News, The Reach

The Reach: March 9-15, 2023

Last Thursday, Tennessee banned any gender impersonation where the show could be seen by a minor, or that “appeals to a prurient interest” – and launched a cynical attack on trans minors.

In Tenn., Drag Shows, ‘Prurient’ Gender Impersonation Now Illegal

In Tennessee last Thursday, Republican Governor Bill Lee signed two bans into place — one on drag shows (any gender impersonation where the show could be seen by a minor, or that “appeals to a prurient interest”), and one on transgender healthcare for minors.

First Off, ‘Prurient?’

In case you didn’t know off-hand, the definition of prurient, according to Merriam-Webster, is “marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire.” If The Handmaid’s Tale had a theme song, it would be stuck in my head right now. Yikes.

Tennessee’s Violent Attack on Trans Youth

While the Virginia Republicans were unsuccessful in their legislative assault on trans youth, Tennessee Republicans were able to get theirs signed into law.

Term “Gender-Affirming Care” Misused By Republicans

Trans youth, according to every credible medical organization, do not have a mental disorder, and most are aware of and communicating their discomfort surrounding their gender identities before the age of five. This has always been true, and for most trans individuals, puberty is a horrifying time, when a trans person’s body goes through irreversible changes in opposition to their true identities.

Now that LGBTQ+ equality has progressed, many parents are stepping up and supporting their trans+ youth by seeking hormone blocking therapy; a way to “push pause” on puberty until adulthood, when the young trans adult can decide whether to proceed with further gender affirmation.

There Are No “Sex Changes” Happening For Minors.

The legislation passed by Tennessee lawmakers, like the ones proposed here in Virginia, ban both surgical procedures and medication for minors. To be crystal clear, minors are not given hormones or surgical sex changes. They are only given hormone blockers, so they aren’t forced to go through the wrong puberty, which permanently changes their bone and body structures, voices, and other traits commonly associated with gender.

These bills force trans youth to go through the wrong puberty, essentially punishing their identities with the equivalent of a lifelong physical deformity. Banning hormone blockers is wholly immoral and without justification, and causes actual life-threatening physical harm to youth — cynically in the name of “protecting” them.

Transphobic Speculation is The Goal. Republicans Are Winning.

None of the details of these laws, ultimately, are the point. Folks are choosing to allow continued engagement in a public conversation about a group of people, who have been validated by every medical organization as genuine, and whether to systematically prevent them from pursuing their medical, social, or emotional needs.

The fact that this conversation is happening is the problem.

Virginia Legislature Exodus Continues

Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the first female and first Jewish Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, added her name to a growing list of resignations. So far 35 state legislators — a full 25 percent of the Virginia General Assembly — are vacating their seats this year.

The wave of resignations now surpasses the historic wave seen after Republicans first leveraged computers to digitally gerrymander (in all the worst ways) in 2001, including carving out the specific blocks incumbentstargets lived on and moving them into new and politically unfriendly districts.

Filler-Corn is almost certainly running for Governor in 2025, which she has openly admitted to exploring.

One Local House District With Dual Incumbents Remains

Redistricting pushed 33 incumbent Delegates into 16 new House Districts. This was the impetus for many aforementioned resignations, though several were already planned.

With Filler-Corn’s resignation, Falls Church’s own House District is the only remaining race in Northern Virginia with two current incumbents: Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) and Del. Kaye Kory (D-Falls Church).

Simon has announced publicly his intention to run for re-election, has filed his paperwork, and has already announced receiving enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. So far Kory is expected to run, however no official statement has been made. The News-Press was unable to reach the Kory campaign for comment.

Redistricting Outcomes So Far a Mixed, Messy Bag

After all this settles, will we be better off? Did partisan gerrymandering go away? Though not the nightmare Democrats feared when redistricting was sent to the overwhelmingly Republican Virginia Supreme Court, nobody seems terribly thrilled.

“I’m not sure the folks that supported the redistricting amendment are getting what they bargained for,” said Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), who referenced the massive loss of experience and institutional knowledge caused by dual-incumbent districts.

Simon also said that, though perhaps bad for incumbents, the new districts aren’t more diverse. “If you thought redistricting would make seats more competitive and force candidates to appeal to moderate voter you couldn’t have been more wrong.” Simon estimated that perhaps ten House Districts would be competitive in the general election.

“It’s unfortunate when popular incumbents who nobody wants to see ousted are suddenly thrown into a primary together. And that’s exactly what has happened here, following the Redistricting Commission’s failure to draw lines — and subsequent court-drawn redistrictings.” explained Cindy Cunningham, Chair of Falls Church City Democratic Committee (FCCDC).

Cunningham warns that we may feel the effects of these departures for some time. “With retirements — both those planned and those forced by incumbent pairings — the General Assembly is losing hundreds of years of experience in one fell swoop, which may affect the quality of legislation and budget-making the next several years.”