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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Roy S. Johnson: Are we becoming the land of the free, home of the nasty?

This is an opinion column.

This is getting ridiculous.

I really don’t care how you feel about transgender men and women. Or children. Your feelings are your prerogative. You are free to feel what you feel, for whatever reason.

Do we truly, though, want to be a nation that attacks trans youth? A nation that shames them? That threatens to jail them for seeing a physician or going to the bathroom, for goodness’ sake?

In Mississippi last week U.S. District Judge (and Trump appointee) Taylor McNeal ruled the Harrison County School District could bar a girl from attending her commencement ceremony unless she wore clothing required for boys (white button-down shirt, black dress pants, and black tie) at graduation.

In accordance with the school’s attire policy for girls, the teenager, identified as L.B. in court papers, wanted to wear a dress and heels under her graduation robe, CNN reported.

Mind you, the youth, according to court filings, attended school as transgender since her freshman year and said her gender was openly known to classmates, teachers, and administrators.

Speaking with the network (which did not use her full name at the parents’ request, citing privacy and safety), the girl said she recently wore a blue dress to the prom with no backlash from the school. “I was being me, and I felt very accepted at the time,” she told CNN. “I felt very understood. I felt that I had a great support system at that school.”

The school said there is a different dress code for graduation (the student and a parent signed the graduation policy in March) than for the school year. Rather than abide by the policy, the teen chose not to attend the ceremony.

In February, Mississippi joined seven other states — including Alabamabanning medical treatments (puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and trans-related surgery) for minors.

RELATED: Look at what we’ve done, Alabama: Alabama doc tempted to ‘break law’ for patients

RELATED: Alabama trans teen: Trans medical bill ‘makes me mad; it’s like locking up a baby for wanting to be a baby’

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (and officially wannabe transphobe-in-chief) signed a bill making it law to arrest trans people for using public restrooms, no matter which one they use.

This year, lawmakers across the nation have passed 73 anti-trans bills (549 were proposed), according to the Trans Legislation Tracker website. Sixty-three of those are now law. The others await a governor’s signature or veto. In 2022, by contrast, 26 such bills were passed (174 were proposed).

RELATED: Trans youth medical bans: Did Good Lord make Gov. Ivey a bully?

Most Americans (54 percent) oppose laws targeting the LBGTQ+ community, according to a PBS NewsHour/NPR Marist poll conducted in March, though the support for such restrictions is growing. Forty-three percent of those polled support criminalizing providing gender-transition medical care to minors, 15 percent higher than a year prior.

What’s behind our swelling bigotry? Ignorance? Fear? Both, and more?

Tate Reeves, Mississippi’s Republican governor sirens: “There is a dangerous movement spreading across America today.”

Ain’t that the truth; it’s staring at him in the mirror.

And at us, America.

That is what we are increasingly becoming—dangerous. Dangerous for that very small segment of America that is simply trying to figure out their lives, their sexuality.

To live their lives—just like you.

No matter how you feel about it.

Is this who we want to be—transphobic America? Especially towards our youth, whom we are supposed to be protecting, empowering, and inspiring?

“We have to do better as a community, as a country, as a state, as a city, as a county, we have to do better,” the Mississippi teenager told CNN.

Unless, of course, we don’t want to be better. We just want to be ridiculously mean.

More columns by Roy S. Johnson

Through faith, former Birmingham news anchor finds unlikely new season as an actor

United Methodist member recalls effort in 1970s to merge Black and white congregations

Instead of forcing kids to hear the ‘Star-Spanged Banner’, they should study it

Questioning parenting after youth violence is real, but does not absolve lawmaker inaction

I’m a Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary and winner of the Edward R. Murrow prize for podcasts: “Unjustifiable,” co-hosted with John Archibald. My column appears in AL.com, as well as the Lede. Stay tuned for my upcoming limited series podcast Panther: Blueprint for Black Power, co-hosted with Eunice Elliott. Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, The Barbershop, here. Reach me at [email protected], follow me at twitter.com/roysj, or on Instagram @roysj

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