Transmissions: After the election, a glimmer of hope

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Friday November 18, 2022
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

It wasn't intentional for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to fall so close to Election Day and its aftermath, but they have certainly grown in importance to each other over the years.

The memorial, formally recognized on November 20, will fall between the November 8 election and a critical December 6 Georgia runoff between Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, a race that if Warnock wins will further cement Democratic control of the United States Senate after a remarkable turn of events last week that will see the chamber leadership remain with the Democrats following vote counts released since the election.

Let's back up for a moment.

As I have mentioned many times before, anti-transgender animus has become the norm on the American right. Former President Donald Trump waged an onslaught against transgender rights, rolling back programs and policies enacted during President Barack Obama's administration, while expanding anti-trans discrimination in the military and elsewhere. (President Joe Biden reversed the trans military ban after taking office in early 2021.)

Meanwhile, statehouses across the country, particularly in the wake of Trump's reelection 2020 loss, have ramped up anti-transgender bills, each trying to draft the cruelest way to strip the rights of transgender people and those who care for us.

The latest moves in that regard are anti-drag bills that have been written so broadly that they could imperil Pride events as well as the day-to-day lives of transgender people — but I digress.

Everything went to another level in the 2022 midterms as transgender rights became a key part of the right's campaign.

Drag queen story times dominated the news, with protests and violence marking these events across the country, including the Bay Area, spurred on by heated rhetoric from Republican politicians eager for a culture war front they could control, even as they saw the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court overturn the right to an abortion, which turned against the GOP in some pivotal races.

These same candidates spoke of "parents' rights," claiming that teachers and doctors were going to somehow cause children to magically become transgender, all the while seeking to take away the rights of parents who did want to see their transgender children survive in an increasingly hostile country.

All of this rhetoric, however, has had an effect on transgender lives. Those of us who are transgender have tried to stay mentally well while hearing frequent and more horrible attacks on us dominate the news cycle. We've had to worry about where we will go for our medications, even as children's hospitals were closing gender centers over bomb threats spurred on by online anti-trans campaigns, and clinics elsewhere were shuttered over legal challenges in deep red states like Florida and Texas.

But the biggest issue over the last few years has been how anti-transgender rhetoric helps fuel anti-trans violence. Indeed, much of what has been said by the right has only helped give its followers a good excuse to target transgender people.

We have been equated with the worst of society, branded as "groomers" as if we have a deviant sexual purpose in caring for our transgender siblings. This language has emboldened those who might already be dangerous, giving them a way to feel heroic as they target us. I note that when the Buffalo, New York, grocery store killings happened in May, the alleged shooter had a manifesto and in it were pages dedicated to antisemitic and anti-trans conspiracies that are not dissimilar from the mainstream rantings of congressmembers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia).

In the last few years, we have seen an increase in anti-transgender violence. Initially, it wasn't more than a trickle, enough to make one consider it to just be an example of better reporting on such cases, rather than a real increase.

But as the country moved through the Trump presidency, and into the often-unhinged post-Trump era, we have seen the numbers grow.

Last year was the deadliest year for transgender people in the United States, just as the year before was, and just as the year before that was. So far this year, we have seen at least 32 anti-transgender killings in the United States, according to a new report released November 16 by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization. It has been tracking anti-trans and gender-nonconforming violence for 10 years.

Yet, in the space of all of this hatred, all of this anger toward transgender people, and all of this violence, I want to offer a moment of hope.

Conservatives, lacking solutions to issues they themselves have helped cause, went all in on culture war issues, and transgender rights were the reddest meat they could find — the right went all-in on anti-transgender animus this election season.

Our rights were under challenge by candidates every single day. Ads were run in swing states across the country by Stephen Miller's America First Legal and others, painting us as a great evil that needed to be purged, while numerous candidates spoke out against trans rights in stump speeches.

Republicans, already favored going into the election, saw us as their meal ticket.

They were wrong.

Republicans were unable to retake the Senate, and they stand poised to either fail to regain the House of Representatives, or win it by the narrowest of margins. There was no red wave. Likewise, many governor races and other state-level runs trended Democratic, as the fight to preserve abortion rights and voting — and push back against Trump-era election shenanigans — dominated the ballot box.

Transgender rights were not the winning ticket Republicans had hoped for, and while the battle is far from over, this election showed that their lies do not have the strength they thought they did.

Maybe, just maybe, we will see the rhetoric cool down, at long last — and maybe, just maybe so will the threats against our lives begin to recede. Maybe this year will not be the deadliest on record.

In the face of all this, I just feel the need to once again note: the number one right transgender people need is simply to exist.

Today, post-election, I feel that right is one step closer to existence.

Gwen Smith asks that you support your local Transgender Day of Remembrance event. You'll find her at

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