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Beating the Right-Wing, Anti-Trans, Hate Machine, with Vivian Topping (Equality Federation) and Alex Han (In These Times)

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Block & Build
Block & Build
Beating the Right-Wing, Anti-Trans, Hate Machine, with Vivian Topping (Equality Federation) and Alex Han (In These Times)

At the top of this episode, we address what may have been a historic moment last night, when President Joe Biden struggled to perform in his debate against Donald Trump. Many in mainstream media are asking today if Biden still has what it takes to be the Democratic nominee and block the return of Trump and the MAGA movement to the White House. In These Times Executive Director Alex Han joins us to discuss what the debate may mean for movement efforts to stop Trump and the ways it might shift our political landscape.

Then Cayden is joined by Vivian Topping, Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement at the Equality Federation, to discuss the right-wing, anti-trans hate machine and how we fight back. They explore how today’s Supreme Court repeal of the Chevron Doctrine might impact laws banning discrimination against trans people, how we organize against the Right’s cultural messaging via deep canvassing in our communities, and much more.

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[00:00:00] Cayden Mak: Welcome to Block and Build, a podcast from Convergence magazine. I’m your host and the publisher of Convergence, Cayden Mak. On this show, we’re building a roadmap for the people and organizations who are trying to unite anti fascist forces in order to build the influence of a progressive trend while blocking the rise of authoritarianism in the United States.

[00:00:16] This has been a big week in news, y’all. On Monday, the Supreme Court effectively banned mass protests in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas by refusing to hear a case from the lower courts, which has upheld that ban. And also this morning, SCOTUS ruled that local camping bans from cities do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, effectively providing local and state lawmakers the protection of the courts should they decide to declare it illegal to be unhoused, a challenge to a city ordinance in Grants Pass, Oregon, which will have huge ramifications, especially in cities most stricken by the housing crisis.

[00:00:47] On Tuesday, we also learned the seat of a, the cost of a seat in Congress. If you’re interested in buying one, it turns out it’ll cost you about 15 million dollars. Jamal Bowman lost his seat in New York’s 16th district to his record breakingly AIPAC funded primary opponent, George Latimer. We’ll also talk dive into this a little bit more in our next segment, but Tennessee A ban on gender transition care is going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

[00:01:11] And of course, the big news of the morning is the Democrats internal panic over Joe Biden’s debate performance last night. To talk about this a little bit with me, you may notice that we’re in a little bit of a different setting, but we’re here in Chicago at the In These Times office, and I’m joined by Alex Han, the executive director of In These Times to talk a little bit about what the hell happened last night.

[00:01:33] Alex Han: I could not be more excited to be having this conversation with you at this moment, Caden. Thank you. 

[00:01:39] Cayden Mak: No, I’m very grateful that you’re willing to join me to talk about this because it’s a, there’s a lot to talk about. And I think that the, the divide between folks who are in the sort of like Joe Biden proxy world versus people who are party strategists that are looking at this and Kind of freaking out.

[00:02:00] Is it’s market and it’s specific. And I think that the way that Joe Biden performed last night is also outshining the sort of like normal Donald Trump incoherence that we’ve gotten used to. But I also think that one of the that I want to dig into here a little bit is like how this might change the sort of orientation of our movements to what’s happening in this election right now and what options we have going forward.

[00:02:28] Alex Han: Yeah, unfortunately, to be realistic about it, there was an infinitesimally small chance 24 hours ago. Of Joe Biden, of there being a different democratic candidate than Joe Biden, that like 0. 001 chance might be a 0. 004 chance. Now it might be significantly bigger, a multiple but still not a high percentage.

[00:02:51] One of the things that really struck me just to do one pundit thing about the debate. Yeah. Was it took 40 minutes into the debate for Donald Trump to be asked about January 6th will you attempt to overthrow the government again? And that was like really remarkable to me and an indicator it’s to be in a debate against somebody who just lies, like every word out of his mouth.

[00:03:15] Right. It’s like his natural reaction to be in a debate with somebody like that. And not able to like push, not able to have a performance that can actually at least neutralize it. Pretty remarkable. 

[00:03:26] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it’s, that’s also really scary because that’s what the it’s the same playbook, right?

[00:03:34] It’s nothing new that we’re seeing from Trump. And I think that the fact that this may, this makes it look like Democrats are even less prepared for The same shit is pretty sobering. 

[00:03:46] Alex Han: Yeah. Yeah. And it doesn’t change like the underlying, we have a lot of, um, whether it’s like operatives, opinion makers, it’s become abundantly clear over the last couple of years that almost none of these people actually impact Joe Biden thinking and what he decides and how he shifts.

[00:04:04] And I think that’s something to Keep at the center. There’s a lot of people who are opining and trying to position themselves right now. And a lot of this is kayfabe from these democratic commentators and operatives in particular, right? It’s and it’s an opportunity to express their own anxiety and frustration.

