My professor asked a poignant question the other day. Why are some politicians suddenly obsessed with enacting anti-trans legislation when transgender people are such a small percentage of the population?
I think the answer is the same as it’s been for ages. Politically, it’s easier to control or persuade groups of people when you have a common enemy (or boogey man) to hate. Since it’s become (mostly) taboo to openly discriminate against people based on race, politicians have moved on to the next easiest target: transgender people and kids.
These demagogues exploit people’s natural tendencies to fear “others” in a calculated attempt to manipulate them to join their side. I’m sure their masters discovered that hating on trans kids scored high in focus groups, so they marked them as a preferred political target. I think of the tactic as a new-age southern strategy.
“The true measure of a democracy is the way it treats its minorities.” Even with the Bostock Supreme Court decision protecting employees against discrimination because they are gay or transgender, I’d like to see lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) people added to the list of protected classes in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Supreme Court justices, presidents, and legislators can change with the seasons, so we need legislation that will solidify LGBTQ protections.
We also need strong and specific federal legislation that protects LGBTQ against discrimination in conditions of employment, healthcare, housing, education, etc. These directives must come from the federal government because there are states that will never accept LGBTQ people or their lifestyles as threads of the American fabric.
Discrimination based on sex is another important issue, but I don’t believe it’s centered purely on bigotry. I think it’s grounded in fear. Women outnumber men in the United States and around the world. If women were to truly realize equality, men could lose their grip on power. That idea is grotesque to some.
Most items on my wish list to combat inequities based on sex surround income inequality. First, Title VII must apply to all workers, not just businesses with less than 15 employees. In addition, the minimum wage should be increased to help raise earnings of low wage working women. Workers’ rights (especially unions) should be strengthened, and so-called right-to-work laws dismantled. Pensions should be a universal right all citizens attain at a certain age, say 55. Universal healthcare and childcare subsidies should be easily attainable and high-quality. The capital businesses save by not having to provide healthcare benefits to employees should be required to go toward raising workers’ wages. And there should be a law banning executives from paying themselves more than 30 times the salary of the average worker at their company.
Finally, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should be strengthened and include a paid leave requirement for all workers—not just guaranteed leave. (The federal government or states could help businesses who employ under 50 workers fund the time off.) Higher education for pregnant women or mothers should be provided through special grants. It also might be time for corporate boards to be required to have a certain percentage of women (50%?) on their boards.
These ideas, though politically challenging, would go a long way toward creating a more just and equitable society where everyone can feel safer and a little freer in their personal pursuit of happiness.