Look, the Republican Party has no ideas. Republican candidates can’t campaign on the issues that matter to people because their positions are wildly unpopular: banning abortion, banning contraception, banning fertility treatments, giving the rich more tax breaks that will make inflation worse for everyone, putting more Black people in jail, dismantling public education, gutting Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, rolling back environmental regulation that keeps our water and our air clean, ensuring that students are stuck with their student loan debt, and eliminating the social safety net so that poor people can more fully experience the shame and hardship of being poor.
And so they’re running on a “tHeRe ArE oNlY tWo GeNdErS” platform where transgender people, especially transgender youth, are portrayed as monsters intent on destroying everything we hold dear, especially the idea that men wear pants and women wear skirts (by the way, I worked in a credit union in 2002 that had a written dress code that said women couldn’t wear pants OR SOCKS. Women did anyway, but the fact that we had to read and sign the handbook was a way of putting us on notice and reminding the women who worked there that their apparel and their appearance was subject to constant surveillance).
This is an especially awful trend in Michigan where voters are deciding whether or not to protect abortion rights. Proposal 3 essentially codifies Roe v. Wade — you know, the Supreme Court decision overturned by a stacked conservative majority court that has led to many states banning abortion, something they previously were prevented from doing by, you guessed it, Roe v. Wade. The passage of Proposal 3 would protect reproductive freedom in Michigan. It would prevent the state’s 1931 law criminalizing abortion, which is currently on the books but isn’t being enforced because of a court order, from putting doctors and patients in jail.
The majority of people in Michigan and, indeed, the country support abortion being legal. Running on a “lock up doctors and criminally investigate people who have miscarriages” isn’t a winning message.
And so conservatives in Michigan, including the Michigan Catholic Conference, have embarked on a campaign urging people to vote no on Prop 3, calling it “confusing and extreme.” They are backing up this slogan with wildly false claims about how Prop 3 would allow minors to have gender-affirming care, specifically sterilization, without parental consent. You may have seen the billboards, lawn signs and commercials perpetuating this lie.
“The commercial that’s airing suggests that the word ‘sterilization’ [in the proposal’s language] somehow has something to do with gender identity but that’s just obviously not true. Again, we’re talking about decisions related to pregnancy, and in that context, the word ‘sterilization’ is meant to encompass things like vasectomies or tubal ligations. Decisions people should be able to make without interference from the state,” Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit said, according to Click On Detroit. “The Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiative has nothing to do with gender identity or gender-affirming care. It covers decisions about matters relating to pregnancy. That’s it.”
You hear that? Proposal 3 has nothing to do with gender-affirming care. A minor can’t just walk into a doctor’s office and get their tubes tied or have a vasectomy. Also, gender-affirming care, like hormone therapy, doesn’t make someone sterile.
Transgender people already face discrimination. Transgender youth are already targets of bullying at school and from one of the U.S.’s major political parties. And that’s on top of worrying about zits and algebra.
Think about the message this is sending to trans youth. They’re being told that the worst thing a person can be is who they, in fact, are. As for kids who are scared to come out, they are receiving the message that the worst thing you can be is transgender or gender queer. That even the possibility of you receiving gender-affirming care (which, I repeat, Prop 3 has nothing to do with) is so awful that people are willing to vote against their own reproductive freedom to stop it.
Remember, Roe v. Wade was overturned. The criminalization of abortion in Michigan is not a hypothetical thing. This is a real harm that we are facing, not a frenzied hate conspiracy.
If you are willing to throw your reproductive rights in the garbage because you’re terrified of transgender people, a very small and very vulnerable population, then there is something deeply wrong with you.
And if you are trying to scare people out of giving up their reproductive rights by demonizing transgender people, there is also something deeply wrong with you.
D’Anne Witkowski is a writer living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ+ politics for nearly two decades. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.