Click here to listen on Youtube.
Click here to read the Transcript.
Sam talks to Brynn Tannehill, former naval aviator and author of several books including American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy and her latest, My Child Told Me They’re Trans … What Do I Do?: A Q&A Guide by Parents of Thriving Trans Children.
A wave of legislation targeting trans people is sweeping the country. Read a roundup of some of these laws here (from HRC). Follow Brynn on Twitter at @BrynnTannehill and read her recent article for New Republic, “The End of Trans America Comes Into Focus”
Listen to the previous episode with Andy Campbell, author of We Are Proud Boys: How a Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered in a New Era of American Extremism
Refuse Fascism is more than a podcast! You can get involved at RefuseFascism.org. We’re still on Twitter (@RefuseFascism) and other social platforms including the newest addition: mastodon.world/@refusefascism
Send your comments to samanthagold[email protected] or @SamBGoldman. Record a voice message for the show here. Connect with the movement at RefuseFascism.org and support:
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
The Sweeping and Intensifying Fascist Attack on Trans People
Refuse Fascism Episode 155
Sun, May 07, 2023 5:16PM • 55:26
Brynn Tannehill 00:00
You have leading anti trans campaigners saying that any number of trans people is a major problem to society, parents with kids that they’re worried that their kid is going to emotionally crash if they lose access to treatment, this is just trying to keep their kid alive. You talk with the people who are trotted out at these hearings by Republicans trying to ban health care for trans youth, the parents that drag out, you never hear about their kids. Why would you take parenting advice from somebody’s whose child no longer wants anything to do with them?
Sam Goldman 00:49
Welcome to Episode 155 of the Refuse Fascism podcast podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show, Refuse Fascism exposes analyzes and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States. In today’s episode, we’re sharing an interview with Brynn Tannehill on the sweeping and intensifying attacks on trans people in this country.
Thanks to everyone who goes the extra step and rates and reviews, the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. If you appreciate the show and want to help us reach more people who want to refuse fascism, be a gem and go write a review, and drop five stars wherever you listen to your pods. I can’t overemphasize what a difference this makes. Please tell the people out there in podcast land why you listen and they should too. Subscribe/follow so you never miss an episode. And of course, keep up all that great commenting and sharing on social media and YouTube. Thank you to everyone on Patreon for supporting the show for $2 or more a month. Thanks patrons! Not one yet? Become one at patreon.com/RefuseFascism.
Before we get into it, we want to salute the Dream Defenders and others who staged a non violent city at Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis’ office this past week, blocking its entrance to protest his fascist agenda. Organizers said: “We’re trying to avoid chasing after each attack but instead unite the people of Florida against DeSantis and his attempts to destroy the remnants of democracy in Florida.” This includes a six week abortion ban, attacks on LGBTQ rights attacks on voting rights, immigrants, and education. They refused to leave the office until he would meet with them, and at 7pm on Wednesday May 3 Desantis still had not met with them, and 14 people were forcibly removed, arrested and charged with trespassing. Here is a clip of some of what they saying while occupying the office: [Large group of voices sing Woodie Guthrie’s song “All you fascists bound to lose.”] We will have an organizer on next week to talk more about this.
This past week it was significant that four members of the Proud Boys organization, including former leader and Enrique Tarrio were convicted of seditious conspiracy for trying to keep Donald Trump in office by force after his electoral defeat to Biden. We highly recommend checking out our interview with Andy Campbell, author of Proud Boys in a New Era of American Fascism and of course, reading his book. When interviewed on Democracy Now, after the conviction, Andy made this really key point, that “Trump has celebrated and tacitly supported these extremist elements since he took office, and until his politicians around him, until the right wing rebuffs them, we are seeing these extremist elements marching today, regardless of the fact that their fellow Proud Boys and Oathkeepers are in prison.” It points to the need to have an all out society wide refusal of fascism and fascist movements. So listen or re-listen to our conversation with him that we had this past December. It will be linked in our show notes. Now, here’s my conversation with Brynn.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, over 540 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, a record. Over 220 bills specifically targeting transgender and nonbinary people; also a record, and 45 anti-LGBTQ laws have been enacted so far this year. More than 125 bills in 2023 were introduced, that, if they went through, would prevent trans youth from being able to access age-appropriate medically necessary best practice healthcare, in addition to more than 45 bills banning transgender students from playing school sports; more than 30 “bathroom” bills, a figure that exceeds the number of bathroom bills filed in any previous year.
On the show, we talk a lot about this triad that fascist movements, foment and rely upon: patriarchy, American chauvinism, xenophobia and white supremacy. We’ve seen this patriarchy trend really, really advance since this past summer. This is the Christian fascist movement. It infects the judiciary, state houses across the country, and is aided by a rabid armed fascist mob that threatens doctors who provide gender affirming care, intimidates drag performers and hounds families. They have an aim, an eliminationist aim, where even one trans person is too many.
This week, as almost every week has been this year, is an advancing horror. With Oklahoma, Governor Kevin Stitt signed a ban on gender affirming care for minors, health care providers who are accused of violating this new law could face felony charges, and the ban went into effect immediately. In Indiana, you have Governor Eric Holcomb, who signed a bill that would prohibit local governments from stopping the absolutely dangerous, heinous, abusive practice of so-called “conversion” therapy. In Florida, not to be outdone, passed three — one was signed — anti-LGBTQ bans. HB 1521 criminalizes transgender people of all ages from using a restroom that matches their gender identity. This prohibits gender inclusive restrooms and changing facilities and schools, public shelters, healthcare facilities and jails.
