Laws targeting LGBTQ+ people are proliferating across the country. Some 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have so far been filed — more than three per day — mostly targeting transgender people In Idaho, Texas and Alabama, Republican leaders have passed laws criminalizing transgender health care, while Florida has banned discussions of LGBTQ+ issues in elementary school in a law that critics dub the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Vermont is also under anti-trans attack.
On April 6, conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham aired a segment titled “Groom & Doom,”which singled out a webinar offered in February by the Burlington School District titled “Let’s Talk About Gender Identity and Expression.” The webinar was led by Nikki Ellis, an assistant principal at Edmunds Middle School who is transgender. Ingraham charged that middle school students are “bombarded by efforts to undo any semblance of traditional values that their parents might have taught them.”
In the days following the broadcast, Ellis and the Burlington schools were flooded with hate mail. Burlington School Superintendent Tom Flanagan denounced the attacks, reassuring LGBTQ+ community members that “we care about them and that we are here for them.”
Anti-LGBTQ+ attacks are not limited to schools. The head of the Burlington Republican Party, Christopher-Aaron Felker, who has a history of making transphobic social media posts, tweeted out photos of Vermont legislators who support a transgender rights bill and labeled each of them a “groomer.”
On Tuesday, transphobia took a deadly turn when a trans woman was killed in Morristown.
“It’s sad and unfortunate that being transgender or being queer is being compared to sexual abuse and pedophilia because being who you are in your identity as a queer person doesn’t mean that you’re trying to impose on anyone else,” Ellis told The Vermont Conversation. “The reality is that there are traumas and turmoil and abuse that happen for kids across all identities and all experiences and all communities. But that’s completely unrelated to, you know, being LGBTQ+.”
Rep. Taylor Small, Vermont’s first openly transgender legislator, said the anti-trans backlash comes at a time when LGBTQ+ people are winning legal protection in Vermont.
“Last year, we were able to pass a bill to ban the LGBTQ+ ‘panic’ defense. And just last week, the governor signed a bill to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to amend their birth certificates to see themselves and their identity reflected on their vital records.”
Ellis is unbowed by the transphobic attacks. They responded to critics with an invitation: “Hey, Laura Ingraham, I’d love to take you out for coffee or dinner. And I’d love to be able to have an opportunity for you to see me for who I am, the person that I am, the passions that I have and the way that I care deeply about my community. And to everybody else out there, the love that I have and the love of this work is unconditional. And that means that we will just continue to wrap ourselves, wrap other queer folks up in love and light.”
Post first appeared in Vtdigger