The first column I ever wrote for The Indy and “Queer & There” was about a protest march I attended before Donald Trump’s inauguration. I wrote about my fears, as a trans person, of what the next four years might hold. At the time I worried I might have been a bit hyperbolic, but the actions of the Trump administration largely proved me right. During his term he enacted a ban on trans people in the military, his Department of Housing and Urban Development enacted rules to make it harder for homeless trans people to access shelters, his Department of Education rolled back protections for trans students, and his Department of Health and Human Services made it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients. It’s been a rough four years for trans people.
On Jan. 20 I found myself, once again in Denver, covering another protest march. That might seem paradoxical to some. Joe Biden won. Trump is gone. Shouldn’t we celebrate? Sure, but the struggles of the Trump era are far from over. Kids are still in cages, separated from their families. Despite widespread protests this summer, law enforcement agencies across the nation still use lethal force with little oversight, and there was that small issue of the attempted coup. However, some of President Biden’s first actions were to appoint Dr. Rachel Levine, an out trans woman, as assistant health secretary; repeal the trans military ban; and sign an executive order enforcing prohibitions on sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
These are all good things. It’s like popping your head above the surface of the water to suck in lungfuls of fresh air before the next wave crashes over you, and it will crash over you. No good deed goes unpunished, and before the ink was dry on Biden’s executive order, #BidenErasedWomen was trending on the popular hellsite, twitter.com. The hashtag is a reference to the fact that, now unhampered by federal regulations, trans women everywhere will flock to intramural leagues, school teams and professional sports organizations to begin their complete and utter domination of all sports. Fun fact: the International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender people to compete as their chosen gender since 2004. If transgender women are so dominant, it should be easy to name at least one gold medalist — right? In fact, the first transgender woman to even compete in the Olympic trials was marathon runner Megan Youngren in 2019, who finished in 40th place.
Having lost the House, the Senate and the presidency, Republicans are making it clear to trans people everywhere that we are about to become their 2022 election wedge issue. Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck (CD4) on Jan. 21 tweeted, “The country is struggling with a pandemic and President Biden is focused on helping biological men compete in women’s sports.” It turns out all you need to do to get Republicans to suddenly care about the pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans is allow transgender children to play sports.
It’s important to note that it’s not just culture war-mongering Republicans who are eager to sweep up the crumbs of equity that fall to trans people from Biden’s table. Colorado Springs City Council District 5 Representative Jill Gaebler, beloved champion of bike lanes and urban goats, tweeted to Abigail Shrier, yes, that Abigail Shrier, in response to Shrier’s hot take on Biden’s executive order. Gaebler tweeted, “So heartbreaking for women in sports; who have worked so hard and just want to compete fairly and honorably.”
The Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) is the regulating body for high school athletics in Colorado, and already has a policy for transgender athletes that leaves decisions regarding participation of trans students in athletics up to individual schools, and allows for an appeals process when the school’s decisions are contested.
The issue of transgender athletes does raise questions about competitive equity, especially in girls’ sports. Different states are addressing it in different ways. Washington’s proposed law, HB-2201, which died in committee, would have only banned trans athletes from “individual competition sports,” such as track and field events. The Idaho High School Activities Association requires trans girls to complete one year of hormone replacement therapy before competing on a girls team, which seems a fair compromise, except for the fact that social conservatives and their “feminist” allies like Gaebler also want to make it illegal for minors to access the medical care that would reduce any potential bioligical advantage. It’s a catch-22 designed to punish and exclude trans people simply for existing.
In November, responding to Spotify airing Shrier’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, Gaebler tweeted, “Thank you, Spotify, for not succumbing to the mob. Please continue to promote free speech, to resist censorship, and continue supporting families who are working through transgender issues.” Shrier has complained about gender identity language in laws banning conversion therapy, and leans heavily on the work of “experts” like Ken Zucker, the Canadian psychologist who was fired from Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for encouraging parents to “work through transgender issues.”
When questioned about her tweets by Colorado Springs Twitter users, Gaebler responded, “Human biology is not a ‘societal view.’ It’s just science.”
As I have pointed out, repeatedly, what Gaebler is referring to is not science, and many of the researchers Shrier cites in her work have been debunked or discredited by a wide variety of psychiatric professionals.
Gaebler did not respond to my request for comment, which is fine. If I wanted to listen to someone call me a delusional, self-mutilating man who is single-handedly destroying the fabric of Western society, I can just call my brother, who hasn’t spoken to me since I came out.
Honestly, I’m not that surprised. As a trans person, my peoples’ ancestral home is directly under the bus. I realize that maybe I am just a bridge too far for people like Gaebler, who also happen to be elected officials. I also don’t have any expectations for a large public reaction to Gaebler’s comments, even though if I were to demonstrate an equal level of bigotry towards a marginalized group, I would be quickly censured. Trans people remember these things, though. It’s moments like these that show us who our friends are, or more likely aren’t.