The expansion of Florida’s “don’t say gay” law also went forward. Most heinously, Florida legislators sent an extreme gender affirming care ban SB 254 to DeSantis’ desk for signature. This would give Florida unprecedented ability to strip parental rights from parents who support their transgender children. It would penalize providers, including felony penalties for those who provide gender affirming care; taking away licenses from those providers. It prevents Medicaid from being used in any capacity, or public funds in any way, including university funds, to be used to provide benefits that include gender affirming care for transgender people of all ages. And, so sinisterly, it allows the state to use gender affirming care, or the risk of such care for a child as a reason to give Florida Family Court exceptional jurisdiction to set aside another state’s custody determination. Those were some of the horrific things that went down this week.
To get into all of this, to help people understand what the fuck is going on and how it connects to this Christian fascist movement in all its horror, I am so glad to welcome back Brynn Tannehill. Brynn is a former aviator in the US Navy, the author of American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy. She recently wrote an incredibly powerful and heart wrenching essay for the New Republic, titled The end of trans America comes into focus. And recently, I saw that she was the editor of a book called My Child Told Me They’re Trans, What Do I Do Now? Welcome back. Brynn. Thanks for joining us.
Brynn Tannehill 06:11
Thank you for having me. It just came out this year in February.
Sam Goldman 08:09
Oh, that’s so exciting. I was so glad to see that there is a book that is geared towards embracing parents who want to do good by their children.
Brynn Tannehill 08:20
The funny thing about it is the book is a series of interviews with 17 different parents of trans youth from a variety of different backgrounds — moms, dads, people from all over the country of different faiths, their kids came out at different ages, you have people with non binary kids, people with trans masculine trans feminine kids, kids who came out as little kids and two came out when they were 16/17 — it runs the whole gamut. Some of my favorite interviews are with Master Sergeant Nathan Glickler, United States Air Force, whose takes a very military approach of: We’re supporting my kid, you could get on board or you can get out. Are there questions? I didn’t think so. Now let’s move out smartly.
Then, one parent is a pediatrician who’s Muslim. It also has interviews with experts, and it’s arranged in kind of a Q&A format. What’s really cool about this book is these are all parents who have wonderful loving relationships with their kids, where if their kids are old enough, you could go and interview any of the kids and they would tell you the same thing because the parents are telling you, that their stories match up. This is not a secret.
Whereas, when you talk with people who are trotted out at these hearings by Republicans trying to ban health care for trans youth, the parents that they drag out, you never hear about their kids, you never talk to their kids. Their kids are almost never in the press. And when the press does track down their kids, these kids no longer have relationships with their parents because their parents have destroyed them. So it’s kind of like: Why would you take parenting advice from somebody whose child no longer wants anything to do with them? Where 90% of their kids never want to speak to them again? I mean, if you don’t want to have a relationship with your kids, you never want them to speak with you, by all means, listen to these people and do exactly what they tell you to.
But, what I would say is, any parent who decides I would rather my kid were dead and gone than be gay or trans, why were you having kids in the first place? Then, when you interview the kids, you look at these kids, and they’re brilliant, they’re smart, they’re funny, they’re creative. They’re awesome kids. I’ve talked to some of these kids that have very public parents out there who are fighting against trans rights, and so many of them because they were hurt so badly, right in their formative years, when they were trying to come out, when they were the most vulnerable, and they were saying: Mom, dad, I’m trans, I’m gay, I’m something, and then they get tossed, they get rejected, they get put in conversion therapy, they get sent to conversion therapy gulags in the Utah desert.
These people took absolutely wonderful, brilliant, fantastic kids and they broke them in half. And here we have an entire swath of states deciding that they’re going to listen to parents who not only destroyed their relationships with their kids, but in a lot of times just broke their kids. And this is how we decided we want to legislate parenting and medical decisions? I can’t describe the level of awful, but if you want to understand parents who have wonderful relationships with their kids, maybe you should listen to the ones who still have that.
That’s why I wrote this book; so that parents who don’t know what to do, who want to have relationships with their kids, who don’t want to break their kids, who want their kids to grow up to be healthy and happy and have loving relationships with them, and have them be functional, good adults, this is for them. This is for parents who want to do what’s best for their kids, and not what they think is best for their relationship with a church or with some supernatural being. If there is such a thing as a kind and loving God, I don’t think he would want you to take your kid and break them in half. There’s a book out there literally on do it yourself conversion therapy on your kid.
These are the narratives that I’m trying to fight. The narratives that are out there are being pushed by organizations like the Heritage Foundation, and Alliance Defending Freedom; organizations with millions and millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars — unlimited cash, versus me trying to do this as a passion project because I want to do something for our kids. I think the proof is in the pudding. My oldest is trans and he’s 20, and he’s attending a top flight university. He’s getting mostly A’s, few B’s, majoring in neuropsychology, and he’s a great freaking kid.
Sam Goldman 08:23
It’s incredible what can happen when children are supported and given the love that helps them thrive. As an educator, I have seen both outcomes, what happens when children are supported with whatever it is, and when they’re not. I’m really glad that your book exists. We’re going to make sure that it gets in the show notes. Folks should read it.
