— Katy Henriksen (@soundoff_katy) April 23, 2021
Salon is among the latest to take note of Arkansas’s leadership in the Republican culture war against the tiny number of transgender children.
It chooses for context the generally progressive corporate policies of Bentonville-based Walmart and the huge sums the Walton family has spent to make Bentonville a mecca for the up-and-coming, the better to attract quality workers to Walmart and other major businesses in booming Northwest Arkansas.
The message from the Arkansas legislature — anti-woman, anti-voter and, particularly, anti-LGBT with an emphasis on persecuted trans children — isn’t exactly helping the branding. The article by Katy Henriksen begins:
Until recently, Bentonville was a small sleepy town inside a dry county situated in the northernmost corner of the state of Arkansas. Thanks to Walmart heirs, it’s quickly being transformed into an arts and cultural destination that began in 2011, when Alice Walton opened Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. With a net worth of currently $66.3 billion, she has enough cash to throw around that she’s just announced a 50% expansion of the museum.
The museum boasts an impressive collection and inclusive programming. Distinguished speakers have included #BlackLivesMatter creator Patrisse Cullors and avant-garde icon Laurie Anderson. A promotional post for a Pride Night event exclaims, “throughout history, the art world often offered ‘safe spaces’ of acceptance for people’s differences, and signified that there was a place of belonging for those who felt outcast and marginalized, a place that was welcome to all, just like Crystal Bridges is today.” A Washington Post editorial even asked, “Is Crystal Bridges, in rural Arkansas, the most woke museum in America?”
This seemingly progressive and shiny cultural mecca, however, feels in direct opposition to the recent spate of anti-trans legislation in the state.
Earlier this month, Arkansas became the first state in the country to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The so-called “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act” (HB 1570) bans doctors from providing puberty blockers or performing hormone therapy. Other bills passed this legislative session include one that allows medical providers to refuse to treat members of the LGBTQ community and another that bans transgender girls from competing on women’s sports teams in school.
Some organizers point out the disparity between the seemingly performative actions of the many institutions and businesses that espouse diversity, equity and inclusion, as the state rams through the most draconian anti-trans legislation in the country by legislators bankrolled by these same entities.
Uh, well, yes. There’s some consolation for the billionaires. Whatever the legislature taketh away from the “woke” image, it gives some dividends back. The Walton family charter/voucher school agenda, for example. An end to an estate tax worth multi-millions. Income tax breaks that favor millionaires.
For all its efforts at better branding, Walmart and the Waltons have been able to do little about the retrograde legislating from their home region. Theyworst keep getting elected and push the worst of the stuff coming out of this legislature.
The article talks to people adversely affected by discriminatory legislation, including a trasngender woman who believes the legislature doesn’t reflect a more tolerant view among the general population. She said she doesn’t think the average person cares, based on her own experience at work and elsewhere.
The article also notes the “average person” is being priced out of the booming housing market as NWA offers incentives to lure skilled workers. It concludes:
Some lifelong residents have had enough. Though Diane feels comfortable here personally, the recent spate of anti-trans legislation led her to make the decision to move away with her trans husband. They’d dreamed of moving someplace more aligned with their lifestyle before, but felt no urgency about making such a big decision until now.
“It’s literally pushing us out of the place that I’ve lived my whole life,” she says. “I don’t see much hope going forward for the state, unfortunately.”
The article notes an event Saturday in support of transgender people.