[00:04:20] But they’re not actually trying to do anything about it. Right. And the underlying questions have been some, a lot of kind of text and phone conversations over the last 12 hours. In various ways And it doesn’t change the fact like we are we are not in a situation where what’s happening on the ground in Gaza is shifting the tide.

[00:04:41] It’s just a visualization of a thing that a lot of us have assumed already. So it’s a strange moment, but I do think all of these moments are moments for. social movements for transformative change, if we can move in unity and in a principled and strategic way, it allows us to continue to advance those the kind of questions that we’re trying to advance.

[00:05:04] It also, frankly, puts us in a position to really clarify the necessity of the defeat of Donald Trump and the necessity of the preparation for how we do that and how we move forward, how we use that preparation to move forward regardless of the outcome. Sure. 

[00:05:22] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Well, speaking of like key moments, one of the other things that I’ve seen a lot of discussion about is the fact that, this debate is taking place before the Democratic National Convention, before the Republican National Convention, and that in, in large part, it seems like the parties are looking at these conventions as just like pro forma coronations, essentially, of people who they assume are already going to be Their candidates but to me, it also raises the question of what is the party structures responsibility to really honestly, the public, the general public about undertaking a convention in the United States?

[00:06:06] here in Chicago in August. When we’re seeing this kind of thing and this kind of like panic amongst, democratic rank and file. 

[00:06:13] Alex Han: Yeah. I think there are two contradictory things and that’s a part of the nature, like a party, especially in the United States, a party is not like an actual thing, right?

[00:06:23] A party is an idea, a concept that can take different shapes and forms at the end of the day. The democratic party establishments, like their responsibility is to self perpetuate themselves. But there are a lot of people who are involved and engaged in that, who have a bigger and broader interest in the public.

[00:06:42] So the question is how those people can be pushed again in a strategic and organized way, in a way that can build some unity to attempt to intervene. It’s like a historic election in a lot of different ways. And the timing of this debate is one of those pieces. And just to get back into the, I just want to remind us that this is the debate that Joe Biden’s campaign asked for, right?

[00:07:04] These are the ground rules that they requested. Yeah. This is what they wanted. And so, we’re living in that, these conventions are going to play a very different role than they have in the past and it remains to be seen what happens. But I think for a lot of people, the Demo, the DNC in Chicago, that’s coming up and Eight weeks, nine weeks just became much more interesting potentially.

[00:07:27] Cayden Mak: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Alex, I really appreciate you jumping in and joining me this morning. It, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot to make sense of here. And a lot of things that we don’t know yet. So. Obviously we’re going to keep, we’re going to keep talking about this. 

[00:07:40] Alex Han: All right. That sounds good.

[00:07:41] Thanks for having me, Caden. 

[00:07:41] Cayden Mak: Thank you so much. Well, on today’s show for our main segment I’m also joined by Vivian Topping, who’s the Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement at the Equality Federation to talk about how we dismantle the right wing anti trans hate machine. I think this is like a particularly interesting conversation in light of this moment too, because as many of our listeners are certainly aware, I think that a lot of this transpanic is the tip of the spear for the way in which the far right, is trying to tear apart the left wing coalition.

[00:08:13] Vivian, thanks so much for joining me today. 

[00:08:15] Vivian Topping: Thank you for having me. 

[00:08:17] Cayden Mak: Well, for our listeners who maybe don’t know very much about your work at Equality Federation, could you tell us a little bit about the work that you all do the issues and the scales at which you engage, and how your work helps build movements that defend queer and trans people?

[00:08:29] Vivian Topping: Yeah. So, Equality Federation is an advocacy accelerator. That’s rooted in social justice and we build power in our network of state based LGBTQ plus advocacy organizations. So really my job is to work with folks on the ground who are advocating for LGBTQ plus causes and help them be able to do the best possible work they can do.

[00:08:48] That’s everything from re granting money to them, from providing technical support, from providing tools to them, doing research with them and really just trying to build the state based movement. And we do that because we really believe that everyone, no matter where they are should be able to thrive in every community that they call home.

[00:09:03] Right. And so we work with folks in states across the country. I believe we’re now at 48 state partners at this point. So we’re not in every single state, but we’re in most and work directly with folks on the ground to advance LGBTQ plus issues. That’s 

[00:09:18] Cayden Mak: amazing. Yeah, that’s super critical because it seems like a lot of this stuff is being experimented on in the States and it’s all kind of a rehearsal for federal policy that I assume that you know, the Trump revenge tour might bring us.

[00:09:33] And think, speaking of that, I think I want to also get into this conversation talking a little bit about how we got here. I think that for a lot of people maybe who don’t know. that there are trans people in their lives, or who don’t actively know out trans people that they might feel like this issue came out of nowhere.

[00:09:52] But I know that you and I share an analysis that this sort of like moral panic dynamic goes back a lot further. Could you talk a little bit to that? 

[00:09:59] Vivian Topping: Yeah, absolutely. When we think about it, moral panics have been used to criminalize LGBTQ plus people. Since time began. Like how every single thing goes.

