Meet The New Conservative Punching Bag: Trans People
Remember the homophobic 1970's political ads that said "You better vote against domestic partnerships and gay teachers because if you don't, the homos will molest your kids!"?
Yeah, well. They don't work as well against homos anymore because these days a lot more know a gay person and have seen them portrayed nicely on TV.
But for contemporary transgender people, political season feels a lot like the 1970s.
In an interview with LiveScience, sociologist Amy Stone noted that local political ads against transgender people regularly portray them as pedophiles, sexual predators and deranged men in dresses.
These ads are usually local and in opposition to public accommodations laws that would allow transgender people to use public locker rooms, hotel facilities and hospital services without discrimination--a necessity for a trans person who wants to work out, rest or receive medical care in peace.
But the ads perversely twist the bills into a sexual free for all. One July 2011 ad against Massachusettes' Transgender Equal Rights Bill claimed that the law would open up women's toilets and locker rooms to men, unleashing a flood of male rapists into your wife and daughter's "ladies time."
Another anti-discrimination electoral battle in Anchorage, Alaska this last April featured a cartoon ad in which a beefy man in a dress applied to work at a children's daycare, the scary narrator saying that it will soon be illegal "to refuse a job to a transvestite who wants to work with toddlers."
The thing is, says Stone, trans representation in the media sucks. Think of the last trans person you saw on TV that wasn't on RuPaul's Drag Race and wasn't Chaz Bono or Stephen Ira Beatty.
If you did see a trans person, it was likely as a serial killer, a sex worker or a murder victim in some seedy cop show—not as a complex, strong and beautiful person worthy of respect.
Americans are more likely to personally know a gay person rather than a transgender person. Even though the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" gay military ban died in 2011, the military still refuses trans people from its ranks.
All of this contributes to a larger social ignorance about trans people and their basic humanity. It's not easy being a person whose gender identity doesn't match with their biological sex--they're not perverts, they're people; people with a lot more humanity and self-respect than to molest any lady taking a dump.
So while we have a long way to go to introduce America to our trans brothers and sisters, the fact that they're the new political pariahs shouldn't make gays feel any better about their social standing.
In fact, Stone says that contemporary ads against same-sex marriage focus more on children's education and religious freedom more than outright homophobia, confusing the issues and making them much harder to refute.