Kai Wright: I'm Kai Wright, and tonight I suspect many of you join us after a day of marching in the streets. Maybe a whole weekend of it. It's the culmination of LGBT Pride month, and it's one of those years in which I'm reminded of the original purpose, to stand in public and say, you can't tell me what to do with my body and my heart. That's important right now in a way we didn't expect when we first planned tonight's show. After the Supreme court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, a lot of women and pregnant people feel like they'd been told their lives don't matter. Tonight we celebrate Pride in a way that celebrates its roots.
A gathering to process, to commune, and to say, I'm here and I'm not moving. Elie Mystal will chime in on how to check the Supreme Court's power. Imara Jones will connect this broader political moment to the significance of Pride and will hear from you. If you're feeling your own rights taken away, or put in jeopardy, what is one thing you're going to do about that? Let's name our intentions.
Welcome to the show. I'm Kai Wright. I want to go straight to someone we have on the phone from Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Sanithia Williams is an abortion provider at the Alabama Women's Center. Alabama is one of 11 states that now either ban, or severely restrict access to abortion. Dr. Williams, thanks for calling in.
Dr. Williams: Thank you so much for having me.
Kai: Dr. Williams, I visited the Alabama Women's Center a few years ago after the state passed one of the laws that the anti-abortion advocates hoped would go to the Supreme Court. Listeners, You can find the story we made about the clinic in our podcast feed, but Dr. Williams, one thing they'll hear is about the way providers there have been fighting for years frankly, just to keep the doors open. In this moment with the immediate ban, what does that mean now for your patients who are already seeking care? What did this mean for you on Friday?
Dr. Williams: Yes. Every decision day we knew that this decision was going to be coming down at some point this month. We would get updated from our lawyers in terms of this particular day will be a decision day. Unfortunately on Friday, we didn't get the all-clear like we previously had. We certainly were anticipating a decision like this, and so had prepared on what our next steps would be, but I don't think that any of us expected it to be this past Friday.
Practically, what that meant is that we had to stop abortion services. We had people in the clinic, and some people were able to receive their abortion, but we had several people who had come in for their first day, where they have to sign their 48-hour consent. Several other people who had already signed their consents, who were there for their actual procedure that day that we had to turn away.
We spoke to all of those folks individually and gave them resources in terms of what the best options were and what clinics were going to be the closest for them to be able to seek care. As you might expect, people were mixed in their responses, but very many visibly upset. A lot crying. Some people immediately knew that they were going to move on to the next clinic so that they could get services. We actually had one person who had already been referred to our clinic because she wouldn't be able to get services in one of the states over that was still providing.
Kai: You were already a place that people were coming from states that didn't have services.
Dr. Williams: Yes. We received patients from Southern Alabama. We're located in Northern Alabama, but from Southern Alabama, Tennessee very frequently, from Mississippi. Since COVID has been ongoing and with some of the SB 8 restrictions in Texas, we have been seeing more and more patients from Texas and Louisiana as well.
Kai: What does this mean? I should say, I'm aware that at this point, you have to be careful what you say, and so I just want to acknowledge that. What does this mean for you now? What does this mean for you and your colleagues at the clinic?
Dr. Williams: Yes. In the immediate, we are not able to offer abortion services. I think one of the things that is particularly unique about our clinic, especially for a clinic that's in the south is we are the two providers. There are both comprehensive OBGYNs, so obstetricians and gynecologists. We provide services for pregnant patients who are continuing their pregnancy, prenatal care. We actually attend births. We do gynecologic surgeries on reproductive organs. This is not just about what happens at the abortion clinic, but certainly, we know that abortion is a common part of reproductive healthcare in general.
There are going to be people who we are seeing for prenatal care, who will need services like this because they have complex medical diagnosis because the fetus has complex deformations, or anomalies. Those sorts of things, or otherwise sick, and our hands are going to be tied by the state now. Trying to think about how are we going to care for those patients who-- I think abortion is always at time important factor, right? If somebody needs an abortion, they need that abortion as soon as possible. Especially when someone is medically ill, time becomes even more of a factor. Trying to think about how we can get care for patients is at the front of our minds.
Kai: What is your message to the rest of the country? One of the things we're doing in this show tonight is we just want to state some intentions about what we're going to do to create the country we want to be in each of us as individuals. What would you say you and your patients need? What would you tell people?
Dr. Williams: I think some of the things that are really important in this immediate time period is just being really intentional about the information that you're sharing. Especially, in places where abortion is restrictive, there are so many other restrictions in terms of access to reproductive healthcare, access to health insurance, those sorts of things. People are not easily able to find resources to get the care that they need, and so making sure that the things that we're propagating online, and all of that are actually evidence-based that we're not spreading misinformation to really uplift the fact that abortion is safe.
