Reviews |  Why Jews Need to Stand Up for Trans Rights in America

Reviews | Why Jews Need to Stand Up for Trans Rights in America

Two days after a gunman opened fire on people gathered for a drag show at an LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, killing five and injuring 19, Herschel Walker, Republican senatorial candidate from Georgia, posted an ad in which he appeared alongside a former college athlete who claimed to have been the victim of the inclusion of trans women in her sport.

As a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, I see chilling parallels in the long drafting of laws in Hitler’s pre-war Germany with the current climate for trans people in this country.

In the ad, former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines says, “For more than a decade, I worked so hard, at 4 a.m., to be the best. But my senior year, I was forced to compete against a biological male,” referring to Lea Thomas, a trans woman. Walker adds, “A man won the swimming title that belonged to a woman.”

It doesn’t matter that Gaines and Thomas are tied fifth place in the march race. Regardless that both received trophies, only Gaines later received hers in the mail. In his eyes, she was the real woman on the catwalk – and Thomas had taken something from her.

With views like this permeating mainstream high-level politics, the implications for trans people are truly chilling. The fact that Walker could be elected to the U.S. Senate in Georgia’s runoff election on Tuesday makes it even more true.

To see Republicans embracing violent transphobia as a core part of their party is alarming, but not unprecedented. And history has shown us time and time again what happens when people remain silent when groups of people are oppressed.

This is partly why it is hard not to see the parallels with the many human rights abuses of the past and present: the enslavement of Africans and the internment of Japanese in America; Chinese Uyghurs held captive in their own country. And as a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, I see chilling parallels in the long drafting of laws in Hitler’s pre-war Germany with the current climate for trans people in this country. These laws targeted Jewish participation in public office, medicine, and law, and went so far as to control their sex life, health care, and finances, ultimately relegating them to disenfranchised second-class citizens. under the Nuremberg Laws. This ultimately resulted in the state-sanctioned murder of my family members and millions of others across Europe.

“Empathy is what’s missing in the conversation about threats to trans people,” Parker Molloy, author of the media and policy newsletter The Present Age and a transgender woman, told me in an email. “There needs to be discussions about the different policies that could actually do if implemented. People need to understand what they are asking for when they ask lawmakers to do things like ban medical treatment or limit the ability to update identity documents.

Next January, in Texas alone, the Legislative Assembly will consider 10 separate invoices who would be criminalize trans people who live in the state. According to reports, 238 anti-trans bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country in 2022. These bills serve to dehumanize trans people by attacking gender affirmation care, gender identity, gender and participation in sports, and impose penalties for drag. GOP government officials want us to question their very existence so that we feel less guilty when they blame trans communities for all of society’s ills and dismantle their rights.

In Nazi Germany there was a word for it: “untermenschen”. It means subperson, and it has been used to justify the destruction of Jewish homes, businesses, and ultimately Jewish lives. Adolf Hitler also described his master plan as one to rid the country of Lebensunwertes Leben, which means “lives unworthy of living”. Today in American conservative politics we have the term groomer, which according to The New Republic is “at the heart of Republicans’ massive nationwide effort to gain more power by targeting trans children and teens. and queer, as well as their families, health care providers, and educators.

What often gets lost in history is the fact that trans people under the Nazi regime suffered the same fate as Jews.

What often gets lost in history is the fact that trans people under the Nazi regime suffered the same fate as Jews. In 1933, one of the very first book-burning Nazis targeted Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Research, where he and his staff performed the world’s first modern gender-affirming surgeries. “Troops stormed the building, carrying off a bronze bust of Hirschfeld and all of his precious books, which they piled into the street,” according to Scientific American. “Soon a tower-like bonfire engulfed more than 20,000 books, including some rare copies that had helped provide historiography for nonconforming people.”

Hirschfield, who was gay, said the purpose of the institute was “research, teaching, healing and refuge”. If it hadn’t been destroyed by the Nazis, the institute would have been 100 years old in 2019. The mind torments thinking how different modern conditions would be for trans people if those years of learning and care weren’t had not been burned by hatred. .

On Saturday night at Club Q in Colorado Springs in November, gunshots rang out as patrons gathered for a drag show – an innocent and joyful activity that takes place across the country, and that leaders and the media right-wingers have made a concerted effort to demonize and shut down. In the hours following the shooting, Chaya Raichik of the transphobic Twitter account Libs of TikTok targeted a Colorado nonprofit group that teaches children the art of drag. This was after months of tweets about hours of drag stories at local libraries, which led to multiple aggressive real-life confrontations and popularized the idea of ​​LGBTQ+ people as groomers.

“The ‘groomer’ smear also plays into a conspiracy theory that underpins the propaganda of Raichik and other like-minded influencers: that LGBTQ people and their supporters have entered mainstream institutions to prey on children, recruiting them for ‘transgender’ and dividing them from their families,” writes the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and individuals.

To complicate all of this, right-wing accounts with massive followings are threatening members of the media with being vocal trans allies. As NBC News’ Ben Collins said on air after the Club Q shooting, “I think we need to have a Jesus moment here as reporters: Are we more afraid to be on Breitbart? for saying that trans people deserve to be alive, or are we more afraid of the dead? Because I’m more afraid of the dead.

As I reflect on my family history, in which my grandfather and his sister barely made it out of the Holocaust alive while the rest of their family perished, I wonder how much history would have different if more people had come forward in the early years of Hitler’s regime when, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “German Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations that restricted every aspect of their public and private life”, in the years preceding the Second World War. Watching Republican politicians seek to do the same with trans people is chilling and strange.

A key difference between pre-Holocaust Germany and post-Trump America is our media ecosystem: today we have unlimited resources to understand and support our friends, family and our trans neighbors, clashing with a vast array of sources seeking to prove that trans lives are inferior. We have the tools at our disposal to expose misinformation and condemn violence in a way that dissidents historically have never been able to. And to avoid reaching the point where dehumanization escalates into mass violence, it is crucial to use these tools.

I often think of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous poem “They came first”, and of our obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us before ourselves. There is a connective tissue that binds those targeted by white supremacy, and it is incumbent upon allies to fight back against nefarious forces, as no group is an island. Seeking to harm trans people should be seen as seeking to harm us all, and it’s time to make it an essential part of our deepest beliefs and, more importantly, our daily actions.

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