Gov. Greg Abbot of Texas makes it a crime for parents and medical personnel to help children navigate gender transition, which help he defines as child abuse. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida forbids discussion of sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade under penalty of law. Both Texas and Florida are beds of homophobic rhetoric, violence, and discrimination. Florida was where the singer Anita Bryant spewed her homophobia in in the 1970s. Both states are leading the attack on a woman’s right to choose. Both states are controlled by white men who bluster about keeping the government out of our homes. These are states that are also in the forefront of racist voter suppression.
If you add together women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, most people under 30, transsexuals and their families and friends, what you come up with is a large majority of Americans. (Even a majority of Republicans favor the precedent of Roe v. Wade.) What we all have in common is that we are the targets of a movement to limit our control of our bodies and our rights.
An attack on transsexual Americans is an attack on women, on the LGBTQ+ community, on people of color, on all of our allies. An attack on abortion rights is an attack on women and all others whose bodies the state might control. Georgia telling black voters that after a reduction in the number of polling places that will cause long lines at election time they can be arrested for offering a bottle of water to someone waiting in line for hours to vote is an attack from the same source. And so are anti-Asian insults hurled at the home of a Chinese American mayor. The source is hate.
This is not a slippery slope, but rather a landslide. But things can get better. When I came out to family, friends, and colleagues in the early 1980s, the most common reaction was fear for my safety, for my career, for my rights. I have been a leader in the LGBTQ+ community in Dorchester. I managed the campaign for an openly gay state senate candidate. I successfully lobbied a state senator to change his vote to favor gay marriage. The more “out” I became, the more friends I have found. Resist being intimidated, silenced, and isolated, and you will find allies surrounding you. Take strength and courage from knowing that we are the many, the majority.
I am not a woman, or a transsexual, or a person of color, or a lesbian, or, God help me, a youth. But I am afraid. I remember the words of anti-Nazi Pastor Martin Niemölor: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I urge like-minded people to fight against the haters. Send a contribution to an anti-hate candidate for governor or legislator in a red state. Call out to people that you know in red states, as well as to your neighbors, families and friends, to heed the call to fight hate. Do everything and anything that you can. I resurrect the words that we used at the height of the AIDS epidemic, “Silence equals death.”