Brynn Tannehill 13:00
It’s titled: My Child Told Me They’re Trans, What Do I Do? A Q&A Guide for Parents.
What’s really interesting is The New York Times has not been a friend to the trans community in the slightest, but they did an interview with one of the people responsible for the anti trans campaign with American Principles Project, and he was rather explicit: We want to make sure that there are no trans people in the United States. Our goal is to end access to transition-related care for everyone. In Britain, you have leading anti-trans campaigners saying that any number of trans people is a major problem to society. You have Michael Knowles with the Daily Wire talking about how we must eradicate transgenderism from public life. He’ll claim that well, that doesn’t mean eradicating trans people.
Well, you can’t talk about eradicating transgenderism any more that you could talk about eradicating Judaism from public life without recognizing exactly what it really is. These laws are just some of the first step, and you can see starting to creep into it, the bathroom bans — how do you function when you can’t use a public bathroom anywhere in the state? How do you function if you can no longer get health care unless you go to a doctor’s office that doesn’t take Medicare or Medicaid or use any state funds and there’s no telehealth visits? In there’s no more working with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, it has to be with a doctor in their office who doesn’t get any state or federal funding.
That’s what a lot of these laws do. Then there’s other laws that make it really super hard for health care for trans people, including routine care like hormones — a lot of trans people, just like women who had a hysterectomy, or have hit menopause early, take hormones to maintain bone health and maintain health in general. These laws being put in place make it impossible for trans people to get their hormones covered. Whereas women with the same hormone deficiencies or men who have the same hormone deficiencies can get them, trans people can’t. This is clearly discriminatory, and it’s gonna go to court, but if you’ve been paying attention to the Supreme Court, exactly how much faith you have in Clarence Thomas and Kavanaugh and Gorsuch?
At this point, the trans community, we have bans on health care for trans people in 16 or 17 states. It’s probably going to finish up with somewhere between 20 to 25 by the time the year is over. We’re gonna see bathroom bans. We’re gonna see it become very, very difficult to get health care for trans adults. We’re seeing laws being passed that de-recognize trans identities, which means you can no longer get a valid driver’s license or change your birth certificate, or use a bathroom technically, because the state will not recognize your gender identity.
It sets up all kinds of weird problems of what happens with a trans person using a bathroom in Montana, which Montana doesn’t recognize gender identity, but you’ve got a California driver’s license. What about Full Faith and Credit Clause? What about a passport from the federal government? This is leading to some really, really ugly legal questions. But the ugliest that I’ve hit a number of times is the law in Florida that lets state courts break custody agreements, because here’s what it sets up: Imagine you’ve got somebody who lives in California, and there’s a joint custody agreement or a custody agreement. Mom’s supportive, dad isn’t. Dad grabs the kid, flies to Florida. The mom goes to Florida and the Florida legal system, and says: My kid must be returned to me by order of the California courts.
Now, what you have is the Florida courts being told explicitly by law: No, because this child might receive gender affirming care of some sort, we will not honor California rulings in family court, we will not return them we are legally barred from returning them. If you’re a fan — and I’m using that with air quotes — of American history, this should start sounding a little familiar. We’re coming up on the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793, of 1850, and one really famous case from 1858 — you might have heard of it — it’s called Dred Scott, where, what states determine who is property of whom, and who gets to return whom to where. So who is the kid property of? And which state’s laws determine where that kid ends up? And what happens when, let’s say mom’s family has a lot of money and hires the Pinkertons, and it’s a midnight raid in the dad’s house somewhere in Florida, and the kid gets taken back?
Now you’ve got competing raids, and treating children as property and a Supreme Court that’s going to eventually decide one way or another because you can’t take the kid and cut them in half. But what happens if the court decides in favor of Florida, and now California is gonna be like: Yeah, we’re done here. And if they decide against DeSantis, then Florida is going to be tempted to tell the court to go stuff it with cranberries.
But more than anything, given how the actions of Clarence Thomas and Justice Roberts, kind of, let them eat cake, don’t you know who I am? I’m above you. I don’t answer to you kind of response to Congress. I don’t answer to the public, I answer to no one. We are the court. We are above such petty suspicions. We are above all of you. Our position makes us gods. You will respect us merely based on our position, and you have no right to question anything we do. If this devolves the way I worry at will, California and other blue states are going to be very, very tempted to tell the court: Absolutely not. We’re not letting Red States kidnap our citizens and take them back to be subjected to conversion therapy — or in the case of women who had an abortion in California: You don’t get to haul them back to South Carolina for execution.
That’s where we’re headed. The problem is, is that the court has absolutely so discredited itself, and has been so tolerant of the appearance of corruption, that they don’t carry a lot of moral weight anymore. Their approval rating and trust ratings are the lowest they’ve been in American history since we started polling. We don’t know exactly what the American public thought in 1859 after Dred Scott, but it’s probably somewhere in the vicinity.
Sam Goldman 15:36
Beautiful. I was hoping that you could help us step back a little bit. What’s happening? What do people need to understand about the attacks on trans folks? I was gonna say trans kids, but the truth of the matter is, it’s not just kids who are under attack [BT: No]. Too often it’s framed as — excuse my language — fucking parents rights b.s. One hundred percent illegitimate, yet contemptuous towards anyone who points out their legitimacy.
