I’m writing this column before the midterm elections on November 8th, but you are, in all likelihood, reading it after. The elections may have gone well, and they may have gone poorly. Most likely, they were a mixture, with some great results and some awful ones.
But regardless of the outcome of the election, we have to be clear-eyed about where we are politically. The reactionary right has seen an opening to attack our communities, and they’ll continue to target us. And unfortunately, there will still be dangerous elected bigots in positions of power next year, in position to amplify racism and transphobia and homophobia in the broader community.
It’s worth going over our recent history. The past two years have been a harsh assault on our communities, and this year has been particularly difficult. Pride events this year came under harsh attack from far-right extremist groups like the Proud Boys, who attacked events in Wilmington, Sanford, and Apex in North Carolina alone, and many more in other states. Nearly every drag event or pride parade in North Carolina has seen threatening protestors. In Idaho, thirty-one members of Patriot Front, a white nationalist terror group, were arrested near Coeur D’Alene Pride with riot gear and smoke grenades.
This extremist threat has gone hand in hand with an aggressive and coordinated assault on LGBTQ+ Americans, particularly targeting the trans community. National organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and ALEC have provided model legislation for politicians seeking to attack our communities as a wedge issue. The results have been catastrophic: 3 states (Arkansas, Arizona, and Alabama) have passed bills banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, while 18 have passed laws banning some or all trans youth from competing in sports in a way which is congruent with their gender identity. Moreover, many states, like Florida and Texas, have seen back-end attempts at restricting care for trans youth through administrative methods, like state medical boards or the child welfare system.
This all-out attack works in tandem with the violence we’ve discussed above. These state-sponsored attacks on our communities provide political license to the kind of violence which we’ve seen in the community.
The picture looks bleak, but it’s important to remember that we’ve been here before. American history has a recurring theme of civil rights strides, followed by harsh backlash. It’s instructive that this latest wave of hateful backlash comes directly after years of hard of work by LGBTQ rights activists and after the uprisings following the murder of George Floyd. Movements for justice often beget movements against justice.
It’s worth then thinking about how our community has responded to these threats in the past, and how we can use this legacy of resistance in the fight ahead. There’s a rich history of community care and mutual aid in marginalized communities – and this spirit of solidarity and showing up is what we need for the years to come.
Even in the past few years, we’ve seen powerful resistance in our communities to hate and violence. In Ohio, trans activists and allies were able to defeat an attack on youth in the state education system. Bills attacking our communities all over the country have died in committee. And here in North Carolina, we were able to defeat bills attacking sports, gender-affirming care, and our school curricula, thanks to activists and community members like you. There are no guarantees – but if we band together our communities are powerful.
I can’t promise that it won’t be a struggle. Our opponents are coming for our whole lives. But we are obliged to work together in defense of each other.