[00:10:09] And the thing that I think about that’s most notable, that’s like the one that bounces in my brain, is Anita Bryant in the 70s, right? Bryant far right, Christian right kind of woman who, Pushed a ballot question in California in the 70s to try to ban gay people from being able to be teachers.

[00:10:24] Because she said that gay people were going to sexually assault children, were molesting children, were a danger to children, right? This is the same kind of argument that has been used to attack trans people. 

[00:10:35] Alex Han: Yeah. The 

[00:10:35] Vivian Topping: same kind of arguments that get used to attack any kind of sexual or gender minority get used across the board, and it’s the same thing every single time.

[00:10:43] It is always something about fear and safety and depicting trans and queer people as predators who are going to attack someone no matter what we do. Right? We for a long time recently had to deal with bathroom conversations about whether or not trans people were to tax them in a bathroom. We’ve had to talk about locker rooms.

[00:11:00] We’ve had to talk about 

[00:11:01] Alex Han: people 

[00:11:01] Vivian Topping: just existing in public and being an issue. I remember one of the first campaigns I worked on was in 2009 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and it was a non discrimination campaign to protect a non discrimination ordinance, right? And the commercial that our opposition put out was one where literally a shadowy man follows a woman into the bathroom.

[00:11:21] You want men in your bathroom? And that is the message that’s been across the board for years. 

[00:11:28] Cayden Mak: Yeah. And it’s also the kind of messaging that’s really hard to fight with just factual information because it is it is like it plays on Deep cultural assumptions and then like deep emotional reactions based on those cultural assumptions.

[00:11:44] And it seems like, part of the reason it’s the tip of the spear, right? And then it’s also why it’s so hard to disarm it. 

[00:11:52] Vivian Topping: Definitely. It is something that kind of strikes people at their core, right? Particularly when we’re talking about children, because it’s one of those things where When you talk about potentially harming children, when you talk about protecting children from harm, that is a thing that everyone can connect to.

[00:12:08] And so when you use someone’s unfamiliarity or something to make them afraid that children will be harmed that just Strikes at something core. I think about it too. And it’s not just used with queer and trans people, right? It’s used with folks with immigration. It’s used across the board.

[00:12:24] Because when we think about when people talk about immigration, they’re talking about violent migrants coming across the border and attacking people or harming people or sexually assaulting people. And we know that’s not true, but it’s a thing that just hits people right at their core. And it’s an instinctual guttural thing for everyone, for people.

[00:12:44] Cayden Mak: Yeah and I think that there’s a way in which there’s so much that we’re seeing in mainstream media, both with regards to trans people and with regards to immigrants and immigration, that is like playing this I would say almost like a lack of curiosity about who trans people actually are, what our experiences actually are.

[00:13:05] And really both sides ing the existence of a group of humans which is very troubling. What are some other things that you’re seeing in terms of the role that ostensibly maybe even center left mainstream media is playing in this moral panic? 

[00:13:19] Vivian Topping: Yeah, I think about the fact that this is not just a US issue, right?

[00:13:23] This is not just happening here. This is happening across the world, right? And I really I mainly look at the UK when I think about that because the UK is only a few years ahead of us when it comes to anti trans stuff, right? You know when we think about how that’s played out in the UK, there’s been a really strong like Trans exclusionary radical feminists, like TERF world that has taken hold of a lot of the political conversation in the UK led by people like JK Rowling and people who are really just trying to push this idea that gender ideology is being attacked, is being going up, is going after children, right?

[00:13:56] And even saying the phrase like gender ideology. is making this assumption that there’s this whole kind of organized world trying to convert children or trying to move people in some direction, right? And that’s not the truth, right? You and I both know that a trans person’s just daily agenda is to live our lives, right?

[00:14:14] Right. I’m trying to have 

[00:14:15] Cayden Mak: a cup of coffee, right, 

[00:14:17] Vivian Topping: right. We still see this kind of take over and take control because of people’s lack of familiarity. 

[00:14:22] They go with this. Well, I don’t believe in discriminating against trans people, but these people that could be bad and take it over that does concern me.

[00:14:31] Right? Even though these people who are bad and could take it over don’t exist. Right? We see this then filter into the media. Like, when we look at UK media we have anti trans people at head of opinion desks in the UK, at the Guardian, at every major press article there.

[00:14:47] And it’s happening here, too. Because we’re seeing places like the New York Times have these anti trans reporters who are coming in trying to like, both sides things, and assuming that there is valid critique on both sides, right? One side, is based on people’s lived experiences and on science and evidence back to research that says this is the right kind of treatment that this person would need, right?

[00:15:12] And one side has just decided that these people shouldn’t exist. 

[00:15:16] Cayden Mak: Yes. 

[00:15:16] Vivian Topping: There is no both sides here. And it’s just wild thinking about the role that the media plays because one of our organizations had to recently put out a an advisory about a New York Times journalist. 

[00:15:28] He has had a history of kind of manipulating families and manipulating families of trans youth to participate in stories that actually Portray things in a very bad light.