Brynn Tannehill 19:15
There’s legitimacy by law and then there’s legitimacy in the eyes of the public. All the people on the court were put there in ways that were absolutely legitimate [SG: legitimate, yes] under the United States Constitution. However, many of them were put there in place by presidents who did not win the popular vote. They have created the appearance of rampant corruption and undue influence. They have created the appearance that they are out of touch with the American public. They give the appearance that they’re no longer interested in justice or consistency with rulings like Hawaii versus Trump and Masterpiece Cake Shop.
They say that any government interference in religion and even a slightest hint of it is constitutionally impermissible, but as long as the president tells Muslims they can’t come into the country, as long as he said it while he was still campaigning, and not while it was actually president, then fine. There’s no intellectual consistency. My expectation is that the court will continue to be seen as more and more out of touch, going more and more against the wishes of the public, more and more against the realities of modern life, that everybody gets to have an unlimited number of high capacity firearms, and that the government can’t interfere with it in any way, even if you are under a restraining order for domestic abuse.
What I predict they’re going to do is that they’re going to say: Okay, trans people can’t own guns, because obviously, they’re mentally incompetent. So, they’ll only take away guns for trans people and let everybody else have them. Which, by the way, just pointing it out, Germany, ’30s all the guns away from Jewish people, but they made it much easier for the rest of the population to own guns. Now, I’m going to caution on the idea that Jewish people or Roma or anybody else could have prevented the holocaust by having access to firearms is stupid, but it’s a bad, bad, bad sign when you see the most disfavored people being told: You can’t have guns, but everybody else can have as many as they want. That’s a sign that their trajectory is really bad.
Sam Goldman 21:54
I wanted to get a little bit more into that trajectory, because you really dug into that in your article in The New Republic. To me seems to have been a number of escalations in the war on trans folks over the past couple of years, from bathroom bands, to bans on sports, and other public activities, demands on medical care. And they become more successful and gone from the deep red states to the national stage. And in the article that I’ve been mentioning, you make the essential point I feel that quote, the laws go so far as to write the existence of trans people out of law to effectively unperson them as a class and gold. I was wondering if you could speak to a little bit of what can we learn from this trajectory, especially when we look at historical examples of similar things happening, I realized we’re recording this on the date of the attack on the first trans clinic in Germany,
Brynn Tannehill 22:48
Magnus Hirschfeld, I can never remember the German name.
Sam Goldman 22:51
I butcher it every time so I don’t even try.
Brynn Tannehill 22:53
I have to look at it to pronounce it. Der Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, if I remember correctly, but I don’t speak German. Where we’re at here is that removing trans people as a recognizable class under the law is going to have to be adjudicated by the courts because they are, by legal definition, they are a recognizable class of people. They are people who have a gender identity that’s different than their sex, and behave, act, dress, or comport themselves in a manner that runs counter to gender stereotypes. You can define trans people legally, but if you say that the laws that say: No, this is not a class of people, that’s gonna have to be adjudicated in the courts.
But when you say this doesn’t constitute a class of people, that does have a legal effect. This is trying to eliminate trans people from being under heightened or intermediate scrutiny as the court determined in Harris, Bostock and Zarda, 2019/2020, that reduces us to rational basis scrutiny, which is basically any excuse that the government can come up with why we’re discriminating against trans people is sufficient to do the discrimination. Rational basis scrutiny is almost effectively useless; you have no protections in rational basis. And this is might even be less than rational basis, because rational basis suggests that the group of people is still cognizable, as a group. Left handed dentists who like Elton John — that’s a group of people that if the government can come up with a rational basis for discriminating against left handed dentists who like Elton John — that dental instruments aren’t designed for left handers, so we’re taking away your dental licenses.
My point is that this starts looking a little bit like the Nuremberg laws; that you have citizens who have full rights, and then you have this other group of people who are non-citizen residents who have a much lower level of legal protection. As long as the government can come up with something that’s any excuse to do whatever it’s going to do, it’s going to do it. There’s another piece to this that really really has me worried, is the Texas Department of Agriculture put in a dress code. I highlighted it. This is how the next administration, the next GOP administration, is going to purge trans people from federal service.
They’ve already introduced a bill in the House and Senate to ban trans people from the military again, but the fact that they’re introducing stuff that would force trans people to either de-transition or leave federal service and leave the military, this should really worry you, because the first freaking thing the Nazis did was kick all the Jews out of German federal service and out of the Wehrmacht. They would have to kind of reverse themselves in the case of Price Waterhouse, but keep in mind, they just reverse Roe versus Wade. Stare decisis is dead. It is functionally, as a concept, gone. Instead of Price Waterhouse there would be likely to apply: Well, what would the founding fathers think about cross dressers? I don’t know. Why don’t you ask about the guy who trained the Continental Army, he was famously gay.
And it’s not just that, there is this tolerance for violence that the clinics that treat trans people and trans youth are getting bomb threats. We know who’s instigating the bomb threat because they’re doing it on Twitter and have millions of followers and we have proof that since Elon Musk came to power that he’s been deliberately instructing people to shield Libs of Tik Tok and Matt Walsh, right. Just this past week, we had a queer couple named King and Queen of Prom in Ohio, it got picked up by right wing media and next thing you know the school is eyeballs deep in death threats and bomb threats, and they just arrested somebody. In Ohio, same thing, we had trans man staying at a campground. Asked the owner what the policy on trans people was. He said, you’re female, you use the female bathrooms. Uses the female bathrooms, walks out, gets a crap beat out of him by people waiting for him outside, and then the cops show up and arrest the trans man for disturbing the peace.
