Another bill targeting the fear of transgender people (and sexual identity minorities) came out of committee this morning en route to the final passage: It requires parents to be notified in advance that sex education and mention of sexual or gender identity is a subject to be covered in class. Parents must be provided all related material, including any surveys to be given to students.

The legislature has already passed three anti-LGBT bills aimed specifically at punishing transgender kids, on top of a variety of religious freedom and other bills also aimed indirectly, but clearly, at punishing these tiny minorities.

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Why? That is the question of the day. Arkansas is now THE national leader in this discrimination, but it is not alone.

The New York Times took a stab at this today, with a front-page examination of the spate of bills targeting transgender girl athletes in the absence of any evidence that it is much of a problem. I commented on it on Twitter this morning, but it deserves a little more amplification about the organized campaign, featuring many of the usual religious right suspects in Arkansas, but also the national tentacles.

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Example: I got an invitation from an Arlington, Va., PR firm to interview Attorney General Leslie Rutledge about her advocacy of bills aimed at punishing the non-existent transgender girl athletes of Arkansas. The pitch said:

 

Last week, Arkansas became the second state to sign into law legislation barring transwomen or biological males from competing in women’s sports. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge introduced the legislation reflecting “we don’t want common sense to be overshadowed by so-called political correctness [my emphasis], this bill will ensure the integrity of girls and women in sports.”
Lawmakers in 25 other states have introduced comparable legislation as a preemptive measure in response to President Biden’s executive order focused on protecting transgender rights. Allowing biological men to compete against women places a new “glass ceiling” over women in athletics, Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge is refusing to stand down and allow political correctness be the death of female athletics.
Please contact me ….. if you are interested in connecting with Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge about the Arkansas legislation.

Connect with Rutledge? That’s quite an offer. The gubernatorial candidate doesn’t make herself available often for open-ended questioning. She is more available, it must be said, than her phantom opponent, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has been campaigning everywhere but Arkansas and speaking to no one but her fans.

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I asked the PR agent who her client was. No response so far. But I looked up her employer, CRC Advisors. Its founders include Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society architect of right-wing judicial nominees, anti-abortion messaging and other projects of the Republican Right. The firm is a right-wing influencer. Its leaders were heavily involved in, for example, putting Barfin’ Bart O’Kavanaugh on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Given the PR work by CRC, I wondered whether it might be working for the conservative groups mentioned in the NY Times article on the transgender sports hysteria campaign, which quotes a weightlifter brought to Arkansas to testify by the shameless Missy Irvin. The Times disputes the power lifter’s depicting of the threat to women athletes and the article provides some markers for what’s going on.

South Dakota is just one of a growing number of states where Republicans are diving into a culture war clash that seems to have come out of nowhere. It has been brought about by a coordinated and poll-tested campaign by social conservative organizations like the American Principles Project and Concerned Women for America, which say they are determined to move forward with what may be one of their last footholds in the fight against expanding L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

… the idea that there is a sudden influx of transgender competitors who are dominating women’s and girls’ sports does not reflect reality — in high school, college or professionally. Sports associations like the N.C.A.A., which has promoted the inclusion of transgender athletes, have policies in place to address concerns about physical differences in male and female biology. The N.C.A.A. requires athletes who are transitioning to female to be on testosterone suppression treatment for a year before they can compete on a women’s team.

…Rarely has an issue that so few people encounter — and one that public opinion analysts have only recently begun to study in depth — become a political and cultural flash point so quickly. The lack of awareness creates an environment in which the real impact of transgender participation in sports can be overshadowed by hyperbole.

…A mix of factors has helped social conservatives breathe new life into the issue: activists who agreed to give up on unpopular bills regulating public bathrooms; an awareness that women, not men, could be more persuasive and sympathetic advocates; a new Democratic administration that quickly moved to broaden and restore rights for transgender people that the Trump administration had eliminated; and a political and media culture on the right that often reduces the nuanced issue of gender identity to a punchline about political correctness.

…In many instances, [including Arkansas] lawmakers have worked closely with groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal organization that has argued several Supreme Court cases on behalf of people claiming discrimination because of their traditional beliefs about marriage and gender roles.

Conservative outlets are megaphones for the campaign. Arkansas has always been particularly fertile ground for fear and religion-based loathing. To date, advocates for this legislation have yet to produce a single girl harmed or even threatened with “harm,” such as being defeated in the 100-member dash by a girl born male. There has been, on the other hand, expert medical testimony of the excruciating burden this tiny minority carries, their higher probability of suicide, their mistreatment by society, if not family. And yet the governor of Arkansas happily has signed on twice to a legislative message about Arkansas that is far from flattering. He has a third opportunity on his desk (unconstitutional denial of medical treatment) and there’s every indication the rodeo of transgender-roping legislation isn’t done yet, with some truly mean stuff still in the manure spreading machine at the Capitol.

Medal of Dishonor still must go to Sen. Missy Irvin, with a sumac leaf cluster for Rep. Robin Lundstrum, for comparing sexual transition surgery (which isn’t done in Arkansas) and hormone and puberty-blocking treatment to genital mutilation in Africa and certain other cultures. This mutilation has nothing to do with gender dysphoria. It is the non-medical removal of external sex organs. It holds no benefits, only harm, to the unwilling victims. A transgender girl who made a considered decision with family over a period of years and after much medical consultation and counseling is the reality, not Missy’s college years anecdote about an African mutilation victim.

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