[00:15:39] Portray things in an inaccurate light. And she’s going around trying to make a podcast. And so we had to literally put out a community call saying, we are warning you. Be careful. 

[00:15:50] Cayden Mak: Yeah. No, and that’s, it’s also the kind of thing where a journalist like that can use the name of the New York Times and seem very legitimate, seem very, Fact based in perhaps scare quotes here to convince people to talk to them.

[00:16:04] I feel like I, I have to say also that recently maintenance phase. Aubrey Gordon and Michael Hobbs did a series about the so called rapid onset gender dysphoria panic. And it was, honestly, I learned a lot from them talking about, like, where some of this stuff comes from and, like, why people think that’s, this is an actual thing.

[00:16:25] And a lot of it is frankly, Like faked science, like bullshitted science that like, then a lot of even like scientific publications are like hesitant to issue retractions on and man, with friends like these and 

[00:16:40] Vivian Topping: One of the things, and I think about the New York Times because they’ve been, like, frankly, the main perpetrator of so much of this, right?

[00:16:46] Quoting people and putting people in stories without having any accurate portrayal of who they actually are, right? The New York Times has published research that has been done that has actually been debunked that was actually faulty research, and they don’t say anything about the critiques of research, right?

[00:17:02] Alex Han: They 

[00:17:02] Vivian Topping: of quoted people like James Cantor who is not actually an expert on gender affirming care for youth. He’s never actually treated a transgender child, but he gets Quoted by them as an expert, as someone who’s involved with this, right? And so it’s just it’s this lack of critiquing our opposition and not even just critiquing them but doing your journalistic duty to say, Hey, let me look a little bit past what this person has told me, see what happens.

[00:17:32] Cayden Mak: Well, it’s interesting because it feels like a microcosm of a lot of what we’re dealing with the far right these days, right? And the way in which a lot of the sort of media environment that most of us are steeped in constantly Is not even willing to ask somewhat hard questions. It was like what Alex mentioned earlier about it taking almost 45 minutes for January 6th to come up in the debate last night.

[00:17:57] That there’s a real abdication of that responsibility. To ask real questions of people who have something to answer for. And it does make me think about how I think the trans panic in particular has become such a major tool for cohering a lot of disparate parts of the right.

[00:18:19] And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about I don’t know, the way in which the right has been able to use anti trans rhetoric. Also to move people to the right. 

[00:18:29] Vivian Topping: Yeah, because of that thing that we already talked about, about that kind of desire to protect your, excuse me, to protect children, right?

[00:18:38] Like it is something that is a bipartisan issue, right? Like folks on both the left and the right are pulled by that entire kind of like instinctive moment. And One of the ways that we’ve seen that really heavily is like in the UK, we’ve seen the Labour Party politicians talking with J. K. Rowling about whether or not we should be teaching gender ideology in schools, and I just want to be really clear, like when we talk about teaching gender ideology or teaching, or in trans and queer youth in schools, right, like what we’re actually talking about is whether or not queer and trans people get to see themselves in education.

[00:19:14] Right. We’re not actually talking about any kind of conversion. There is no conversion. You cannot convert someone, right? But it’s about making sure that folks can actually see a fuller picture, and that fuller picture includes queer and trans people. Yes. And so, banning queer and trans people from being able to be talked about in the school, all that’s doing is censoring teachers and censoring education.

[00:19:37] It’s not actually doing what they think that, what they think they’re doing. 

[00:19:39] Cayden Mak: Well, it’s also as if 30, 40 years ago, there wasn’t effectively a ban on this information because people just weren’t talking about it. And it’s there were still queer and trans people back then. 

[00:19:49] Vivian Topping: Right.

[00:19:49] And let’s be real. How much do people actually talk about queer and trans people in schools anyways? It’s 

[00:19:55] Cayden Mak: Like realistically, probably very little. 

[00:19:57] Vivian Topping: Exactly. And so it’s this entire thing is a manufactured panic. And part of it is because we have so much more access to internet these days and to different kinds of like online things that people are able to access and youth are able to access different ways of gathering information.

[00:20:12] And it’s just this, Like continued desire for some kind of like control and censorship and surveillance from the state To control how people actually exist and to control how people can live their lives 

[00:20:23] Cayden Mak: Totally. Yeah, I think that the this theme about controlling people controlling unruly people is also I think very core to a lot of the far rights agenda whether that’s on Like abortion care and abortion access or just like straight up the right of people to mass protest, that there’s a lot of we need an orderly society, right?

[00:20:45] And us trans people are so disorderly. 

[00:20:48] Vivian Topping: Very. I mean, it’s like trans people completely shut down the idea of gender, right? And like we, we push back against this idea that you are one or the other. And it’s this thing that has been like really settled with Second wave feminism thing, but the differences between men and women, like inherent differences, right.

[00:21:05] And like in actuality, things are much more fluid than we thought. This evolution of understanding. And it’s something that I think is hard for people to get to. And I understand that, but also. It’s real. And it’s a real invention. 