This is all trending in a very, very bad direction. The rhetoric isn’t coming down, it just keeps ramping up and up and up because there’s no drawback to it. The politicians doing this ramp up, because of gerrymandering, like 92, 93% of all House races aren’t competitive; they won by more than 10 points. The only elections that matter are the primaries, and we’re in a competitive outbidding where you got two Republicans fighting for a seat that’s gerrymandered to the point where a Democrat could never win.
Going into the primary, one Republican’s gonna say: Well, I was against trans youth. And the next one’s gonna say: Well, you know what, I want to ban them from bathrooms. This guy’s soft. He didn’t talk about banning from bathrooms. I’m going to ban health care for adults. I’m going to ban them from government service by instituting a dress code. Yeah, well, you know what, I’m going to institute the death penalty for grooming. Well, you know what, I’m going to institute the death penalty, but I’m going to bring back death by tree shredder, right? And because each of them: Well my opponent is soft on those people. Well, no, I’m not, because I want to do blank. Well, I’m going to do something worse. We’re really kind of reaching that point.
There was some polling data that came out just this week, that showed that something like 85% of Republicans, one of the things they like most in candidate is how they fight woke. Woke is really just kind of a codeword this point for trans people, Black Lives Matter, but mostly trans people. We’re not seeing a lot of talk about CRT and BLM and Antifa. We don’t see a lot of talk about that. It’s all trans. The entire eye of Sauron is firmly fixed on trans people. I don’t see any indication that Republicans are going to do anything different in the 2024 general election, this is going to be one of their primary focuses.
What I’m seeing in terms of the rhetoric is that it used to be a little bit few and far between, but now the framing of trans issues is, like I said, apocalyptic. It’s us for them. If we do not do something about those people, they will destroy our society, they will destroy our children, they will destroy our culture, they will destroy our nation, they will destroy humanity, they are infecting our body politic and we have tolerated these people for far too long, and we must stop tolerating them, there can be no tolerance of something that is the worst evil in human history since Mengele, and Auschwitz and everything else. That’s an actual comparison that’s been made, is that transgender ideology is the greatest evil in human history since the Nazis, since death camps.
Sam Goldman 29:27
It’s so disturbing, Brynn, that existence is an ideology.
Brynn Tannehill 29:30
We see terms like woke mind virus, transgender cult — Trump use that one. Here’s the thing though, it’s that trans people’s ideology is all over the place. [SG: Right] For god’s sakes, you’ve got Blaire White and Caitlyn Jenner, ugh. [SG: eww] You know, okay, yeah, yeah, we’re not exactly monolithic. Then, you swing all the way over to the other side of it, of black liberationists, anarcho communist wing of the trans community. The only central point to trans ideology is we have a gender identity and it’s valid, and we would like to be treated the way we’d like to be treated.
That’s really about all there is to it, is an acceptance that gender is a thing, and it’s intensely personal, and it should be respected the way we respect any other deeply held identity. I would say that trans people have less choice in their gender identity than people have in their religion, but one of them is protected at a fundamental level and the other one isn’t. But, I would also suggest that you can make a very strong case that religion is far more dangerous and destructive within a society then gender identity.
Sam Goldman 30:39
Why is the GOP doing monstrosity after monstrosity towards trans and non binary people? But there’s also why are so many people enabling these folks by affording them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they mean something less than eradication, and somehow that’s okay?
Brynn Tannehill 31:00
You see a lot of enablers in places like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, that they love the controversy, they love the just asking questions [mode], they love the framing of this as a debate or as a horse race. They love leaving out that on the one side you have honest to God, sieg heiling, swastikas tattooed on the face Nazis showing up with AR-15s to drag queen story hour and protesting in front of clinics. And then you have a tiny minority that’s being told we want to eradicate you.
And The New York Times says: Wow, you know what, some of the people who are supporting the Nazis make some really good points. It sells papers. It generates clicks because people love a good moral panic and trans people have turned into a moral panic. The same way Dungeons and Dragons was a moral panic. The same way gays were a moral panic during the AIDS crisis — the Lavender Scare — this goes back to the 50s. The same way that there was moral panics about black peoples in white spaces that they would rate the white women, Chinese taking good American jobs — this is part of the Yellow Peril, right.
This is whipping up hate and discontent directed at a minority group to benefit a political faction or to sell newspapers. And the same thing today is that you see a lot of these outlets telling stories about: Well, medicine is right and trans people do better when they are supported and happy and have jobs and access to health care. Here’s the story of this perfectly normal trans family living in the Northern Virginia suburbs, living the middle class life worrying about their mortgage payments going up. Or: Transgender mania, stealing children mutilating them. This doctor says that it must stop now. Panic, panic panic. Do you know where your kids are?
Sam Goldman 32:53
There’s no debunking it, Brynn. I feel like the major…
Brynn Tannehill 32:57
There is debunking, except the thing is that the major news outlets don’t carry the debunking.
Sam Goldman 33:03
That’s what I’m saying, okay. There are places that are debunking it for sure, and I don’t want to undercount that at all. When DeSantis goes on about the chopping off a 14 year old’s penises and goes on with this almost pornographic hatred. You don’t see CNN going: Hold on, wait a second, let’s talk facts and science. Let’s have pediatricians talk about what actually is going on. You don’t see that. I feel like more often than not, that just gets played and passed over, and that’s just normal. That’s just what politicians say now.
