Jay Michaelson: So, here we are at the end of a strange year for LGBTQ Americans. On the one hand, mainstream acceptance of gay people continues to spread; gays are now officially boring. On the other hand, trans people are being singled out for government persecution on the one hand and continued street violence on the other.
Meanwhile, as all three of us have written, the Trump-Pence administration is inflicting the “death of a thousand blows” against LGBTQ civil rights, severely limiting employment rights, marital rights, access to healthcare, access to safe facilities in schools, and so on–while literally erasing LGBTQ people from government forms, proclamations, and observances.
For that reason, it’s even harder than usual to look toward 2018 with any sense of certainty. What are we most hoping for in the year to come? And what do we fear?
Samantha Allen: I have written the word “bathroom” hundreds of times over the past two years of covering the various state-level attempts to restrict transgender people’s restroom use. I wish I never had to type it again; I didn’t sign up to be a reporter to write about the human excretory system every week.
But in 2018, I am hoping to talk about bathrooms a lot less frequently—and I have reason to believe that will be the case.
One of the most important victories for transgender people this year came in the form of something we avoided: a “bathroom bill” in Texas that would have effectively made birth certificates into tickets of entry for restrooms in public schools and government buildings. But that was scuttled at the last second by the business community, local law enforcement, and a sympathetic speaker of the House who said he “[didn’t] want the suicide of a single Texan on [his] hands.”
I was in the state this summer when this thing almost got passed and I witnessed firsthand the gloriously outsized Texas rage against a bill that could have cost them billions (Tim wrote about the Texas bathroom battle at the time for the Daily Beast).
Between that and North Carolina being forced to repeal the most controversial aspects of HB 2 under pressure from the NCAA, I’m confident that we’ll see some—but fewer—red-state legislatures really push for “bathroom” bills. They’re political losers and money drainers—and everyone in elected office knows that by now.
Tim Teeman: I’d like to share your optimism, but Roy Moore supplies a harsh corrective—for me anyway. In the celebrations that followed his defeat at the hands of Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race, some difficult questions were left hanging.
Moore was a candidate whose rampant homophobia–his actual desire to see discrimination enacted against millions of LGBT Americans, his desire to see prejudice and discrimination enshrined in law–went mostly unchallenged and unquestioned. Only on the last day of the race did Jake Tapper of CNN ask his spokesman whether Moore believed homosexuality should be illegal (the answer: “Probably”).
This was a shameful and telling omission by the media. The depressing footnote to Moore’s loss is that extreme homophobia itself is not a disqualification for a political candidate in 2017. Active homophobia was seen as a valid mandate to hold by the modern Republican Party.
Moore was only too happy to hold it close even in defeat, as he showed by posting (on Facebook) Carson Jones, Doug Jones’ gay son’s, post-election interview with The Advocate. It was a sly attempt to stir up anti-gay poison. Politicians like Moore are thankfully fewer and fewer in number, but homophobia and transphobia are still a major currency in this White House—and that Trump and other of Moore’s high-profile Republican supporters don’t see it as a disqualifying characteristic tells us something very sad and alarming indeed.