Creep of the Week: West Virginia

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West Virginia state flag with a purple background and the words on the right that say
Creep of the Week: West Virginia (Image by Ed Hahn)

Some West Virginia lawmakers want to criminalize transgender people

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a day that those who want to advance civil rights might typically spend doing some kind of community service, donating to a civil rights organization, or, at the very least, reading (hopefully re-reading) MLK’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” a piece of writing that is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1963.

Meanwhile, Republicans typically spend this day claiming that MLK would totally support their campaign against transgender people, or that MLK would disparage the Black Lives Matter Movement, or that MLK would be all about voter suppression. Whatever kind of anti-civil rights fuckery the GOP is up to, you can rest assured that they will try to hitch their wagon to Martin Luther King, Jr.

But we know better. You don’t have to look for very long to find a slew of new stories about Republicans who are racist and/or homophobic and/or transphobic and/or just really hateful people.

For example, there’s State Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Florida), who has introduced a bill that would make it legally defamatory to call someone homophobic or, transphobic or racist or sexist, punishable by a $30,000 fine. To be clear, the person who would have to pay the fine is the one who calls out someone’s homophobia. Because being homophobic (or transphobic or racist or sexist) in Florida is A-OK.

Remember this the next time you hear someone claim that Republicans are the Party of Free Speech. They think that because they demand that Nazis be allowed to post with impunity on X, they are defenders of the first amendment. In reality, they are attempting to make it illegal to criticize any of the awful shit they are doing.

Meanwhile, in West Virginia, some lawmakers, not satisfied with mere discrimination, want to criminalize transgender people. Like just being a transgender person would be a crime. A proposed bill “classifies transgender individuals as ‘obscene’ and proposes to bar ‘transgender exposure, performances, or display’ to minors. This could effectively criminalize the public presence of transgender individuals, as avoiding being perceived as transgender by a minor would be nearly impossible,” reports The Advocate.

Another West Virginia bill “seeks to impose a total ban on gender-affirming care for transgender individuals up to the age of 21. It also mandates that therapists and social workers in the state attempt to ‘cure’ transgender identity,” The Advocate reports. “The bill mandates severe penalties for practitioners violating these regulations, including the revocation of licensure and substantial civil penalties.”

Yet another bill treats transgender people like sex offenders, barring them from being close to schools or anywhere they might encounter minors, as simply being trans in front of a minor would constitute “indecent exposure.”

“The bill, which was introduced by Republican state Senator Michael Azinger, makes no mention of how the new rules would affect transgender students,” The New Republic reports. Because, of course, it doesn’t. Republicans have shown over and over that they do not care about transgender students. In fact, they care so little that they just declare that transgender youth don’t exist. The end. A very convenient stance when you don’t want to face the fact that you are hurting real people who really do exist and who are already marginalized.

The West Virginia that Republicans want to see is not only one where a transgender person is declared “obscene” but also one where finding an affirming therapist is impossible. And who wouldn’t need a therapist when their legislators are telling them they’re too nasty to leave the house and their mere existence is a threat to children?

“The implications of these bills are extensive and deeply concerning. They not only threaten the mental and physical health of transgender individuals but also signify a dangerous erosion of LGBTQ+ rights in West Virginia,” The Advocate states. “Their implications also extend beyond West Virginia, potentially leading to similar legislation in other states as Republicans continue their attack on one of the most marginalized communities in America.”

No doubt such legislation will crop up in other states, especially since so much extremist legislation Republicans introduce is actually written by extremist think tanks with the goal of getting these bills introduced as widely as possible.

2024 is going to be an ugly year politically. I mean, anything Donald Trump is involved in is going to be ugly. But Republicans will be doubling down on the most hateful bullshit in an attempt to drive out their base, who happen to be people who love hateful bullshit.

You don’t have to stand by and do nothing, though. There are so many great organizations and people who are fighting for equality and justice. If you’re concerned about what’s happening in West Virginia, for example, you could donate to Fairness West Virginia (fairnesswv.org).

If you’re concerned about what’s happening in Florida, well, the best thing to do is probably to urge the people you love to get the fuck out of there. I don’t see things getting better until alligators take over the entire state.