There are not a lot of transgender citizens of the United States — figures I see hover at around half a percent. Still a significant number of people: about 1.5 million. But not like they’re crowding me.
Looking over my 58 years on earth, I can’t think of any interaction whatsoever outside of my duties as a professional journalist. None that I noticed. No doubt I have run into trans folks and been unaware.
What I’m trying to say is, the existence of transgender Americans has not been rattling my windows, certainly not the way it does certain individuals who profess to be religious. To hear them describe it, the transgender community is a kind of Night of the Living Dead assault, an inexorable force on the march. That people exist who do not identify with their birth gender is an earthquake, a revolution, one they will not tolerate, this pickaxe aimed at their own wobbly sense of self. It is something terrifying. Something to be stopped.
Last week I received an email from Brian S. Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage. His effort to stop gay marriage was a flop, so, like the March of Dimes shifting from polio to birth defects, he re-deployed his forces in the fight to keep the world exactly as he imagines it should be.
Brown’s letter begins:
Dear Friend — I have been saying for a while that the push by LGBT extremists to impose gender ideology on society has reached insane proportions. Take what is happening in California, for instance.
The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee of the California Legislature, a Democrat, has declared that people who testify before the committee will be prohibited from referring to another individual using male or female pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she,’ ‘him’ or ‘her.’ Instead, the rules now require the use of the pronouns, ‘they.’ The rule change was made to endorse gender neutrality so that “transgendered” and “non-binary” people are not offended with the use of a pronoun that doesn’t fit their gender identity.
Some people collect butterflies. I like to locate the seed of fact that flowers into these far right fever fantasies. In this case, it was easy, the Snopes debunking site set up a page, explaining what actually happened:
In 2017, the California Legislature passed the Gender Recognition Act, a bill sanctioning the use of a third, “non-binary” gender category (in addition to “male” and “female”) on driver’s licenses and other state-approved forms of identification. Similar measures have been enacted in Oregon, Washington, D.C., Washington state, and Maine in recent years.
In January 2019, shortly after California’s gender-neutral statute took full effect, a number of conservative news outlets reported that the chairperson of the State Senate Judiciary Committee had summarily “banned” the use of gendered pronouns during committee hearings.
It hadn’t. This is a classic feint from the religious fanatic playbook: take a small development — permitting a third gender category — and inflate it to some insane extreme: banning traditional gender pronouns. Which, I should be clear, never happened. It’s a way to shift attention from the harm you’re causing others by, for instance, making it more difficult for a challenged minority to live their lives, by pretending it’s a harm against yourself.
Bullies are always the victims, in their own minds, and no action they take is so morally wrong that they can’t nevertheless paint themselves as the aggrieved party.
Space dwindles. Of course, Brown’s letter is rattling the tin cup: money must be collected to fight policy that “poses serious risks to the safety and privacy of vulnerable women and girls.” A dozen links allow the alarmed to click and immediately give.
This job has made me a connoisseur of vindictiveness, and based on the above, there is a 100 percent chance a few readers will write in, sneeringly informing me that they are now dispatching money to the National Organization for Marriage. That is their right. Brian S. Brown draws $500,000 in salary and benefits, and if you want to underwrite him, be my guest.
But two can play at that game. I’ve used Snopes for years to ground myself in reality but never dug into my pocket. That isn’t right. I decided to solemnize this occasion by sending them $25, a painless act of generosity I encourage you to imitate. You can give at snopes.com.