[00:21:20] Cayden Mak: And various cultures around the world for thousands and thousands of years have recognized it, right?

[00:21:24] Like it’s not, this is not new. 

[00:21:26] Vivian Topping: Exactly. Colonialism is always our problem. 

[00:21:30] Cayden Mak: Yeah, I know, right? It’s like a lot of things come back to colonialism, turns out. Yeah, so we’ve been talking a little bit around how the sort of Transpanic and what I think of as like the anti trans hate machine has been a tip of the spear for a lot of far right movements.

[00:21:48] But I’m also interested in the middle of 2024, how much this has been then mainstreamed by the far right. Especially thinking about your work and thinking about the way in which this fight has been bubbling up from state and local legislative bodies, including like school boards, city councils what are the ways that you’re seeing the far right kind of mainstream these ideas and normalize them And be, in some ways, be the first to market about here’s a take on trans people that makes sense to people who haven’t thought about it before.

[00:22:19] Vivian Topping: Yeah. They really just rely on whatever kind of traditional motives that they can focus in and on, right? Like, when they’re talking about trans people and about trans people, they don’t usually say trans people. They talk about like child mutilation, 

[00:22:35] Alex Han: they talk 

[00:22:36] Vivian Topping: about surgeries on kids, they talk about untested treatments, and they use misinformation that if you’re not familiar with what it means to be trans, can sometimes get into your brain.

[00:22:47] Because so many folks don’t have a picture in their brain of what it means to be a trans person, or if they do, it’s informed by really screwed up, portrayals of trans people in culture. Totally. Portrayed trans people as lonely people who are like at risk of violence at all times. And yes, that is true.

[00:23:06] Trans people are at risk of violence. But, that is not our entire identity, that is not our entire life, and that’s not all what it means to be a trans person. One of the things that I always found really interesting is that in some of the research that we’ve done, we’ve seen that people, when they first think about a trans kid coming out, their immediate thing is about concern for the kid.

[00:23:26] Because they’re afraid that kid is going to be harmed because they’re trans. Because in their mind, again, like that kid is going to be bullied, they’re going to be harassed, they’re going to be hurt. And what the far right does is they take that concern and they wrap it up in this idea that like we need to protect kids from transness and not protect kids from like the reaction to who they are, right?

[00:23:49] And it makes this assumption that all times trans youth. are going to be attacked, don’t know themselves and so therefore we need to protect them from this idea of being trans until they can be an adult and then be self aware. But the fact is, What our opposition doesn’t then also say is that they actually don’t believe in those trans kids becoming trans adults.

[00:24:11] They don’t. They actually want to be able to hold them back from being able to become a trans adult. And so really just relying on people’s good nature and their care for children and their care for people is how they’ve gotten in there. Trying to, Manipulate that initial feeling of protectiveness and turn it into this thing of protecting people from transness.

[00:24:34] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah, and it’s, it is, I, it’s, when we look at a lot of the like foundational stuff that’s underlying a lot of the proposed policy and the plan for a complete far right, takeover of the government. It seems like not coincidental that gender and gender identity is mentioned in literally the second paragraph of the foreword of Project 2025, that this is core to what they see as Their winning strategy, right?

[00:25:08] They write, look at America under the ruling and cultural elite today. Inflation is ravaging family budgets, drug overdose deaths continue to escalate, and children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries. One of these things is not like the others. And I think that one of the things that one of the reasons I really wanted to have this conversation with you is because I think there are broad swaths of the left who are also a little hesitant to go to bat for trans people. And I think that, that’s part of, when we were prepping for this, and we were talking about a lot of the legislation has already passed at the state level, that a lot of those things, whether they’re like, bans on trans youth participating in sports access to medical care for minors, that those things are, surprisingly uncontroversial for a lot of people in any kind of position of power.

[00:26:04] And I guess I’m curious what you’re seeing in terms of dynamics with state and local legislators around who’s willing to go to bat for trans people and trans kids and, like, how like, where are their champions? Thanks. 

[00:26:19] Vivian Topping: I do want to be clear that many of those they do go on party lines, right?

[00:26:23] Most Democrats usually are with us. It happens that sometimes they are pulled away because of that same thing, that misunderstanding of trans people, that kind of, Fear based messaging just works up this hits them legislators and everybody else they have the same thing But you know when we see people who are actually like massive champions are frankly our own people.

[00:26:47] There are trans folks who are involved in their, who are in their state legislatures. They are parents and family members of trans people. They are other queer people who have been elected, right? Like I think about Michaela Kavanaugh in Nebraska, who like managed that massive filibuster last year and really held off their medical care ban for months by filibustering and organizing her colleagues to do it.

[00:27:11] I think about like Maury Turner in Oklahoma, who was censured for for sheltering two trans people who have been involved in protests in the Capitol. And who that, who now is not returning to the legislature because Maury was tired of the harassment that they received because of their race, because of their religion, because Maury is a black non binary Muslim because of their gender.

