It’s probably been tough to be professional homophobe Frank Schubert lately. Schubert, whose golden moment as a strategist with the National Organization for Marriage involved helping mastermind the infamous 2008 anti-gay-marriage initiative Proposition 8, has had to contend with being officially on the wrong side of history— a fact codified by no less than the Supreme Court. What’s a man who has reportedly lost clients due to his unseemly associations to do? What desperate bullies always do: move on to the next target.
In a move that perhaps foreshadows a much darker trend to come, the man who’s best known for brilliantly convincing in-the-closet California homophobes that they could be “pro-marriage” without seeming anti-gay has turned his mean little eyes away from love between consenting adults and toward transgender kids.
In many ways, this moment was inevitable. Stories about trans kids have created a strange media watershed for the rest of us as more and more reporters express an everyman, empathetic fascination with trans kids’ narratives. It was hard to miss all the heartstring-tugging stories about their parents that finally seemed to nudge the cultural needle away from gap-mouthed sensationalism to something almost like an embrace. Every day brings tell of trans homecoming queens and kings, joyful trans camps, and sage trans preschoolers.
Even the most optimistic among us expected that this “Kumbaya” moment wouldn’t be without challengers. Children are the great hope of any movement and the easiest scapegoats for anybody with an axe to grind.
So this summer, when California became the first state to pass a bill that explicitly reinforces protections of trans kids in schools by allowing them to choose the correct bathrooms and sports teams, I’m sure I wasn’t the only trans person with the spidey sense that blowback was coming. The state’s chaotic history of ping-ponging between progressive action and perfect reversals is perhaps best evident in the gay-marriage back-and-forth that’s taken more than a decade to resolve. And just as Frank Schubert rode in on his white horse and sniffed out the bigots by giving them permission to be bigoted about gay marriage, he’s poised to articulate a nasty backlash for the frustrated transphobes waiting in the wings.
San Francisco, as usual, will likely be at the epicenter of whatever happens next. If gay marriage is a good comparison—and given the man involved, it would be hard to argue that it isn’t—the forward-thinking policies of the Bay Area (and Los Angeles) will be tactically undermined by rural and conservative areas of the state. If a bully loves anything, it’s a jeering crowd, and it’s easy to imagine that the jerks will come out of the woodwork to echo Schubert’s concern that being transgender is a “craze from the left.”
“Certainly, same-sex couples love each other, but their relationships can’t be a marriage without also demanding that people ignore what they know marriage to be,” the twice-married expert writes. “It means that we accept the truth of reality in the natural order. We accept the natural meanings of gender and gender differences, and reject attempts to redefine them with amorphous perceptions and feelings about ‘identity.’”
Sounds ominous to me; and what’s depressing is that, this time, he seems to think that he doesn’t need to make the prejudice more accessible to the masses. He told the Daily Beast that gender identity was a “political creation designed to advance an agenda,” though it’s a little hard to make sense of what that means—the powerful transsexual lobby strikes again?
The Daily Beast story quotes experts like Geoff Kors of the National Center for Lesbian Rights defining Schubert’s campaign as an “uphill battle,” noting that Schubert will not likely get the hundreds of thousands of signatures required for a referendum by November 8. Additionally, the law he’s fighting actually isn’t new—it’s just a reinforcement of preexisting protections of gender identity.
He might not have much of a legal leg to stand on, but I’m not sure that that’s the point. Schubert’s bell-ringing will definitely bring visibility to his transphobic crusade and empower a reactionary coalition of hotheads who are on standby for just this type of “back to the way God intended,” “where is my America?” rhetoric.
With apologies to Niemöller, you know how the saying goes: first they came for the gays, and I didn’t speak for them because I wasn’t gay. Here he comes for the transgender kids. I wonder, as should you, who’s next.