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‘Recognizing just how out of favor their ideas are with the public, the queer movement is exploiting the goodwill most Americans now feel toward gay people to advance its cause’Tamir Kalifa/Getty Image
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The Human Rights Campaign Invents an Emergency

And develops a new strategy for making minority groups permanent wards of the Democratic Party

James Kirchick
June 27, 2023
Tamir Kalifa/Getty Image
‘Recognizing just how out of favor their ideas are with the public, the queer movement is exploiting the goodwill most Americans now feel toward gay people to advance its cause’Tamir Kalifa/Getty Image

The fomenting of hysteria has become such a predictable feature of American public life that it’s hard to retain the capacity for shock. Seemingly not a day goes by without political outrage entrepreneurs warning us that some nefarious group or concept—drag queens, “white supremacy,” antifa, “disinformation,” immigrant rapists, Russian bots—constitutes an existential threat to the nation. And yet even by the already debased standards of our discourse, the declaration earlier this month of a “national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ political lobbying organization in the United States, constitutes a new low.

HRC issued this alert “for the first time ever” since its founding in 1980. Gay and lesbian Americans have endured a lot since that year—a deadly epidemic, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, to name just a few setbacks. But apparently none of these compares with what HRC calls the “unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses.”

HRC’s characterization of the over 75 “anti-LGBTQ+” bills signed into law this past year obscures how most of them relate not to gay issues but to transgender ones. Some of these laws—like a Florida provision mandating people use bathrooms that correspond with their natal sex and a Tennessee act limiting drag performances—could indeed be described as authoritarian, and the latter has already been blocked by a conservative federal judge. But many of the rest pertain to subjects about which reasonable people can, and do, disagree.

According to an extensive poll conducted earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post, Americans overwhelmingly oppose the foundational precepts of contemporary transgender activism. Among American adults, 57% believe gender is determined at birth, 69% say transgender athletes should only be allowed to play on teams that match their birth gender, nearly 70% oppose the provision of puberty blockers to gender dysphoric children, 58% oppose hormone therapy for minors, and a majority believe it is inappropriate for teachers to discuss transgender identity from kindergarten through eighth grade. These are the suite of views that HRC and its sympathizers in the media would have us believe comprise a “hate” so vile as to justify a State Department-style travel warning for red states.

“Many Americans hold complicated and sometimes contradictory views on the subject” of transgender identity, the Post observed after its survey. “While a majority of Americans oppose access to puberty blockers and hormone treatments for children and teenagers, for instance, clear majorities also support laws prohibiting discrimination against trans people, including in K-12 schools.” Only in the mind of those deep within the progressive bubble would there be anything “contradictory” in opposing sex changes for children and discrimination against transgender individuals.

Even by the already debased standards of our discourse, the declaration earlier this month of a ‘national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans’ by the Human Rights Campaign constitutes a new low.

Viewed from Europe, the state-level measures in the U.S. hardly seem like the stuff of creeping fascism. Three days after HRC pronounced whole swaths of the United States unsafe for LGBTQ+ Americans due to bills regulating the provision of puberty blockers to children, England’s National Health Service announced that it would ban the use of such medications outside clinical trials as “there is not enough evidence to support their safety or clinical effectiveness as a routinely available treatment.” Official health bodies in Finland, Sweden, Norway, and France have undertaken similar efforts. Will HRC censure all these liberal democracies as well?

It’s tempting to write off HRC’s “national state of emergency” as a publicity stunt, a lame attempt at one-upping the “travel advisory”  put out by the NAACP just two weeks earlier warning Black Americans to avoid entering Florida over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.” But HRC’s pronouncement is more than just a cynical fundraising ploy, and its release so soon after a similar scare tactic directed at African Americans is no coincidence. Both are attempts at making minority groups permanent wards of the Democratic Party. Telling people that they risk mortal danger unless Democrats are in power is a means, however shrill and uninspired, of corralling them within the party’s virtuous coalition of the oppressed.

When homosexuality started becoming a partisan political issue in the late 1970s, it made sense that most gay people would identify as left of center. Gays faced widespread discrimination, much of it fomented by a rising evangelical Christian right, and the few allies they could find were on the left. But over the next four decades, American public opinion underwent a profound shift, and the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the legalization of gay marriage, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County extending the nondiscrimination protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to gays (and transgender people), reduced homosexuality’s political saliency. The nomination by the GOP of the Elton John-loving, YMCA-dancing Donald Trump, and the advent of majority Republican support for same-sex marriage in 2021, reinforced this trend.

In an increasingly post-gay country, a new rationale would have to be devised for keeping gays and lesbians in line. Having won their own battle for equality, they would now have to swear fealty to a newfangled “queer” movement devoted to novel and abstruse concepts concerning gender. And so it was that basic civil rights for gay people have come to be conflated with a radical transgender ideology that in many ways erases gay people.

Implicating gays and lesbians in the queer political project requires replacing the words “gay” and “lesbian” with the ever-expanding “LGBTQIA+” acronym (the last letter of which, standing for “asexual,” epitomizes the farce). It requires distorting the history of the Stonewall Uprising, falsely claiming—as the Anti-Defamation League recently did in a tweet celebrating Pride Month—that it was actually “trans women” who “led resistance against police harassment” on that fateful final weekend of June 1969. And it requires emotionally blackmailing gay people, deceiving them that their personal safety is somehow threatened by bills limiting the provision of puberty blockers to gender nonconforming children, most of whom would grow up to be gay.

Recognizing just how out of favor their ideas are with the public, the queer movement is exploiting the goodwill most Americans now feel toward gay people to advance its cause. Ergo, the attempt to make “opposing sex changes for children and biological men competing in women’s sports” concomitant with “opposing Adam and Steve’s marriage.” The risk with implicating gay men and lesbians in a deeply unpopular agenda having nothing to do with them, alas, is that they will suffer the inevitable backlash. There are already worrisome signs that this is happening. Earlier this month, Gallup reported that the percentage of Americans who believe same-sex relations to be morally acceptable dropped from an all-time high of 71% last year to 64% this year, the largest decline ever recorded. After decades of steadily growing acceptance, what could possibly explain this sudden and precipitous drop other than the excesses of transgender activism, and the dangerous impression that gay people are partly responsible for them?

James Kirchick is a Tablet columnist and the author of Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington (Henry Holt, 2022). He tweets @jkirchick.