In This Episode
- South Dakota became the first state to pass an anti-trans bill in 2022 yesterday, and according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, roughly 280 anti-trans bills will likely move through state legislatures nationwide this year. Chase Strangio, a lawyer for the ACLU and transgender activist, joins us to discuss how we can get involved in the fight to combat these measures across the country.
- President Biden said that the U.S. had conducted a raid in Syria during which Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS, died. There were at least three civilian deaths confirmed by the Pentagon with no American casualties. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said that the civilian deaths should be investigated “while keeping in mind the history of ISIS leaders using civilians as human shields.”
- And in headlines: The Biden administration accused Russia of planning a false flag operation, the FBI identified suspects amid a wave of bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities, and Facebook reported it had lost daily active users for the first time in its history.
- Donate to the Trans Justice Funding Project – https://www.transjusticefundingproject.org/
- Track Anti-Transgender Legislation in the U.S. – https://freedomforallamericans.org/legislative-tracker/anti-transgender-legislation/
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday
Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, February 4th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, the official podcast sponsor of the snow machines at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, we are not sponsoring the event itself, but we did sponsor the snow machines and their operators, and so we’ll feature them heavily for the next two weeks.
Tre’vell Anderson: We couldn’t cut a deal with the Zamboni drivers, unfortunately.
Gideon Resnick: Difficult negotiators.
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, the FBI identifies suspects amid a wave of bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities. Plus an anti-vax truck protests continues to disrupt things in Canada’s capital city.
Gideon Resnick: But first, yesterday morning, President Biden said that the US had conducted a raid in Syria, during which the leader of ISIS died.
[clip of President Biden] Last night, operating on my orders, United States military forces successfully removed a major terrorist threat to the world, the global leader of ISIS known as Haji Abdullah. He took over as leader of ISIS in 2019 after the United States counterterrorism operation killed al-Baghdadi. Since then, ISIS has directed terrorist operations targeting Americans, our allies, and our partners, and countless civilians in the Middle East, Africa, and in South Asia.
Gideon Resnick: Biden went on to say that the leader, who also went by Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al Quraishi, died when he detonated a bomb that also killed members of his own family. There were at least three civilian deaths that were confirmed by the Pentagon with no American casualties. Though, according to an AP report an Isis lieutenant and his wife and child may have been killed as well. Biden said the administration elected to use ground forces instead of an airstrike to avoid civilian casualties and recent airstrikes that have killed civilians have led to tremendous criticism for him. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff said that the civilian deaths should be investigated, quote, “while keeping in mind the history of ISIS leaders using civilians as human shields.” We will stay on this story as we learn more in the days ahead.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now on to some of the trans-related reporting I teased at the top of the year: yesterday, South Dakota became the first state to pass an anti-trans bill in 2022, when Gov. Kristi Noem signed SB 86 into law. Referring to this bill, which bans trans girls from playing on girls sports teams, the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Miller, said quote, “by putting it in law, we are ensuring that what we’re seeing all over the country does not happen in South Dakota. It’s sort of like terrorism.”
Gideon Resnick: If the situation is sort of like terrorism, what does Mark think of ISIS, the group that we were just talking about?
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. Questions that need answers. Outside of South Dakota, there are also developments in the world of collegiate swimming, as top performer Lia Thomas, who is trans, has been at the center of discourse surrounding policies by the organizing bodies that oversee the sport, the NCAA and USA Swimming. These policies give credence to the unfounded and medically dubious idea that trans people have an unfair advantage, but this is just a sliver of the attacks trans people experiencing right now. According to a recently-released Human Rights Campaign report, the number of anti-trans bills likely to move through state legislators nationwide this year will hit a record high of roughly 280. For reference, in 2020, there were about 79 anti-trans bills. Last year there were 147. So that’s 133 more anti-trans bills this year, and this coordinated effort is likely unfolding in whatever state you’re listening to us from today because almost 30 states, out of 50 of them in case you forgot, have already introduced anti-trans bills. To learn more about this legislative and political dumpster fire, and especially how we can all get involved, last week, I spoke to Chase Strangio, one of the ACLU lawyers combatting these measures. Chase, welcome to What A Day.
Chase Strangio: Thank you for having me in these very, very distressing and depressing times. But it is nice to see you.
Tre’vell Anderson: Nice to see you as well. Thanks for being here. So I know you’ve been watching a number of bills across the country. Let’s start by giving folks an idea of a handful of the states and the types of measures that are being putting forth.
Chase Strangio: Yeah. So every year for the last, let’s say, seven years, it just gets worse and worse. And it is bleak. It is scary. Some states haven’t even started their sessions, but they have a lot of pre-filed bills. For example, in Arizona, I think we are at close to 20 anti-LGBTQ bills already introduced, about half of them targeting trans folks. There are some really scary bills in Mississippi, including a health care ban that would ban care up to age 21.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Chase Strangio: And Indiana. There are lots of bills that have been introduced in Missouri and Oklahoma. I mean, we’re talking about a huge swath of the country, bills targeting trans people in multiple aspects of life. And it’s early. It’s, you know, we are just at the beginning and it’s already pretty scary out there.
