Today, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day to mark and remember those we’ve lost to violence and prejudice, and to remind others of it, to let them know that hate kills, that discrimination kills, that even apathy is an accomplice to murder. It’s a day when we share names and statistics and stories; cold, hard facts and chilling stories of humanity denied and lives cut short.
I will let others post the rolls of the dead this year, because my mind is overwhelmed with one thought: it’s going to be much longer next year.
Hate crimes are already on the rise, and they’re not going to go down once the man who emboldened them takes office. Just since his election, he’s made more tweets than that trying to take down Hamilton and Saturday Night Live than he has spent words to his followers to curtail violence. Each.
With a thin-skinned autocrat who hates criticism set to take power in January, you might be heartened to know that GOP leaders in congress have promised to pass a First Amendment Defense Act and that our next president has promised to sign it. You might think that’s a positive sign.
You’d be wrong.
Versions of the First Amendment Defense Act are being considered or even passed by many state legislatures. None of them have anything to do with freedom of speech, expression, assembly, or even religion in a general sense, though that’s the fig leaf being used to cover what is actually happening: legalized bigotry. Legalized discrimination. Legalized hate.
If a so-called “FADA” bill passes and is signed into law, it will be legal to discriminate against me and people like me in every state in the union. Anyone who can claim it goes against their principles could refuse me or someone like me accommodations, whether it’s a place to live or even just room in an inn for the night. I could be refused service in a restaurant or at a grocery store. I could be refused life-saving medical care, not just care that relates to being transgender but any care.
If I called an ambulance in Trump’s post-FADA America, whether or not I received emergency treatment and was taken to the hospital would depend entirely on the personal choice of the ambulance crew who arrived on the scene. If they decided they had a personal problem with my existence or that it would be too icky to touch someone like me, I could be left to die on the pavement.
All because I live my life in a way that they define as immoral, because my existence is something that they define as immoral.
That’s what freedom looks like, in the America that’s coming. That’s the “religious freedom” that the First Amendment Defense Act wants to protect.
People will die if FADA becomes the law of the land. They will die because they were denied treatment, denied medicine, denied essential services, denied a place to live. Some of them will hasten their own ends by their own hands, because the denials stack up over time and add up to an irrefutable denial of humanity.
And those hate crimes? They’re going to get worse if FADA passes. Not because FADA will make such violence legal, but because it will make the hatred behind it acceptable. Unofficial violence always rides out ahead of official violence. When the legal means of attacking a people increase, those who would resort to illegal means move accordingly.
This is not alarmism. This is not hyperbole to try to gin up support for the next election in advance. This is not a plea for attention or sympathy. This is simple fact. We are being told that we need to wait to see what sort of a president Donald Trump will be, as if we hadn’t all just watched a campaign during which he laid the case out for that quite clearly.
Well, if you wanted to wait and see, here’s your sneak peek: as president. Donald Trump intends to make it legal for the EMTs on an ambulance crew to take one look at me, say, “I don’t believe in that,” hop back in their ambulance, turn off their lights, and drive off, whistling nonchalantly.
It’s couched as a matter of protecting religious freedom, but somehow, I don’t think it’s going to apply to all religions equally. And I don’t think it’s very religious. The religion it’s meant to protect, Christianity, has many different forms and denominations and practices, and they don’t all believe the same thing about people like me.
But every form of Christianity that I’m aware of tells the same story of the good Samaritan, the person who saw someone bleeding in a ditch and stopped and rendered aid, even though they were of different cultures and faiths.
If the current FADA bill (it’s focused on marriage, both dismantling same-sex marriage and controlling relations outside it) passes, others will swiftly follow that build on its foundation. The idea behind it all is to make it legal for self-proclaimed Christians, even Christians who have a duty of care or who have taken an oath to serve their community, to be bad Samaritans.
Supposedly it’s to protect them from having to go against the tenets of their religion, but it’s really there to cover them if they don’t really feel like turning the other cheek, helping those in need, or judging not lest they be judged. It means those who claim Christianity as a legal strategy can be exempted from rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
And it means that people like me are going to die in record numbers, from burning hatred and cold neglect.
What can you do about it? Write your senators and congresspeople to let them know that you do not support any so-called First Amendment Defense Act that legalizes discrimination. If you’re a Christian, tell your political representatives (and, when necessary, your fellow Christians) that you feel your Christian values are mostly being endangered by laws that enable and encourage Bad Samaritans in the name of protecting religion.