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Poll: GOP voters are split on government blocking vital gender-affirming care for trans youth

The survey results carry special significance for transgender conservatives, who are speaking out against legislation that has targeted trans youths.

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This story was originally published by The 19th

Republicans surveyed by the left-leaning polling firm Data for Progress are nearly evenly split on whether the government should prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care.

The national polling data, shared exclusively with The 19th, suggests that GOP voters are not nearly as supportive of anti-trans bills being pushed by Republican state lawmakers across the country as some Republican politicians may want to believe. The data also carries significance for trans Republicans who spoke with The 19th about running in their local elections. 

Forty-six percent of Republicans polled from February 25 to 27 by Data for Progress said they believe the government should leave decisions about gender-affirming care to families and their doctors, while 43 percent said the government should prevent trans youth from accessing that care. Eleven percent said they weren’t sure.

Still, a majority of Republican voters indicated in a later question that they supported Texas’ order to investigate families seeking gender-affirming care for their children, which also directs teachers and doctors to report trans children receiving that care.

GOP lawmakers have in the past year introduced a record-breaking onslaught of legislation to restrict and criminalize trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care like hormone treatment and puberty blockers, both widely recommended by the foremost medical associations on trans health. So far only Arkansas has succeeded, and that measure is tied up in a lawsuit. But other moves, such as the Texas directive, have endangered or stopped programs providing that care

Such legislation can cause harm even in places where it does not pass or take effect. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people aged 13 to 24 told Morning Consult and youth LGBTQ+ advocacy group the Trevor Project earlier this year that debates over anti-trans bills had negatively impacted their mental health. Families from Arkansas and Texas have uprooted to move to different states. Advocates have repeatedly warned that the rhetoric will cause trans homicides to continue increasing.  

Several transgender conservatives told The 19th that watching GOP state lawmakers advance so many anti-trans bills has been frustrating — and that this poll suggests Republicans’ opinions on trans health care, as well as their knowledge of it, is more varied than those lawmakers may expect.

Jordan Evans, a trans Republican who has continued to run for local office in Massachusetts after transitioning in 2015 — when, to her knowledge, she became the first openly trans GOP elected official in the United States — said the split in opinion in the poll is comforting.

“I’ll take that as there are still enough people out there who understand why this is such a travesty and are willing to be like, ‘Well, I’m not sure if that’s OK,’” she said. “We need those people right now. … We need them to also speak up and speak out.”

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To Jennifer Williams, the nation’s first openly transgender municipal chair for the Republican Party, the poll suggests that anti-trans bills may not be the winning issue that some Republicans want it to be.  

“It’s abysmal, it’s terrible what’s happening. And it is purely done for political purposes,” Williams said. 

“It’s embarrassing that there are Republicans who think that this is a way to build their name,” she said. 

Some within the party, including the governors of Arkansas, North Dakota and, more recently, Utah, have taken a stance against anti-trans measures, including vetoing or vowing to veto them.

The poll’s split in opinion on the government’s role in gender-affirming care did not carry over to the latest developments in Texas. Responding to a separate question on that same survey, 59 percent of likely GOP voters said they either strongly support or somewhat support the order to investigate the families of trans children, while only 31 percent said they somewhat or strongly oppose it. 

Charlotte Clymer, a Democrat and first trans board member of LPAC, a super PAC that funds LGBTQ+ women running for office, said the discrepancy between the questions follows a polling trend of voters being more open to supporting trans rights when asked about it in broader terms. 

“I think most Republican voters, at the end of the day, don’t know what to think about trans issues,” she said. “The leaders of the party may want action against trans kids because they feel that this will help their bottom line politically, but … it's not really clear that the base necessarily wants this.”

Misinformation could be further driving that wedge between Republican voters’ support for Texas’ anti-trans order and their opposition to broader government interference with gender-affirming care, Williams said. 

