When a human resources staffer called Stacie up in front of all the other new employees and examined her documents, the staffer said, “Why doesn’t your gender match?” That’s because while Stacie is a woman, she was assigned male at birth, and her Ohio birth certificate still says she’s male. Ohio is one of just three states, plus Puerto Rico, that refuse to update the gender marker on birth certificates, at any time, for any reason.
The consequences for Stacie were severe: She was outed to her co-workers as transgender and they started calling her “the freak of the company.” Another female co-worker told Stacie that if she ever encountered Stacie in the women’s room, she would “beat [her] ass.” The intense shunning and harassment led Stacie to quit that job just two weeks later.
The following year, Stacie was working as a truck driver and sought a higher paying job that required a hazardous materials endorsement for her commercial driver’s license. That endorsement in turn required a background check from the Transportation Safety Administration . At the first appointment for getting the background check, Stacie gave the TSA both her Ohio driver’s license, which correctly showed her as female, and her Ohio birth certificate, which still said male. The TSA not only told her it wouldn’t do the background check because of the discrepancy in the gender markers on her Ohio documents, but it also outed her as transgender to others in the waiting area.
Humiliated and in tears, Stacie drove directly to the Ohio Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, which handles birth certificates, explained what she had just been through, and asked for a corrected birth certificate. They said, “We will never change it.”
Stacie, however, has had enough.
Last week, she and three other courageous transgender people born in Ohio sued the state over its intransigence around updating birth certificates. The ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, and Lambda Legal, which have brought the case together, argue that the state’s policy violates individuals’ equal protection, privacy, and free speech rights. But at its core, Ohio’s policy refuses to treat Ohioans with basic human dignity. That’s all Stacie and the other plaintiffs are seeking, and it’s what they deserve.
Luckily for Stacie, a federal court struck down Ohio’s policy of refusing to update birth certificates for trans people. Unfortunately for her and all trans people, Rick Scott’s document makes clear that Republicans want the type of policy that resulted in her not being able to complete a TSA background check, caused her to be outed and harassed at work, etc., to become the law at a federal level. This, when it comes to birth certificates and passports, puts trans people’s lives, privacy, and ability to function in society at major risk.
Scott’s document also committed to banning gender-affirming health care for trans teens and said that the Republican party would implement a blanket ban on trans women from competing in women’s sports.
Seeing that, I sat down to write a piece explaining the various issues at hand, laying out why these policies would hurt trans people (as well as the ways they could be used to hurt people who aren’t trans), and why it’s important to oppose them. And then…
The next day, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents of trans teens for “child abuse,” defining abuse as not only allowing minors to access transition-related surgeries (which typically aren’t performed for people under the age of 18, anyway), but also for providing puberty-blocking drugs (which have been used for kids, trans and not, for a long time). This effectively forces trans teens to undergo what I can only describe as the straight-up body horror that is incorrect puberty.
Additionally, Abbott instructed teachers, doctors, and caregivers to report trans students they see to DFPS. This is a horrific policy that goes against what every legitimate medical organization has said.
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So, I scrapped the earlier piece I was working on and then… Russia invades Ukraine, which should have at the very least allowed for a single day where trans people weren’t the focus of attention. Somehow, the right managed to turn a foreign conflict that doesn’t directly involve the U.S. into an opportunity to rage about trans people and “pronouns,” which has essentially become as much of a buzzword as “woke” these days.1
And just… at that point I decided to take a deep breath, commit to writing this brief overview, and then putting my energy into putting out some thoughtful posts for next week on this topic.
So, with that, I want to wish every one of you a pleasant, positive, and refreshing weekend. Next week will be better. I hope.
When raging about “pronouns,” conservatives frame this as an argument about not wanting to learn some lengthy list of bespoke individual pronouns, but are usually just about not wanting to call trans women “she” and trans men “he.” It’s not an argument about pronouns, themselves, but about degrading and dehumanizing trans people.