“What is a woman?”

Politicians seem obsessed with trans people, and it’s getting scary. Rachel Levine – Assistant Secretary of Health for HHS and a transgender woman, testifies before Congress in her confirmation hearing in 2021. Image source: LA Blade and CSPAN

At a minimum, this is a question we have heard repeatedly over the course of 2022 from legislators at local, state, and federal levels. It’s a question that seems fairly straightforward and reasonable to intellectuals, philosophers, and freethinkers. After all, there is great value in taking such a simple and fundamental question and exploring what nuance exists beneath. Intellectual growth typically stems from philosophical debate over what society has traditionally followed or accepted.

However, harmless philosophical debates can be – and have been – misused for hateful reasons. This most often occurs when the rights of human beings become the debate topic. A common and fairly recent example of this of course dates back to “the Jewish question” of World War II. In an attempt to gain power, fascists identified a small portion of the population to blame for the nation’s issues and posed their rights as a philosophical debate. Because the fascist party was “just asking questions,” many non-fascists were happy to debate and entertain the issue. After all – from a legal perspective, one is free to openly ask questions due to free speech, and a question is certainly not a call to violence.

“The impact on this small minority people group has been devastating, and it is only getting worse…”

What many fail to realize is that these philosophical debates over human rights embolden those who are driven by hate. A fairly recent phrase to explain this phenomenon is called “stochastic terrorism.” This phrase, first coined by Juliette Kayyem, is defined as “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.” To put it another way, the words we say can cause both direct and indirect harm. Kayyem served as the former Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security.

All across the United States in 2022, dozens (if not hundreds) of bills were introduced which specifically aimed to reduce the rights of transgender people. The bill topics ranged from sports participation to bathroom and healthcare access. While these bills were introduced, politicians continued asking the seemingly simple, fundamental questions as to what trans people represent. Those who already hated trans people were emboldened, and moderate to liberal freethinkers were faced with new questions to ponder.

The impact on this small minority people group has been devastating, and it is only getting worse. Transgender people are facing physical violence, mental health is declining, access to medication and treatment is dwindling, and even cisgender people are facing scrutiny if their appearance doesn’t seem stereotypically male or female. Politicians running for office – such as Mark Burns (R-SC) have even (arguably) gone so far as to advocate for the execution of the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies – claiming they are “grooming children.”

“…we will continue to be a divisive issue in ’22 and ’24 that get sacrificed so fascists can gain power.”

This is obviously and clearly not true. After all, I am a transgender woman, and I have a wife and child. Our daughter is loved, cared for, and thriving in a home that is safe and supportive of her regardless where life leads her. My story is not unique, either. There are trans people all across the country (and all across South Carolina) who are successfully parenting well-adjusted children. People need only meet us and get to know us to see these truths first-hand.

Perhaps what has been most disappointing this year for the LGBTQIA+ community has been the lack of action from ANY politicians to protect our rights. According to a map by activist Erin Reed, 40 states lack protections laws for trans people, and according to Freedom for All Americans, 34 have attempted to pass anti-trans legislation this year. These states are controlled by BOTH political parties. The grim truth is that “the trans question” has been effective in fracturing non-fascist voting bases. If legislators don’t act now – before the November mid-terms – to protect the LGBTQIA+ community, then we will continue to be a divisive issue in ’22 and ’24 that get sacrificed so fascists can gain power. Many of us may end up dead, and women and other minority groups will continue to have their rights stripped away.

From one human being to another, this writer begs each of you to stop allowing her very existence to be a topic of debate. Stand up for and protect us.