Tre’vell Anderson: So what from your vantage point is driving what seems to be this like drastic increase in anti-trans legislation? And what does that say about this moment we are in as a country for trans folks?
Chase Strangio: I mean, I think first and foremost, when we think about this contemporary moment, you know, we have to sort of recognize it in connection to the Supreme Court’s decision in 2013 striking down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because that then leads the way to the voter suppression and gerrymandering measures that we see over the past decade that result in this incredibly rightward shift in state legislatures. And then obviously, that’s going to be reflected at the federal level in congressional elections as well. So there’s that sort of structural backdrop. Then there’s the sort of reality that this is just a continuation of the attacks that we saw on, you know, cis, gay, and lesbian people in the context of marriage equality, shifting to trans people because we had not built up in the movement, you know, sufficient support for trans folks. And so then you know, you have 2016 launches the backlash in the sort of so-called bathroom bills. And then that sort of breaks into two different strands. There’s the true believers strand. There are the lawmakers who truly do hate us, who are sort of part of particularly the far Christian right that is sort of ideologically committed to policy enactments that reinforce the sort of Christian, heterosexual, nuclear, cisgender family. And then there’s just sort of like what we might understand as the culture war part of it. Like lots of these Republican lawmakers do not care about this at all. It is truly about mobilizing the base going into the midterm elections. This is strategic. And then globally, there is a rise in anti-trans rhetoric and that is sort of manifest in the cultural discourse, in the policymaking. There is a real precarity to trans bodies and trans lives in this moment because of the fixation on controlling us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. A lot of the bills that we’ve seen both this year and even the ones that are kind of moving through this year are targeting trans youth, specifically in the context of sports or them using the bathrooms of their choice. Why, from your vantage point, are lawmakers targeting trans youth specifically? Does that make their case any easier in any particular way?
Chase Strangio: I feel always so confused about the targeting of kids, because I’m like, aren’t kids, like sympathetic? Don’t you want to like, be nice to them? And the answer is almost universally, No. I mean, if you think about like the goal is to stop people from being trans, and so the idea is if we intervene early, we could steer you on a path to cis-ness. And so there’s that sort of true objective, to we can have better outcomes if we sort of quote unquote “help” young people find their path towards cis-ness, which will then result in them being better, happier adults—which, as you know, that is completely impossible and wrong. There is always a way in which protecting, quote unquote, “women and children” is used to build supremacist power.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.
Chase Strangio: We use the sort of protecting women and children rhetoric, which is always either explicitly or implicitly white women and children, to justify wars, to justify expanded police power, to justify intrusions on privacy. And that’s what we’re seeing here, too.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of activists and advocates talk about how they’re worried that these bills targeting trans youth are just the beginning of now these state legislators beginning to target trans adults. Is that kind of trajectory what you see as well?
Chase Strangio: Yeah, I mean, I think, yes, definitely we see that because it’s an entry point to do more to enhance the authority of the state to decide that trans-ness is bad, which then allows for more power to regulate and diminish access to care for trans people generally. You know, Mississippi has already in their proposed legislation defined minor up to 21. And if the courts ultimately decide that stopping people from being trans is a good and legitimate outcome, then that will then justify a host of intrusions. And ultimately, not just for trans people. Because if somehow the state gets to decide to override doctors, to override parents, to override patients, that’s going to have a host of consequences for all of us. I mean, this is a huge expansion of state power into people’s private lives. You know, they want the government, you know, small enough to fit in your bedroom, so to speak.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m wondering, considering how much anti-trans hate is going through state legislators all at once, is there still from your vantage point, a way to turn the tide back in the opposite direction?
Chase Strangio: State power is at its peak with people who are most susceptible to state control. So that’s of course people living in poverty, young people, people who are incarcerated, are interfacing with the state the most. And I think we’re going to see those expansions and already have, obviously. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. There are reasons to really doubt the efficacy of litigation right now. I mean, look at, the Supreme Court is poised at this point to overturn Roe and overturn affirmative action precedent in a single term. I think though, the reality is that we can have all of this backlash, but what cannot be undone is the reality that trans people are—there are more of us. We are caring for each other in new ways. We understand how to build support structures for each other. That simply is not going to be taken away. And I think that we have to lean into that, continuing to shift the public discourse, have conversations—ultimately, that’s going to be our pressure point to changing the structures. But interfacing with those structures obviously is incredibly limited, particularly in this moment.
Tre’vell Anderson: So now we have, you know, presumably a lot of cis people who are listening right now, folks who like to get activated on these various issues. What can people do to get involved and possibly stop some of these bills from moving forward in their own states?
