Opposition to LGBTQ equality has long been both a fundamental value and useful political tool for many American conservative organizations, especially those associated with the Christian Right. Even as visibility and mainstream acceptance of LGBTQ people grows, homophobia and transphobia continue to serve as key ingredients in the Christian Right’s ongoing “pro-family” campaign, which enforces a Biblically mandated heterosexuality, champions gender essentialism or “complementarity,” and prioritizes procreation.
While substantial progress has been made in terms of legal rights, political representation, and cultural approval, these advances have not uniformly served all members of the LGBTQ community. Though hailed as a great victory by some, federal marriage equality in the U.S. has done little to alter the day to day lived realities of LGBTQ people affected by economic exploitation, geopolitical turmoil, and other effects of Western imperialism. Additionally, those who experience multiple forms of oppression resulting from multiple marginalized identities are consistently neglected. Trans women of color, who find themselves at the nexus of white supremacy, heterosexism, and misogyny, are among the most vulnerable in our society, experiencing unprecedented amounts of violence, persecution, and discrimination.
The Right has become increasingly adept at identifying and exploiting the internal silos and fault lines in the LGBTQ community resulting from racism, classism, ableism, sexism, and transphobia. Among American conservatives, for example, anti-trans rhetoric and campaigning is on the rise, mirroring—and perhaps even causing—recent increases in anti-trans violence and persecution. Globally, similar strategies of “mobilized resentment” against convenient scapegoats (i.e. those who are deemed disposable by mainstream society) have gained traction, thanks in large part to the influence of the American Christian Right.
A Dystrumpian Vision for LGBTQ People by Frederick Clarkson and Scot Nakagawa
The Christian Right, with few exceptions, backed the Trump ticket, with over 80 percent of White evangelicals voting for him, and now they’re being rewarded with traditional forms of political patronage. They’re scoring major appointments and have won a say in personnel and policy decisions on a scale far surpassing anything seen since the movement first arrived in Washington with the Reagan administration in 1980.
So far, 2016 has seen at least 44 anti-trans bills proposed in 16 states, aimed at putting an already vulnerable community at even greater risk for harassment, abuse, ostracization, and discrimination.6 This unprecedented wave of legislative attacks against trans and gender-nonconforming people isn’t restricted to Red States, rural communities, or the Bible Belt. Neither spontaneous nor coincidental, it’s the result of a nationally coordinated effort led by the Christian Right.
The Christian Right’s Love Affair with Anti-Trans Feminists
The Right is selectively highlighting and leveraging the scholarship of a fringe group of highly controversial academics collectively labeled “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists” (TERFs).
All across the country, resistance to—and backlash against—incremental advancements in transgender equality is cropping up in courtrooms, legislatures, churches, and school boards. Mixed with the systemic ingredients of anti-trans violence is a cadre of Christian Right actors who are effectively fueling the fire through policies and legal campaigns.
In recent years, we have repeatedly heard threats of civil disobedience from Christian Right leaders. As marriage equality has advanced around the country, threatening language is escalating on the Christian Right. If these culture warriors actually follow through with their threats, the story of our time may turn on terms like civil disobedience, martyrdom and even civil war. The operative word here is, “if.”
Though framed as a “free-speech initiative” dedicated to preserving students’ “religious freedom,” Focus on the Family’s annual Day of Dialogue functionally serves as an anti-LGBTQ promotional vehicle, encouraging and equipping young Christians to express condemnation of homosexuality and “transgenderism” to their LGBTQ peers.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has recently been in the news for its historic approval of marriage equality. But you may have noticed that Christian Right organizations that are unhappy with the outcome are promoting the idea that people are leaving this and other churches because of their support for equal rights, and for rejecting the Right’s corrupt and redefined version of religious freedom. As is often the case, the Christian Right’s claims don’t hold much water.
Since 1999, Nov. 20th has been set aside as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR provides space to remember and honor those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. To a certain extent, talking about violence against trans people as a “hate crime” abstracts it from any social or political context, and suggests that these attacks are isolated incidents caused by rogue individuals. And so we must acknowledge—and then challenge—the architects responsible for manufacturing and perpetuating a cultural climate that justifies violence against trans and gender nonconforming people.
African political leaders like presidents Robert Mugabe and Yahya Jammeh continue to attack LGBTQ citizens of their countries – using words heavily influenced by U.S. culture warriors like Rick Warren, Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Sharon Slater, and U.S.-based organizations like the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). They are all among hundreds of other U.S. culture warriors, who deny that LGBTQ rights are human rights, and work to spread their beliefs in Africa where there are already few legal, religious, or police protections for African sexual minorities.
The passage of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill brings renewed attention to the plight of LGBTQ people in Africa. Initial outcry sparked by the bill’s introduction in 2009 faded into the shadows of shrinking attention spans and the challenge of sustaining interest in an issue that isn’t constantly confronting our daily lived realities. It reemerged periodically, but mostly disappeared from the headlines. Sadly, this nightmare is not unique to Uganda.
While U.S. Christian Right leaders made headlines when international pressure forced them to retract support for Uganda’s notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a report by Political Research Associates shows that U.S. Christian Right groups continue to build organizational strength and campaign to inscribe homophobia and anti-abortion politics in the constitutions and laws of African countries in the years since.
The hard truth: homophobia remains one of the right-wing’s most successful tools for mobilizing political support. Even as LGBT advocates celebrate recent victories—four ballot measure victories in 2012, President Obama’s public support for marriage equality, the passage of federal hate crimes legislation, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—their opponents have been building power through reactionary fear and hatred.
A groundbreaking investigation by Rev. Kapya Kaoma of Political Research Associates exposes how the U.S. Right mobilizes African Protestant clergy to protest any movement towards LGBT equality in U.S. mainline churches while promoting an agenda that criminalizes homosexuality in Africa.