[00:27:35] But those have been our champions. It’s we’ve been our And that’s like the scary part, but it’s like when you know someone who’s trans, that’s where it goes. Like I think literally even thinking about people like Joe Biden, like who, because he knows Sarah McBride, who potentially the first trans member of Congress from Delaware, right?

[00:27:57] Because he knows her, there’s at least like a connection, right? And really even thinking about any single elected official, it’s always some kind of connection. But I don’t know. I think It’s hard because folks don’t understand the impact of what can actually happen. They don’t understand the impact of stopping this care, or of not talking about queer and trans people in schools, or of silencing youth, right?

[00:28:22] Like, when we think about it, If a bathroom ban passes in a school district, right, basically they say, okay, you can only use the bathroom based on your biological sex. That means that trans and queer youth who, and any youth who may break some kind of gender rule, They can’t use the bathroom all day.

[00:28:44] They go to their school and they have to hold them hold it all day. That means that they can’t focus on school. That means that they’re afraid of being harassed in the bathroom means that they’re afraid of being attacked and then they can’t actually be in school. And then it leads to them not coming to school.

[00:29:00] It leads to worse academic outcomes. It’s for social outcomes. And so. You have to really make sure that people understand the full impact of this legislation. Where it’s no, this isn’t just about being able to talk about queer people. This is about whether or not queer and trans people deserve to exist in public space.

[00:29:19] Right. You. Just like everyone else. 

[00:29:24] Cayden Mak: Yeah, and I think that the other thing that is the other thing that makes me think of is the sort of way in which these issues are so related to fights. About whether or not people with other identities get to be like full participants in society, right?

[00:29:42] Whether it’s women, whether it’s people of color, whether it’s immigrants, that a lot of the stuff is the same in terms of the underlying logic. And I, again, when we were prepping for this call, one of the things we talked about was the Bostock decision. And the way that the judicial system is like the next. Or like really the current frontier of a lot of this stuff and that there, it seems to me that there’s a strategy of trying to separate people out very aggressively, right, and separating identities and identity categories out, so that So that our coalitions can be peeled apart.

[00:30:18] Could you talk a little bit about the Bostock Decision and what it what it is, first of all, and what it means for both trans people and also maybe for cis people? 

[00:30:28] Vivian Topping: So, the Bostock Decision was a Supreme Court case from 2019. 2020, somewhere around there where the Supreme Court decided that when the word sex appears in employment discrimin in employment discrimination, that includes sex stereotyping, which would then mean that LGBTQ plus people are covered under employment non discrimination protections.

[00:30:49] To be clear, we still do not have federal protections for LGBTQ plus people in statute. But what Bostock did was Because a queer or trans person, just by very, our very existence, we are going against the stereotype of what our biological sex would do. We were, we, the Supreme Court considers to be covered under nondiscrimination protections in employment.

[00:31:12] That decision has now been used by multiple state agencies and federal agencies to extend that definition across the board. Right. To other places after today’s ruling around the Chevron deference. I don’t know how that’s going to change. Because what that will do is basically make it so that courts do not have to defer to an agency’s interpretation, which kind of throws everything up in the air.

[00:31:36] But what it did do, at least to me, up until now, has been making sure we do have federal protections and employment for trans people and for queer people. And that has really made it so that we can actually understand that. And at the end of the day, when we think about cis people and how this impacts not just queer and trans people, it’s anyone who would go against the stereotype of their sex or their gender, right?

[00:32:01] And so think about a woman who looks more masculine, a man who acts more feminine, like anything across the board, you can be discriminated against based off of that, but because of Bostock, you can’t. Now, not every single, Non discrimination protections are like iffy, depending on the state that you’re in.

[00:32:18] There are about 30 states that actually have non discrimination protections for LGBTQ plus people. And so, we do have those protections in state laws sometimes, depending on where you are, and also in some local laws, but non discrimination protections are still a patchwork. And I think the big fear for me around this being in this judicial space and being in this spot, especially considering we know that Tennessee’s case is going to the Supreme Court, you mentioned it a little bit earlier about their gender affirming care case going to the Supreme Court our judicial system is not one That I trust and not just when I think about the Supreme Court, but when I think about across the board, right, we know that when Trump was in office, he basically completely reshaped the entire judicial system.

[00:33:03] Have judges. who were appointed by Trump, who were appointed specifically because of where their ideologies lived. And so we now have this danger of having to go through a court system that’s been specifically designed to divide people and to divide our communities and try to gain some kind of protection through that.

[00:33:22] The good thing is, That we have seen when we look at these gender affirming care bans, when we look at these different things, multiple judges have struck them down and have said there is no basis in evidence for this ban to exist. And so, therefore, we’re going to strike it down. That happened in Florida.

[00:33:38] But, our opposition can keep going and can keep moving. And I think the case coming to the Supreme Court this fall from Tennessee is, Very scary to me. 

[00:33:49] Cayden Mak: Yeah, sure. I realized that we didn’t talk about the chevron decision and what that actually is could you unpack that a little bit because I know that a lot of that is based in What the courts have given regulatory agencies the power to do, but I think it’s one of these things is it feels a little in the weeds.

