Arkansas is auditioning hard to become America’s biggest nightmare state.
There is a lot of creepy stuff afoot right now. Across the country, Republicans are passing anti-voting legislation because they know they can’t win on their ideas, especially since their ideas are racism and more racism, so they have to stop people from voting. Especially Black people. These bills are all backed up by the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen and rife with fraud. It wasn’t, despite what Mike Lindell, CEO of My Fascist Pillow, says.
Then there’s the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis where a white police officer who murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in public and on video could very well get away with it. This is America, after all, a deeply racist country that both celebrates its racism and is simultaneously in deep denial about its racism. The U.S. is not OK.
Oh, and then there’s the continuing COVID-19 pandemic which is STILL A THING despite how an alarming number of people are behaving. The good news is that vaccines are being administered at a steady clip and ahead of the Biden Administration’s projections. The bad news is that cases are up in a number of states, including Michigan where I live, and there are wild-ass variants of the virus popping up all over the place. And then, of course, there is the fact that the anti-vaxer crowd is growing because there are an awful lot of people who want to get sick and die to own the libs.
Thankfully, we can always count on Republicans to focus on the very real problems facing this country: transgender people who want to be involved in sports and LGBTQ+ people who want to be involved in medicine — and by “involved in” I mean “receive medical care.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has his finger on the pulse of what’s important, signing several terrible bills, including legislation to ban transgender athletes from competing in sports.
“I signed the law as a fan of women’s sports from basketball to soccer and including many others in which women compete successfully,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
How much do you want to bet that he either could not think of and/or or does not approve of any other sports women compete in “successfully” besides soccer and basketball?
“This law simply says that female athletes should not have to compete in a sport against a student of the male sex when the sport is designed for women’s competition,” his statement continued. “As I have stated previously, I agree with the intention of this law.”
I’m going to take issue with his claim that this bill “simply” says anything. This is not a bill that addresses an actual problem. There isn’t a wild influx of transgender athletes demanding to play on girls’ and women’s teams. The purpose of this bill, and all the copycat bills like it across the country, is to distract from the vitally important issues Republicans are either fine with — like racism — or don’t care about — like COVID-19 — or want to stop — like voting. Legislation like this seeks to put transgender people, an already marginalized group, front and center as cannon fodder in the culture wars. Because making people hate each other is the best thing Republicans have when it comes to staying in power.
Not content with singling out only transgender people, Hutchinson also signed the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, legislation that allows health care providers, employees and insurance companies to deny health care under the guise of “religious freedom” and “moral conscience.” According to The Advocate, the bill “opens the door to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and others.”
“No one should be denied necessary medical care. SB 289 prioritizes individual providers’ beliefs ahead of patient health and wellbeing,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a press release issued upon the bill’s passage. “In the midst of a devastating and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we should be expanding access to health care and making it more affordable, not advancing bills that make it harder for LGBTQ Arkansans to receive the care they need.”
Supporters of the bill claim that it’s necessary to keep medical workers from leaving the profession during this crucial time, as if having to treat LGBTQ+ patients and not the complete and utter failure of the medical system and the government to equip them with the basic necessities to keep themselves safe during a pandemic is the main problem here.
These anti-LGBTQ bills come on the heels of Hutchinson’s signing an abortion ban that he said is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Every Republican’s dream is to be the “hero” that gets abortion banned nationwide leaving pregnant women desperate and nowhere to turn until we’re all living in the fucking “Handmaid’s Tale.”
What Hutchinson calls a dream, the majority of the country would call a nightmare. That is why Republicans need to cheat to win. And they’ve been devastatingly successful so far. Vote, vaccinate and vanquish hate.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBTQ politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.