Brynn Tannehill 33:38
This is something I get a lot of right wing messaging on, is that trans man who shot up the school in Nashville. It was initially reported that this person had a manifesto, and there was a lot of speculation that that they shot up the school because they were anti-Christian or they were trans activist. What I’m getting is: You transgenders are threatening good Americans and Christians and schoolchildren because you’re angry and hate God and you’re dangerous and deranged, and the trans community did this. This is a big myth that’s never been corrected properly. This supposed that manifesto wasn’t really manifesto, it was just a bunch of notes of the person who admired school shooters, and making plans for shooting up a school.
The reason they chose that school wasn’t because it was Christian or because they’re discriminated against because they’re trans, it was just because they knew that school because that’s where they’d gone. So one of the big problems we’re facing in terms of media disinformation is this narrative about the Nashville shooter and the fact that the narrative has never being questioned within right wing circles. They are pushing deliberately this narrative that this a trans person who is an activist went and shot up a school full of kids because they were mad about the governor passing an anti trans law or they were mad at Christians or something when it turns out neither is true.
Sam Goldman 34:59
I was also seeing that that was packaged as part of this bigger trend, where: This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and this is happening more often. All of that, which is not true.
Brynn Tannehill 35:09
To set the record straight, there is one shooter who claimed to be trans, but they think they did it because they wanted to avoid hate crimes charges, because there’s no indication that they were trans beforehand. There were two other people in like 2020, and one and 2018. But when you look at it, on the basis of mass shooters in the United States, defined as four more people shot not including the gunman, there’s been over 3000 of them since 2017 or 2018, and a grand total of three of them were definitively trans. That’s three out of 3000; that’s one out of 1000.
Here’s the thing, there’s approximately seven out of 1000 people are trans but only one out of 1000 mass shooters are trans. Statistically trans people are less likely to be mass shooters. Although the sample size is so low, you can’t draw a lot of statistical inferences, but you cannot draw a statistical inference that trans people are likely to be mass shooters because the data actually says exactly the opposite. But that doesn’t fit with a narrative, and that’s the narrative that the right wing is running with and the right wing media is running with, and that you find everywhere. Nobody seems capable of doing basic statistical analysis.
I’m gonna fling some hate and discontent to Democrats: When they show up to the hearings on health care for trans youth, they haven’t done their research. One side will spit out facts, like 97% of trans youth desist. If you’ve done your research, you would know that that stat is derived from an ’80s vintage psychiatrist who was a conversion therapist who wrote a book called Sissy Boy Syndrome. His determination was that only 3% of effeminate boys ended up being trans; that was actually the conclusion. Understanding where the facts came from, or who generated them, or that the 80% desistance number came from a psychiatrist who promoted conversion therapy in the ’80s and ’90s, who also diagnosed a lot of kids as trans who weren’t trans to claim that he had a high success rate, but when they went back and reviewed his records in 2015, they found out that something like 70% of his patients were subclinical, meaning that 80% of his patients that he claimed or trans that he cured weren’t trans to begin with, because they didn’t need the modern criteria.
People don’t understand this, and they can’t debunk it, and they don’t know how to ask the questions, or they don’t know how to debunk the experts or they don’t know the science; they’re coming in unarmed. So, the Republicans come in with these numbers that sound very officious that sound like a backed by medical science. No, they’re not. The reason that all these medical organization have come to the same conclusion on health care for trans people, is that they’ve taken in 30 years of data and studies, and taken all of the research in context, and weighed it based on that context and the quality of the data, which is low but getting better.
As the data gets better, it tells a clearer and clearer story, and it’s not in favor of the people banning it. At the same time, the people that are attacking trans health care keep moving the goalposts. For years, it’s like: We want a randomized control study on health care for trans youth, or: We want a longitudinal study. It ran for five years, and the results were fantastic. These kids are doing great as young adults; 20-somethings. The group started back in 2012/2013, that’s before the trans craze took over, so we’re gonna ignore that study. Okay, well, here’s the randomized control study that you asked for.
You know what, we don’t like that, we wanted to see how they’re doing in 15/20/30 years. If you waited 30 years, to see long term effects on things, we would have gotten ibuprofen over the counter in 2015. That’s not how you do longitudinal studies. You don’t wait 30 to 50 to 80 years — okay, well, they’re dead now, or yeah, they’re on their deathbed, let’s do a psychological survey to see how transitioning affected them now that they’re 80 and dying of pancreatic cancer. That’s not how medicine works. That’s not how studies work. That’s not how determining efficacy works.
But because these legislators and the people supporting this aren’t doing this based off of science, aren’t doing this in good faith, and that’s something that media outlets like The New York Times don’t seem to recognize; one side is doing this in good faith, one side hasn’t. And when they portray the people that are trying to ban trans people as concerned citizens, and parents with kids that they’re worried that their kid is going to emotionally crash if they lose access to treatment, treat those parents as activists in the kids is activists, that’s an unfair framing meant to lead people to a particular conclusion. Even though in reality, the parent with the kids is just trying to keep their kid alive, and the person trying to ban trans health care, really is one degree of separation away from the people with swastika tattoos on their faces, because the ones with the tattoos on their faces are the enforcers — they are the Sturmabteilung of the conservative movement. And the people trying to ban trans people are the leadership [SG: I think that’s really clarifying.]