[00:34:07] So could you break that down a little bit for us? 

[00:34:09] Vivian Topping: Basically the Chevron deference is like a backbone principle for how the federal government could keep corporations in check, right? Chevron is this practice by which federal courts will defer to federal agencies when sorting out ambiguities in a law, right?

[00:34:22] The fact is that when we look at like how our system works, when legislators write. Legislation, they’ll write something, but it’s usually up to experts and agencies to actually interpret that legislation, right? And so, those different things can be interpreted, whether it’s like what we talked about with Bostock and with the word sex, but even also looking at environmental protections, looking at like everything across the board, like whenever those kinds of things have come up until now, it has been assumed that the federal court will defer to federal agencies and their interpretation of something, right? That’s what the Chevron deference means. What the Supreme Court did was by 6 3 say that they do not have to do that anymore, that courts can actually rip those apart and courts can make the decision based on statutory, based on whatever’s ambiguity in the statute.

[00:35:13] And the fact of the matter is Not every judge is an expert. And this is once again, like cutting down this idea of expertise and people being able to make those decisions, right? Like we think about the same thing about not questioning like different kinds of anti trans studies that come out. This is making this assumption that like this one person can make this decision.

[00:35:35] And like, when we think about this, it’s just really, it’s scary to me because Congress doesn’t write these statutes that are hyper specific. They don’t have the time, the staff, or the expertise, right? Sure. This is how our government works. And cutting down the Chevron deference just means that there’s a huge change and shift, likely for the worst, in how our government is going to operate. 

[00:35:57] Cayden Mak: Yeah, I think it’s, thank you so much for breaking that down, because I think that it is a critical thing to understand, especially if we think about the sort of long arc of the like, backlash of the civil rights era, and then also the project of the Federalist Society over the past like, what, 35, 40 years to turn the judicial system into something that is like explicitly regressive on a lot of issues.

[00:36:23] And I think that That I like to keep mentioning things like the Federalist Society because it’s like this is a design This is like a long term play, right? Like these are things that have been in the works for a really long time And I think that a lot of times when we have conversations about this stuff it feels like it came out of nowhere because like I don’t know, I don’t speak for you, Vivian, but I personally don’t spend a lot of time watching what’s happening in case law, but that somebody is and those people are trying to figure out how to rig the courts against us. 

[00:36:56] Vivian Topping: Yeah, absolutely. It is a long term game, and it is and it’s a plan that has been executed over many years. And I want to be clear, like, when we think about that, like, where that plan comes from it comes from far right evangelical Christian folks.

[00:37:09] And this is where I start to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it’s all true. Evangelical Christian folks who are trying to deregulate the government so that they can control, that they can control people and can control how you exist as a human being in public. 

[00:37:25] Cayden Mak: Absolutely. Well, it’s funny, it’s it’s not a conspiracy in the sense that it’s not secret, right?

[00:37:30] They’ve never been secret about this. They’ve been and as time has gone on, they’ve become more and more explicit about what the end goal actually is, right? And as you mentioned before, like a lot of the folks who are pushing these bans on my, on gender affirming care for minors, like their end goal is about ending gender affirming care full stop.

[00:37:48] Vivian Topping: They’ve explicitly said it. They said they don’t believe that any doctor should be providing this care in some of their, in some of the legislation that they passed some of these bands, they’ve tried to criminalize doctors and criminalize parents who provide this, who like let their children access this care.

[00:38:02] Yeah. It’s fully there. And some of them, they’ve tried to basically cut funding. And so it becomes not necessarily even like a real ban, in Oklahoma, a few years ago the state legislature held a ransom COVID relief funds from the health system in Oklahoma until they said that they would not provide gender affirming care to minors.

[00:38:23] Yeah. Yeah. COVID relief funds. were withheld from a hospital system over gender affirming care for transgender youth. And the hospital system relented because they had to. Right. And then it meant that like the largest provider of gender affirming care in the state for trans youth in Oklahoma no longer was providing the care.

[00:38:43] And that was before a ban even passed. 

[00:38:45] Cayden Mak: Right. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, it’s very sobering to think about like I don’t know the like tactical weaponization of things these folks are willing to do. So the landscape’s not great. The landscape’s pretty sobering conversation but I do want to, move us towards thinking about how folks have been fighting back things that we have to look forward to and what are the ways in which our movements have been effective against this kind of thing?

[00:39:12] Vivian Topping: Yeah. I want to be really clear that this system, this government, has never been meant for trans people, and it never will be, frankly. Right? The system that we have right now is not a system that is designed for trans people to seek liberation, because not only does it cut us down based off of our, based off of our gender, it cuts people down based off of our race, it cuts people down based off of our sex, it cuts people down based off of our socioeconomic status it is not a government that is set for liberation.

[00:39:39] That’s not a thing. And so, if people are seeking liberation in their government or in elected officials or anything of that sort you’re not going to find it there. But the way that we seek liberation, the way that we do that is we build community with each other. We create mutual aid networks.