Gender-affirming care for trans youth is not controversial in the medical community. The American Academy of Pediatrics backs the care and several studies have found the care reduces suicidality and depression. LGBTQ+ and trans advocates, as well as families of trans youth and providers of gender-affirming care, have stressed that the care is life saving.

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Gender-affirming care is extremely important, Evans said. Although she’s not unhappy with where she is now, being able to access that care when she was younger would have made a big difference in her life. 

“I was a closeted queer youth, in particular for me a closested trans youth, and I did not have any resources. I did not have anyone to talk to,” she said. “I can't even imagine how different things would’ve been if I had resources, let alone access, to affirming care.”

Bhavik Kumar, who oversees health care for trans adults at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and serves as Texas’ lead for the advocacy group Committee to Protect Health Care, said that Texas’ attempts to label gender-affirming care for minors as child abuse “adds an air of stigma” onto care that, while it may be legally and politically complex, is not medically complex. 

“It has direct implications on folks that are doing the work now but also has implications on the future generation of providers,” he said. 

The Data for Progress onlinepoll of 1,162 likely voters, with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points weighted to be representative by age, gender, education, race and voting history, was carried out as part of the organization's weekly omnibus survey, spokesperson McKenzie Wilson said. Forty-two percent said they live in a suburban area, 28 percent reported living in urban areas, and 29 percent said they live in a rural area. 

Previous polling has also suggested that many Republicans do not support anti-trans bills. A PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist survey from last spring found that two-thirds of Americans opposed laws to limit transgender rights — and that 70 percent of polled Republicans opposed bills to prohibit gender-transition-related care for minors. GOP opposition nearly matched Democrat opposition.

Within the party, another poll from LPAC from last year suggests that younger Republicans are more open to supporting trans rights than their older counterparts. The organization’s national survey with Lake Research Partners last fall found that young Republicans had more positive views of politicians who support trans rights than older Republicans.

Being a trans Republican in the current political climate can be challenging. Adelynn Campbell, a barista living in Michigan, in 2018 went for the second time to the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC, a gathering of conservative activists. She was excited to meet other trans conservatives since this was her first CPAC after starting her transition. 

Although she later canvassed for Republican North Carolina state Rep. Phillip Shepard’s 2019 congressional district race and started political work in D.C. through a temp agency, Campbell has since left working in politics because she did not feel safe coming out as a trans woman, she said.

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“It can be difficult working as a trans person in the Republican Party, in some places,” she said. After the 2020 election, she now considers herself an independent who mostly aligns with conservative policies.

Evans said that she has been discouraged and disappointed as she watches state lawmakers within her own party push more and more anti-trans bills — and she asked Republicans who disagree with the legislation to voice their dissent. 

“I’m hurt, like any trans person is right now. We’re all kind of in pain,” Evans said. “But what really gets me is just how this has been allowed to get to this point.” 

The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

Orion Rummler is a reporter on The 19th's breaking news team. He previously anchored live news coverage at Axios, including the January 6 Capitol attack, the coronavirus and the 2020 election. He also researched “Axios on HBO” stories on former President Donald Trump and expanded the outlet’s LGBTQ+ coverage.

Austin

Austin Pride Rescheduled

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The Austin Pride Foundation announced that this year’s Austin Pride celebration, originally scheduled for Saturday, August 13, 2022, has been rescheduled for the following weekend. This year’s Austin Pride Festival and Parade will now be held on Saturday, August 20, 2022.

According the a post on Facebook, the change was made at the request of the City of Austin:

We will celebrate Austin Pride No! Matter! What! At the request of the City of Austin, our new date for Austin Pride is Saturday, August 20, 2022. One more week also gives us a chance to go Beyond the Rainbow for the Pride we deserve after two long years. This year the rainbow shines no matter what! See you there.

This will be the first pride celebration in Austin since 2019, after all events in 2020 were canceled as a result of the pandemic and canceled again in 2021 due to a surge of infections caused by the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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How did trans people become a GOP target? Experts say it’s all about keeping evangelicals voting

The recent blitz of anti-trans bills may not align with what many Republicans believe, but party lawmakers pursue them on behalf of their most important interest group.

