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The Politics of Hatred

C. Gourgey, Ph.D.

A new group is emerging as the right wing’s favorite scapegoat: transgender people.

Right-wing politicians and commentators are seizing on the fact that Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale was reported as being trans to unleash a barrage of hatred against the entire trans community. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted that “there’s a clear epidemic of trans/non-binary mass shooters.” Conservative commentator Matt Walsh called the “gender ideology movement” the “most hateful and violent movement in America” and tweeted that “left wing trans extremists are violent, dangerous people.”(1) And perhaps most insidious of all, Tucker Carlson stated that “the trans movement is targeting Christians, including with violence.”(2)

These statements are factually wrong. The vast majority of mass shootings are committed by cisgender men. There is no “epidemic” of “trans violence.” Yet the use of this kind of rhetoric has become widespread.

This is nothing less than a blood libel. First it was immigrants. Then it was gays. Now it’s trans people. And the rhetoric is escalating. Immigrants seeking asylum, Trump said in 2016, are “murderers and rapists.” But now trans people are even worse, undermining our society and waging a war against Christians. This has led to a slew of legislation across the nation seeking to outlaw people’s medical choices. The Republican Party thinks it knows better than your doctor what you need and what is right for you.

Christianity in this country has become something truly ugly. In its present, prevalent forms it provides spiritual cover for bigotry. It justifies the election of a cruelty-loving sociopath to the presidency because, after all, he fights for us, we are all sinners, Jesus already paid the price, and who is anyone to judge. And now there are Christians wishing to define themselves in a holy war against trans people. All in the name of Christ.

Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh
Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh
( Photo: Nebraska Unicameral Legislature)

Machaela Cavanaugh, a Nebraska State Senator, is taking a courageous stand against this insanity. For six weeks she has conducted a filibuster against a proposal to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Her filibuster has blocked every single bill that has come up during that period, including those her own party supports. As she puts it, “If this legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful; painful for everyone. Because if you want to inflict pain upon our children, I am going to inflict pain upon this body.”(3) Her slogan: “Don’t legislate hate.”(4) Trans kids, just like the rest of us, are trying to find their own way in their right under the Declaration of Independence to the pursuit of happiness. They are not a menace to society or a threat to global stability.

Some issues can be open for discussion, such as whether trans women performing in women’s sports is fair to non-trans women, or whether the prominent display of pronouns by non-trans people serves a real purpose or is mostly virtue signaling. This is different. What Republicans are doing is singling out a particular group as an object of hate. The fundamental principle involved is that politicians should not be making your medical decisions for you. We have seen this tendency increasing in Republican ranks: criminalizing women who seek abortions, often including rape victims, restricting forms of birth control, and now this.

There is actually evidence that transgender identity has a biological basis. It seems that from an early age the brains of people who identify as trans are more similar to their desired gender than the one assigned at birth.(4) There is absolutely no reason why this should not be taken into account in evaluating the suitability of gender-affirming care.

This is a medical, not a political issue. It should be a matter left between patients, parents, and their physicians. Yet the Republican Party, waving the banner of religion, has decided it knows better than medical experts. In its alarming drift toward authoritarianism it seeks increasingly to control intimate aspects of our lives. If this party ever achieves complete power in this country, Big Brother may be coming to your bedroom, and he’ll be wearing a Christian cross.

Republican policies, when recognized for what they are, are not popular with most people. Tax cuts for the rich, “smaller government” (a euphemism for cutting benefits for those who need them and dismantling the safety net), and redistributing wealth from the poor to the affluent, are not policies endearing themselves to the general population. So the Republican Party attracts voters by waging a culture war. Get people riled up and angry, find things to enrage them about God knows what, and you can even get them to vote against their own best interests. The Republican Party is fueled by hate (just listen to Trump or DeSantis and you can hear it). That’s what makes its engine run. A Republican presidential candidate who doesn’t spew hate doesn’t stand a chance of getting the nomination. But then what kind of a country will we have, if controlled by forces that thrive on hatred and division, on pitting this country’s citizens against one another? The prospect is truly frightening.

And when Republicans have gotten as much traction as they can from demonizing trans people, who will be the next scapegoat? Rest assured, they will find one.


(1) Fenit Nirappil, “The Right Exploits Nashville Shooting to Escalate Anti-Trans Rhetoric,” Washington Post, March 30, 2023.

(2) Melissa Block, “Advocates Fear an Escalation of Hate Toward Trans Community After Nashville Shooting,” National Public Radio, March 31, 2023.

(3) ABC News, “Nebraska State Senator Fighting Trans Care Ban Forms New PAC: 'Don't Legislate Hate',” Washington Post, April 3, 2023.

(4) https://dontlegislatehate.org/.

(5) European Society of Endocrinology, “Transgender Brains Are More Like Their Desired Gender From an Early Age,” Science Daily, May 24, 2018.

April 2023