[00:39:52] We’ve seen groups like the Campaign for Southern Equality who have really stepped up in a huge way. To support transgender youth and their families who are dealing with these bans. They have something called the Trans Youth, the Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project, where they teach, they explain how to actually navigate through this legislation.

[00:40:10] They explain what you can do if you can access care in another state, or if you can’t access care in another state. If you are able to access care in another state based off your state’s law, they will help you access that, and they will give you financial resources to help you get there, right? And so, things like that.

[00:40:25] are the things that I think about. And those kinds of mutual aid networks have been built by organizations like Campaign for Southern Equality, but also by queer and trans people, right? We understand what it means to build mutual aid networks. We’ve always had to do that. And so that’s what people are really understanding and really centering themselves in.

[00:40:41] And I also think about the fact that we are Dealing with a concern that is sent rooted in care and not rooted in animus is helpful. Right? So most people in despite how people may feel when they see some of this legislation, but most people, when we think about movable folks are.

[00:41:00] They are not vehemently anti trans. They do not hate trans people. They are concerned and have worries because they are unfamiliar, and because they don’t know enough about the science, they don’t know enough about something, right? And so you have to help them navigate through that. And we have actually seen, like the Equality Federation has done this, where we’ve tested ways to move people on trans rights, and you know what it is?

[00:41:24] It’s deep canvassing. It’s one on one navigating through the conversation with them and giving them space to actually talk about it. And so I think like that huge thing is really important for me. And so I think that’s the other space of it that we do have there is movable room. At the end of the day, like we are in like the winter of the movement, right?

[00:41:45] When we think about movements, we sometimes think about seasons and where we are, and we are in like a cold Difficult time where we’re not sure how we’re going to make it through. But how do you survive winter? You stay together, you make what you have to, you make do with what you have, and you just do it.

[00:42:01] And that’s what we’re going to keep doing. And I think I’m seeing that happen consistently. We’ve seen so many new people. get radicalized at state capitals because they have come to their state capitol to fight against anti trans laws, and they are opening their eyes to the ways in which our fights are interconnected and understanding that the same politicians who are pushing anti trans laws are the same ones who are pushing anti abortion laws, the same ones who are pushing anti immigrant laws, are the same ones who are trying to criminalize homelessness.

[00:42:28] Yep. And they are seeing that and understanding it, and there’s a whole new generation of organizers and activists who are being created right now who are going to continue doing this work. And I’m not just talking about you, to be clear. I’m talking about people across the board. 

[00:42:42] Cayden Mak: Yeah. Yeah. It’s never too late for anybody to learn about what is going on and get involved.

[00:42:49] Cool. Well, it’s I’m really glad A, that we’re working on weathering this winter together. Really grateful for you and your work and for joining us on this show. Is there any where can folks keep up with your work with the Equality Federation? Where can folks learn more?

[00:43:05] Vivian Topping: Yeah. So our website is equality You can go there. We have a legislative tracker. We also have all of our state partners. So if you wanna find your local state partner and be able to get involved, you can go there. You can also follow us on basically all socials at Equality Fed.

[00:43:19] So we’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook. I think we are no longer on Twitter or for, or x or whatever it is now. But you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Equality Fed. 

[00:43:29] Cayden Mak: Fantastic. And something I like to ask all of our guests what’s something in media and culture that you’ve been consuming that has been raising your eyes to the horizon, keeping you going a little bit.

[00:43:39] Vivian Topping: So, okay, I’ve been thinking about this since our prep call. So, The thing that has been keeping me going is the musical Ika. And this is like my theater gay. My young theater gay is coming out deeply here. Tamara Leika is a queer painter from like the 1920s and thirties, who was this notable, amazing person.

[00:44:01] I have her face tattooed on my arm. And there is a Broadway musical that was released about her earlier this year, and the soundtrack came out and that is a thing that I’m listening to because it is so. amazing to hear her story and to think about the things that she did. She had to escape the Russian Revolution.

[00:44:19] She then had to go and build her own life in Paris on her own. She then had to escape the Nazis in World War II and just continued surviving and living. And it’s a thing that reminds me of a hope. It’s a thing of continuing to keep moving and continuing to do the work and continuing to survive.

[00:44:36] Cayden Mak: Awesome. Cool. Thank you so much. It’s good to see you, Vivian. I hope we’ll talk again soon. 

[00:44:40] Alex Han: Yeah. 

[00:44:41] Cayden Mak: This show is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. I’m Cayden Mak and our producer is you can send me an email that we’ll run on an upcoming episode. If you send me an email at mailbag at convergencemag. com. I’ll also say that we are , probably gonna take next week off for the July 4th holiday so you will not be seeing anything in your feed from us next Friday. But in the meantime, if you would like to support the work that we do at Convergence, bringing our movements together to strategize, struggle, and win in this crucial historical moment, you can become a member at convergencemag. com slash donate. Even a few bucks a month goes a long way to making sure our independent, small team can continue to build a map for our movements. I hope this helps.

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