President Trump recently reversed an Obama executive order that said schools had to let transgender students use the restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities of the sex they identify with. This reversal marked a landmark achievement for the coalition of states’ rights and sex fear rights. However, while a major victory, it was far from their first. You see, when a historically discriminated minority pushes for civil rights, it’s tough to argue they shouldn’t have them. Civil rights are supposed to be for everybody, so how can you deny them to a specific group? Well, centuries of denying rights to various minorities have produced at least two effective arguments. The first is states’ rights: The right of a state to decide who to discriminate against and who not to. The second is what you could call, “sex fear rights”: If the minority is given equal rights, it will somehow result in the rape, molestation, or sexual assault of some other group or groups.
Perhaps the most well-documented example of the states’ rights/sex fear rights coalition (SRSFRC) involves discrimination against blacks. For centuries, white people used the argument that if black people were freed/integrated/allowed into society, they would quickly use the opportunity to rape white women. Indeed, the longevity of the white-women-will-be-raped argument is amazing. The states’ rights argument lasted as long, but it had to adapt every time the federal government came in and changed something. States can’t decide to have slaves anymore and have to let blacks vote? No problem – we’ll just pass harsh laws that only apply to black people, and put up obstacles that make it impossible for them to vote. States have to provide services to white people AND black people? No problem – we’ll just separate them and give white stuff more funding.
But, what if you can’t convince people that civil rights will rape white women? What if you’re denying rights to, say, gay people? Have no fear – well, actually have lots of fear. For, what at first seems like a challenge turns out to be a boon. Are gay people trying to get into the military? Just say that they’ll sexually assault members of their own sex. Are they trying to get into positions of authority over children? Just say they’ll molest those children. And, since women can be gay, you can extend sex fears from WHITE women to ALL women. And, since homosexuality has to do with sexual attraction, you can make up whatever sex act you want and attach it to gay people. Want to stop gay marriage? Say allowing men to marry men and women to marry women will inevitably lead to polygamy, animalygamy, and toasterovenygamy. Don’t want gay people to be seen as human? Just make up some sexual acts with things no one ever dreamed of, and you’re good. The states’ rights argument is pretty straightforward – say that your state doesn’t want to allow gay rights because, well, just look at all that stuff the sex fear rights people are saying. Also, once you’ve got people good and propagandized, have them vote against it. Indeed, both these arguments have proven so successful, there are still many legal discriminations against gay people.
Unfortunately for the SRSFRC, fighting gay rights has increasingly been seen as a losing battle. So, they moved on to another group: transgender people. Although the transgender community has been included in some legislation protecting other LGBTQ groups, they still have a long way to go, and there are some issues unique to them. That’s why so much of the press in recent years has been about access to restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that match their gender of preference.
Here’s where sex fear rights proponents really showed their creativity: Instead of directly attacking transgender people, they targeted phantom child molesters. You see, transgender people want to use restrooms that identify with their gender of preference, because they identify with that gender. There’s a bunch of science behind why that is, but if there are two things that trump science, they’re sex fear rights and states’ rights. Proponents of sex fear rights decided, rather than target the imaginary perversity of transgender people themselves, they’d say that child molesters might PRETEND to be transgender, so they could go to the wrong restroom and molest children. There’s no evidence this ever happened, but there’s no evidence a gay person ever had sex with an electrical outlet, either. The states’ rights side didn’t have much trouble: Obama signed that executive order, and nothing gases up the states’ rights tank like the federal government telling states what to do. The original anti-transgender state bills that had passed (popularly known as “bathroom bills”) were based on the phantom child molester argument, but when Trump rescinded the federal order, he invoked states’ rights.
Transgender rights are proving to be a fertile ground for the states’ rights/sex fear rights coalition, and they’re still having some luck fighting gay rights. But, if history is any guide, these wells will eventually dry up. What minority group will they fight next? And, what people will they pretend are at risk of sexual assault if that group gets rights?