They’re giving them your indirect marching orders of: We’re going to label healthcare for trans people as most evil awful thing in American culture today, and wink, wink, nudge, nudge, wouldn’t it be awful if a clinic burnt down, or there were people out front with AR-15s, and I guess it couldn’t be helped if good American citizens were making sure that doctors were afraid to practice medicine, because this is so evil. People like Libs of TikTok and Matt Walsh laugh at the concept of stochastic terrorism. [SG: Oh, yeah.] It’s real. It’s the same kind of stochastic terrorism we saw with abortion clinics. [SG: It’s from the same cloth.] It’s the same people. It’s the same theocratic fascists.
Sam Goldman 41:02
It seems as though as you were talking, instead of fighting this — and to be clear, I am talking politically — people are hoping that the Democratic Party will go all out to stop this. Meanwhile, it seems that the Democrats are hoping that reasonable Republicans will put the brakes on it. And there, I feel, continues to be the belief by all too many people that there is this line that they won’t cross — that maybe they’ll find a new target, or get enough of this, and then they’ll relent. Or sometimes this is framed as: See, the courts blocked these bans, you’re being hyperbolic, Sam, this is a genocide — however that’s framed,
Brynn Tannehill 41:37
You bring up genocide. Something I remind people is that the most famous genocide is the Holocaust. There are two schools of thought within Jewish historian communities is that nothing will ever be the Holocaust and nothing can ever be compared to the Holocaust, and nothing should ever be compared to it, and that it is a unique one-off in human history. There is a competing school of thought among Jewish philosophers who study the Holocaust — in particular, I would say, Hannah Arendt and Milton Mayer, I would also call out the conclusions of Theodor Adorno — which is that the Holocaust is not a one-off. That’s there’s the banality of evil, and that virtually any society is capable of genocide, according to Adorno and Hannah Arendt in their analyses.
The U.S. is no different. Any other countries no different. That’s what they recognize, is that the potential for genocide lies in any society. Looking at the United States, where we are today, where we have arrived is that you have one side calling for the eradication of transgenderism from public life; that means no visible trans people. How do you do that? Well, you make sure that they can’t go outside, they can’t be around children, they can’t hold jobs, they can’t use bathrooms, they can’t be out in public, they can’t get an education, you can’t talk about them, you can’t acknowledge them, they can’t get identification, they can’t be recognized as a group or recognized as full citizens.
The result is that they either disappear by de-transitioning, or they never transition, or the ones who can’t do either flee. If you look at the kinds of things that are being done: Pushing them out of federal service, pushing them out of athletics, pushing them out of the military, pushing them out of medicine, banning them from public spaces, banning them from arts and theater, right, you can’t perform, or giving them government IDs that mark them as part of the disfavored group. These all have very, very, very… very clear direct parallels to the time period between ’33 and ’38.
And the ultimate goal, to make people disappear — Germany’s goal was to get them to leave — and we’re seeing with trans people, they’re either saying, I’m never going to come out and transition or I’m leaving. I’m getting an unending stream of messages that was one of two things: I’m leaving, or I’m taking my kid and leaving, we’re going to blue state, we’re emigrating we’re getting out, or I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t have the money to flee. What people forget is that approximately two thirds of Germany’s Jews fled between 1933 and the outbreak of World War II. They went from 538-ish thousand people 270,000-ish.
Something that people forget, even after Kristallnacht in ’38, they arrested 30,000 Jewish men, approximately, most of them were released within weeks or months. The condition of their release was signing a piece of paper that says we will leave Germany and never come back. The goal is to get people to leave, flee, disappear, and that’s what we’re seeing now. The thing that scares me is that trans people have been framed as such an existential threat, as such an intolerable threat — that there should be no tolerance — as the most evil thing in America today.
The question I would ask is: What happens to the people who can’t or won’t disappear or flee? There will be some. That will be the one third, or whatever, that can’t. The trans community doesn’t have a lot of money. We are typically fairly impoverished. My income dropped by 35% after I came out, after I lost my main job and my secondary job. The question I ask is: So what are Republicans going to do to that one third that can’t or won’t leave or disappear? Because the Germans asked that same question around ’40/’41, and they had a conference. They even have a name for it the Wannsee Conference in January of 42; what are we to do with these people? What is the answer to the Jewish question? And the answer was the final solution.
People are recognizing that the situation is dangerous and unstable, and it is time to leave. At some point after 4, 5, 6 years of laws getting nastier and nastier and nastier and making life less and less tenable, you’re going to be left with some poor population that can’t or won’t flee, that have all clustered up for mutual protection. And the state of Texas in the state of Florida is going to ask: They’re still here, what do we do with those who remain? They have made it clear that any trans people are unacceptable, yet here is this unacceptable population that we don’t dare tolerate, we will not tolerate that we’ve built our entire political identity around not tolerating the existence of, and they’re still here. What are we to do with them?
Sam Goldman 46:37
I think that the clarity of what the stakes are, and where this is headed, that you bring forward, I think is extremely, extremely helpful and critical right now for people to, not just sit with and not just feel, and not just be angry and saddened and scared, but actually act upon it. Because people’s lives are right now in danger. I’ve been thinking a lot about the hypocrisy of the same people that decry: Save the children, protect the women — to justify book bans, purging the curriculum, preventing trans women from using the goddamn women’s bathroom, are the same people forcing 10 year olds to birth rapists’ babies, criminalizing parents who take their child out of state to get an abortion. The same people advocating for the seizing of children from their parents at the parent, helps them get life saving treatment
Brynn Tannehill 47:32
Let’s not forget child brides.