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(jaefrench/Pixabay) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

This story was originally published by The 19th

When it came down to it, Rick Colby called on his spirituality in deciding how to support his transgender child, Ashton.

It wasn’t a guarantee. Colby had dedicated his life to Republican politics, starting in 1984 on the field campaign to reelect Ronald Reagan. Reagan and the Republican Party with him and in the decades following would push anti-LGBTQ+ policies. But Colby’s Methodist church by comparison preached inclusivity and empathy, a message that conflicted with what he was hearing from Republicans. 

Colby went with Ashton to his first endocrinologist appointment. He held Ashton’s hand the following year as Ashton awoke from gender-affirming top surgery.

 “You know, as a parent, you want to protect your child from the nastiness of the world,” Colby said. “I was so relieved as a parent that he was being accepted. And it was just wonderful.” 

Survey after survey show that Americans support LGBTQ+ equality, and Republicans are no exception. Still, Republican-dominated states have seen a blitz of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation since 2020, particularly anti-transgender bills. That dissonance — between the reality of the electorate and the priorities of Republican lawmakers — may seem counterintuitive to many. 

Randall Balmer, a Dartmouth professor who was raised evangelical, has spent much of his career researching those kinds of contradictions. His book, Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of Religious Right traces the rise of the evangelical voting bloc from nonexistent in the 1960s to the single most important interest group for any Republican candidate in the 1980s. In a conversation with The 19th, Balmer said that rise was driving Republican support for anti-trans legislation now. 

“They have an interest in keeping the base riled up about one thing or another, and when one issue fades, as with same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, they’ve got to find something else,” Balmer said. “It’s almost frantic.” 

Bob Jones University sign at entrance on Wade Hampton Boulevard, Greenville, South Carolina, United States. (John Foxe/Wikimedia) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

While many people believe that abortion was the issue that first galvanized evangelicals to the polls in the 1980s, Balmer points to a different issue. Paul Weyrich, an evangelical Christian who helped initially organize the “religious right,” had been testing out issues that would drive other evangelicals to the polls in the 1970s, Balmer says. Weyrich found it in Bob Jones University, a religious institution that was facing the loss of its tax-exempt status for refusing to racially integrate. 

Weyrich’s strategy worked. In 1980, evangelicals – a group of denominations separate from mainline churches like Colby’s –  flocked to the polls to back what had been billed as the freedom of a religious school to operate without government interference. Reagan backed Bob Jones University, with two-thirds of the evangelical vote, denied President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and an evangelical himself, a second term. It cemented White evangelicals as the key ingredient to Republican wins. 

Any Republican who wanted to cross the finish line would have to kneel at the feet of the evangelical base, Balmer says. Decades later, Donald Trump would initially campaign on welcoming LGBTQ+ people into his Republican platform, only to later adopt the ideology of the far-right evangelical base he needed to win. 

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While Trump appeared to start out a social moderate, far-right evangelical policies increasingly dominated his agenda. On the campaign trail, Trump briefly vowed to be an ally to queer Americans. In office, his administration made so many policy moves against LGBTQ+ Americans that advocacy organizations branded his leadership “The Discrimination Administration.” 

The religious right’s fixation on “social issues” — abortion, religious-based education, LGBTQ+ rights — served two purposes. In addition to keeping evangelicals a cohesive voting unit, they also formed an ideological bedrock for the religious right. Before Weyrich died, he argued that conservatives should be fighting to return to family structures of the 1950s, a goal that has been picked up by leaders after him. 

In his book The Next Conservatism, Weyrich wrote that the goal was to weed out “cultural Marxism,” and “restore a non-ideological American republic, which is what we had up until the wretched 1960s,” when women and Black and LGBTQ+ Americans pushed for and won greater rights.