Chase Strangio: Yeah. So I think, you know, first and foremost, contact lawmakers in your state. You know, we’re talking about, you know, by the end of this session, two thirds of the country will have anti-trans bills, which means the likelihood that someone lives in a state that is considering one of these bills as high. And our opponents are great at driving constituent contact. They’re great at getting people to contact lawmakers and saying, Support these bills, and we have to show up and say, No oppose these bills, they are harmful. And especially for cis women, I think, show up and say, Don’t do this in my name. I think to donating to and supporting trans-led organizations and work at the local level. You know, I often will go to Trans Justice Funding Project. They have lists of grantees. They are funding trans-led work in almost every state in the country. Go look at the list, find a trans-led org and your state, donate to them. And then also, you know, this again, is a battle that is playing out in the public conversation, in cultural spaces, which means that we can shift it, you know, in our families, in our communities. If someone is at some family dinner table talking about how, you know, trans people are dominating in sports, stop them and say, Well, no, they’re not. And really, it’s on all of us to shift those conversations, and that’s always a role that we can play in these moments of attack.
Tre’vell Anderson: I love that. Chase Strangio from the ACLU. Thanks so much for joining us.
Chase Strangio: Thank you for having me. Let’s keep doing this.
Gideon Resnick: We will, of course, stay on this story, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Yesterday, the Biden administration accused Russia of planning a staged attack by Ukraine in order to justify an invasion into the country. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said officials were making this information public to deter Russia from following through on the planned false flag operation. He explained that Russians intended to make a propaganda video quote, “with graphic scenes of false explosions, depicting corpses, crisis actors pretending to be mourners, and images of destroyed locations or military equipment.” As of now, this intelligence has not been corroborated, and some argue more evidence needs to be seen, particularly considering the intelligence community’s record. Here is a frustrated AP news reporter, Matt Lee, during Price’s briefing with reporters yesterday:
[clip of Matt Lee] What is the evidence? I mean, this is like, crisis actors, really. This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting it to then. What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?
[clip of Ned Price] Now, this is derived from information known to the U.S. government, intelligence information that we have declassified. I think you—.
[clip of Matt Lee] OK, well, where is it?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, the whole clip is pretty astonishing. So all this comes as Russia amassed more troops near the Ukrainian border and in neighboring Belarus earlier this week, and the U.S. announced that 3,000 more troops would be deployed to help defend NATO allies. The Kremlin has since denounced the U.S. for deploying troops and accused America of igniting tensions.
Tre’vell Anderson: The FBI identified multiple people suspected of making bomb threats directed at historically Black colleges and universities. Earlier this week, more than 20 HBCUs locked down their campuses in response to a wave of such threats. At least six of those schools received threats on Monday, and on Tuesday, the first day of Black History Month, there were 14. The FBI is currently investigating these threats as hate crimes. No arrests have been made, but a law enforcement official reported that they identified, quote, “six juveniles as persons of interest.” And according to BuzzFeed News, a neo-Nazi group may have been behind at least one of those scares. This week marked the third time in just one month that Howard University in Washington, D.C., had to warn its students about the possibility of a bomb on campus. New data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows that 2021 marked a massive spike in suspected hate crimes. The start of 2022 is not showing any major improvements.
Gideon Resnick: Unfortunately, that last sentence could be put at the end of most very things about this year.
Tre’vell Anderson: Very much so.
Gideon Resnick: The industry leader in the field of destroying teen girls’ self-image, Facebook’s parent company Meta, took a major hit yesterday on Wall Street, shaving nearly $230 billion off its market value.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Gideon Resnick: That is a single day drop of 26.4%, which is the biggest in the company’s history. And is the result of a few factors. So for one thing, Facebook reported it had lost daily active users for the first time in its history. There’s also been a high cost and no immediate measurable returns following Meta’s big bet on the metaverse—a thing somewhere between Second Life and The Matrix that is funny now but could dominate our lives within five years—play the tape back for me then. And notably, the company took a major hit after Apple updated its operating system to limit ad tracking, which is a huge source of revenue for Meta and its peers. It’s a reminder to all of us to never forget our worth, and specifically the worth of our browsing habits to advertisers who want to sell us futuristic resistance bands.
Gideon Resnick: I would have never guessed. Also, among young boy’s fantasies being destroyed are one of a man named Michael Bay, who would certainly love the inspiration that that could have led to.
Tre’vell Anderson: Surely.
Gideon Resnick: Wow. Yeah, that’s just a lot for me to take in. But those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, pick a side on the trucks versus takes showdown, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just the endless lines of green code that form the metaverse like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: And Gideon Resnick.
[together] And keep that snow coming, snow machines!
Gideon Resnick: You’re contractually obliged to, according to the documents we sent.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, it needs to feel like winter at the Winter Olympics.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Or we don’t get paid. And that’s a problem for you. That is our deal. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, with writing support from Jocey Coffman, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.