Sam Goldman 47:34
Oh yeah, the same people who are saying yes to child brides, and yes to children working; get those children in the mines ASAP. The same people making decisions for parents on the health care of the children. I can’t help but think there is like a through line here, something that goes beyond or beneath the hypocrisy, and I was hoping that you could help me find what that is. Because it’s got to be more than hypocrisy, right?
Brynn Tannehill 48:00
It’s religion. It’s a particularly fundamentalist, particularly American strand of religion that was always susceptible to fascism. If you look at Sinclair Lewis — and you can see his book, It Can’t Happen Here somewhere on the shelf behind me — he pointed out that when fascism came to the US, it was going to be of a particularly religious, Southern variety. His book created the presidential character of Buzz, Windrip, who was supposed to be a fascist, and he was modeled after a Huey Long; Southern kind of populist, right wing, very racist.
The nastiest, least democratic strain of American politics has always emanated out of the U.S. South. Over time, they went from being Democrats to Republicans as the great shift happened. Underneath it all is a certainty that what they are doing is God’s will, and that this is based off of a fundamental idea of social dominance orientation, that white people are on top, then Christians. You got white Christians, and you got other Christians and then you’ve got everybody else underneath it, and then the right order of things is that those people — and those people, now they have decided are trans — those are the people that have gone way above their station and they need to be put back way down. They need to be driven underground. They need to be driven out. They are unacceptable. That this is the natural order of things, and that God wills this. This is what God wants. This is good for America. This is good for women. This is good for children.
They don’t see it as hypocritical because they can apply the Bible to child brides or forcing children to die in childbirth, because they have a religious back into it. American Christianity has become a primarily right wing tool. Ninety percent of U.S. congregations are hostile to LGBT people, whereas approximately 70% of Americans support same sex marriage. If you ask your average American: You’re going to a bathroom, how terrified are you that you will run into a transgender person? Like, is this something that keeps you up at night and paralyzes you? And it’s not. To a large extent, this is driven by fear and paranoia by 20% of the population, 25%. But it’s also driven by social dominance orientation and a religious view that some of them aren’t really afraid of trans people. Their feelings are purely: These people are evil and disgusting, and they need to be destroyed because they are fundamentally wrong. They’re not scared of us, they just flat out hate us.
Sam Goldman 50:37
I think that it’s really helpful to be re-grounded in the implications of this theocratic movement and what ties what seems to be antagonistic viewpoints together. I want to thank you so much Brynn, for taking the time and sharing your perspective, your expertise and your insight with us. We’re gonna link to your latest book, your Twitter, all of that. If you have anything else you wanted to say or plug, I just wanted to give you the space to do so.
Brynn Tannehill 51:09
Sorry I’m such a cheery ray of sunshine.
Sam Goldman 51:11
I think that where we find hope is partially in looking at reality as it is. We are incapable of standing up to something if we don’t know what it is that we’re standing up to.
Brynn Tannehill 51:23
The way I frame it for people, trans people are like: Well, you gotta give them hope. I’m an analyst and a military historian. My perspective is that good decisions are only made by accident in the absence of information, and I’m providing information so that people can make better decisions.
Sam Goldman 51:41
I think that’s a great way to close. Thanks so much, Brynn
Brynn Tannehill 51:43
Sam Goldman 51:44
This past week, The Washington Post published poll data from last December declaring in bold type that popular anti-trans views prove that “most Americans support anti trans policies favored by GOP.” The problems with this article are profound and layered, including the general beliefs don’t automatically convert to support of genocidal policies, that more recent polling suggests a backlash against the policies, and more.
But most fundamentally, it must be said that people’s basic rights are not and should not be determined or guaranteed by their popularity. The history of the rights of LGBTQ people, of immigrants, of people with disabilities all show the perils of leaving the determination of rights up to the whim of the majority. Here in this country, despite the widespread revisionist history, Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders and the Black Panther Party and even MLK all polled very poorly in their time, as have the general idea of and specific policies geared toward respecting and guaranteeing basic rights for black people, for the majority of the history of this country.
On the other hand, the implication that these anti trans GOP policies would be illegitimate if only they didn’t have majority support, is deeply flawed. History is full of examples of deeply unpopular, but powerful and entrenched minorities wielding power over oppressed and exploited majorities. We must recognize that this is a fight over essential, and, yes, inalienable human rights, and that it is a power struggle, not a popularity contest. It is time to get in the streets, to get loud, to refuse fascism.
Thanks for listening to Refuse Fascism. We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics or guests, lend a skill. Tweet me @SamBGoldman, drop me a line at [email protected] Connect with us over Mastodon, see link in the show notes. Leave us a voicemail, we’d love to hear from you — see the show notes for that message button. And if you want to support the show, thank you, you’re awesome, it’s super simple.
Show us some love by rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice. And of course, follow/subscribe so you never miss an episode. Become a patron to support our pod and content creation to help people understand and act to stop the fascist threat. For as little as $2 a month, you can help make a difference in producing and promoting this independent weekly podcast. Give today at patreon.com/RefuseFascism, or make a one time contribution by visiting RefuseFascism.org and hitting the donate button.
Thanks for your support. And thanks to Richie Marini, Lina Thorne and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox. We’ll be back next Sunday. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.