 After Reagan’s 1980 victory, Weyrich would continue to test issue after issue to keep evangelicals voting, including abortion. This idealized rewind to 1950s America would systematically challenge the basic rights gained by Black Americans, LGBTQ+ people and those with disabilities.

“As they were searching for different issues, I think they understood that any issue that had some sort of connection to sexuality or sexual behavior was going to work for them,” Balmer told The 19th. 

The first issue was “sodomy laws,” which aimed to make gay sex illegal. The Supreme Court overruled the last of them in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. Next came marriage equality, which was granted nationwide by the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling in 2015. Still, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, evangelical Protestants were the only major religious group as of 2020 that opposed same-sex marriage: just 34 percent of those surveyed support marriage equality.

The country, however, moved on.  

“It’s staggering how quickly [marriage] disappeared as an issue,” Balmer said “And so, they almost frantically began looking for something else. And of course, the trans thing was the next thing on the horizon.” 

Today, nearly 8 in 10 Americans back nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people, according to a poll from the nonpartisan ​​Public Religion Research Institute. That includes 65 percent of Republicans. A 2021 poll by PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that two-thirds of Americans opposed bills limiting the rights of transgender people. 

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Still, since 2020, 15 states have passed laws barring transgender kids from playing sports in their lived genders. Three have put laws on the books to prevent trans kids from accessing care for gender dysphoria recommended by major medical associations. Two have outlawed mention of LGBTQ+ history or people for young kids in public schools. 

Maps of states that have passed laws that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade almost mirror those that have passed anti-trans bans. Eleven of the 15 states with a sports participation ban for trans youth have also moved to curtail abortion rights. 

Zein Murib, assistant political professor at Fordham University, says that overlap is no mistake. 

“They’re saying, ‘Forget about rights. This is about bodies,’” Murib said. “This is about these bodies being in places where they again presumably do not belong. … You see them deploying scare tactics like, ‘men disguised as women in girls’ restrooms’ or ‘boys in girls’ locker rooms.’”

As 19th News found in an investigation in 2021, the vast majority of anti-transgender bills never use the word “transgender” at all. Lawmakers instead pitch the bills as critical to securing rights for women in sports and larger society. Those arguments fail to acknowledge transgender women, and advocates say they are increasingly out of touch with the general electorate. 

Chris Bull is the editorial director of queer media firm Q.Digital and the author of the 2001 book  Perfect Enemies: The Battle Between the Religious Right and the Gay Movement. Bull argues that Republican lawmakers have abandoned 80 percent of their voters to cater to a sliver of their voters. 

“I think that the cliche of American politics is not holding anymore,” he said. “They’re really running base campaigns, that 20 percent of the electorate.” 

Still, political scientists warn that the strategy to attack trans rights could backfire and cost them support among an increasingly diverse electorate. More Americans, like Colby, know transgender people than ever before. More than that, evangelicals are statistically shrinking as a voting block, while the number who support LGBTQ+ people continues to rapidly grow. 

In the 2018 midterms, the Human Rights Campaign, with polling firm Catalyst, found that people they dubbed “equality voters,” those whose support for LGBTQ+ rights strongly influenced their voting choices, made up 29 percent of the electorate. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the vote.

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The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.

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Dallas

Dallas Southern Pride Announces the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend

More than 20,000 people expected to attend the star-studded event featuring A-List celebrities including Moneybagg Yo, The City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Dallas’ own, Yella Beezy and Erica Banks

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DALLAS — Dallas Southern Pride will host its Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, June 16-19, 2022. This year’s celebration will include a myriad of events, including health and wellness screenings, COVID-19 vaccinations, concerts, their annual Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party, various local club events, parties and The Emancipation Ball. Some of the biggest stars in hip-hop and entertainment are confirmed for this unforgettable four-day weekend of festivities, including the City Girls, Saucy Santana, and Moneybagg Yo, who will perform at the Juneteenth Unity Festival and Pool Party on Saturday, June 18 from 5 PM – 9 PM at Samuell-Grand Aquatic Center, 3201 Samuell Blvd., Dallas, Texas; and Dallas’ own superstars Erica Banks and Yella Beezy, who will perform at the Mega Party that Saturday at 10 PM at Amplified, 10262 Technology Blvd E, Dallas, Texas. The weekend of events will conclude with a signature brunch on Sunday, June 19, hosted by Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride.

More than 20,000 people from across the United States and internationally are slated to attend this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend celebration, which was created to celebrate the brilliance and culture of Black people. An idea birthed by community leader, businessperson and activist, Kirk Myers-Hill, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend is the official annual celebration for Black Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQ+) people to come together and celebrate their contributions to both American and Black culture, liberation and community.

“Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a celebration and representation of the many intersections and beautiful mosaics within the Black community,” said Kirk Myers-Hill, president of Dallas Southern Pride. “The Black community is only as strong as its Black Gay brothers and sisters. Juneteenth is an opportunity to showcase unity and display the belief that we are all stronger together.”

Juneteenth became a federally recognized national holiday in 2021. However, long before the nation started celebrating this holiday, Black people in Texas were celebrating this day, as it originated in Texas. The Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to slaves, was signed 1863. However, it wasn’t until two years later on June 19, 1865, that slaves in Texas first learned of their freedom. Union troops entered Galveston, TX, announcing that all slaves were free. This marked the beginning of Juneteenth as it is known and recognized today. Since 2017, the Governor of Texas has submitted a proclamation recognizing the Juneteenth Unity Weekend. Additionally, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson continues to show her support by issuing welcome letters for the past five years. The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a family-oriented celebration with events and programming for the entire community and is excited to bring the celebration of Juneteenth back home to Texas. June is also Pride Month and the Juneteenth Unity Weekend has been a staple event in the city of Dallas during Pride month for many years.

“VisitDallas is excited to support the 2022 Juneteenth Unity Weekend hosted by Dallas Southern Pride and Abounding Prosperity, Inc. Events like this continue to make Dallas a better place to live and visit,” said Craig T. Davis, president and CEO of VisitDallas.

Since its inception in 2008, the Juneteenth Unity Weekend continues to make a positive impact in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex by unifying the community, celebrating freedom, providing a safe space for community gathering, and infusing millions of dollars into the local economy. The 2021 Juneteenth Unity Weekend brought thousands of visitors to the Metroplex, and sold-out all its host hotels. The event generated more than $2.2 million dollars for local business hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic and created hundreds of jobs for “gig” workers. The event and leadership team also created other historic moments for the city of Dallas. As a result, the HIV positivity rate dropped below 10 percent for the first time in the event’s history among more than 200 attendees tested; the Dallas Police Department held a recruitment drive targeting LGBTQ+ applicants; the Dallas skyline was lighted in the Juneteenth and Black Pride colors for the first time and The Dallas Southern Pride Official Pride flag was debuted and flown for the first time at the Sheraton Market Center.

The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is a collaborative celebration made possible by the support of the many companies and organizations that share the collective vision for this impactful event that advances the entire Black family and social justice movements and celebrates unity and peace. The 2022 presenting sponsors thus far are Gilead Sciences and Abounding Prosperity, Inc., along with Black Entertainment Television (BET) and ViiV Healthcare as diamond sponsors. Other key sponsors include the Dallas Mavericks, Radio One Dallas, Dallas TPID, AHF, Yale School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, HVTN, SBPAN, AIDS United, VisitDallas, Hilton, Center for Black Equity, United Black Ellument, Crawford Jewelry, and Don Morphy.

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Juneteenth Unity Weekend will be used to support the free health, and wellness activities of its partner agencies, which offsets the cost of essential services to Black and Brown communities, with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ communities and their families in the DFW metroplex.

The Juneteenth Unity Weekend is still open for additional sponsors and vendors, particularly those in the arts, entertainment, health and wellness, skincare, clothing, beauty, food and beverage including food trucks, and lifestyle brands.

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For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.dallassouthernpride.com.

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