We are moving into a time that in some ways is similar to before Roe v. Wade was passed, but some of the imagery in terms of coat hangers and those sorts of things, it's not necessarily something that is reflective of the current status of abortion. We have medication abortion, those are things that patients will be able to access, and hopefully, safely be able to use them. We also are in a different time because surveillance is so much higher.
We're just connected at all times, and so really what people are most at risk of is criminalization. It's something that we've already been seeing over the past few years, and it's only going to increase. Really making sure that people are keeping in mind what the actual risks are, and then keeping in mind that the best thing that people can do right at this moment is to give money if they have it. There is The National Network of Abortion funds, where you can find Local Abortion Funds that have been doing this work for a really long time.
They're familiar with the laws of your state, they're familiar with what patients actually need in a practical way, and so for folks to be able to actually get to the care that they need in terms of travel, and hotels, and actually coordinating the care in the clinics, they're going to be the best folks to do that. We don't have to reinvent the wheel. People have been preparing for this moment for a long time.
Kai: For a long time. Thank you for calling in. Dr. Sanithia Williams is a care provider at this point at Alabama Women's Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Thank you for your work, and thanks for checking in Dr. Williams.
Dr. Williams: Thank you so much for having me.
Kai: It has been an epic past week in the history of this country's debate over just what kind of National Community wants to be. It's not just abortion rights, it was also gun control, police accountability, and open threat to a whole other range of previously established individual rights, same-sex marriage, our private sexual relationships, access to contraception, and there's still more to come from the Supreme Court this term.
I want to start talking about if anything can be done to balance the power of a Supreme Court that is issuing opinions that are far out of step with the majority of Americans' opinions. I am joined for that conversation by Elie Mystal, to whom we often turn when the court is wilding out. He is the justice correspondent for the Nation magazine, and the author of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Supreme Court. Elie, thanks for coming back.
Elie: Thanks for having me, Kai. How are you?
Kai: I'm all right. Frankly, what is to be done? On Friday, you wrote in your column in response to the ruling that everyone who does not want to live in the country that this Supreme Court is building needs to first, and foremost, let go of any notion that, "Normal, good government, institution less solutions are going to hold up." Let's talk about what will hold up. The Supreme Court itself, I just want to start with this notion is that Supreme Court itself is not above rebuke by the other branches of the federal government. Can you just explain that simple fact?
Elie: I will go back to Federalist '78, where Alexander Hamilton while explaining the structure of the government that he had just helped right into existence, he said that the Supreme Court would be the least dangerous branch of government because it contained neither the purse nor the sword. That meant that it neither has the ability to tax people, nor does it have the control of the Army.
The next time Alexander Hamilton would be as wrong, he was shooting his gun into the air while Aaron Burr killed him. He was just straight up wrong about that. The Supreme Court is extremely powerful because we allow it to be. This idea that the Supreme Court can overturn Acts of Congress is a power that the Supreme Court gave itself in 1803.
At some point, the other two branches of government, especially the executive branch of government needs to check the power of this unelected, unaccountable body and start returning us to something, approaching a Democratic Republic.
There are various things that the Biden administration can do right now today, and in fact, should have been doing since September when Texas went rogue and canceled the constitutional rights of women, returned them to second-class status. There are things that the federal [crosstalk].
Kai: What are some of those things? Let's be specific here.
Elie: Right now, what should happen is that Biden should provide for abortion services on federal land. I'm talking about military installations, I'm talking about any property that the federal government owns, any land. You could do it at a national park if you had to. The way that this would get around the Hyde Amendment, which is something that we can talk about later, the idea that you can't use federal money to fund abortions is that you simply lease the land to the abortion providers.
You lease the land to Dr. Williams, ask her to pay for it out of pocket. I bet she could raise some money to pay for those services. I know I'd be willing to give, start a GoFundMe, we'll figure it out. Lease the land to Dr. Williams so she can keep doing her work, that's number one. Number two, the abortion medication that she was just talking about, that's going to be outlawed in various states so you should be able to pick it up at the post office, turn your post offices into CVSs...
Kai: Anything federal becomes an outlet for care, basically.
Elie: 100%. The other thing that we can do, and again Dr. Williams was talking about this just now, women and pregnant people are going to need the ability to travel from states that treat them as second-class citizens to states in the rest of America, that travel should be provided for the federal government. You don't have to call it travel for abortion. You can call it travel for vacations. You can say, "Hey, every expectant mother now gets a free vacation to New York or California." I'd love to see New York or California, wouldn't you?
That's how you do it. You send them buses and planes and vouchers so they can go to where the services are still provided. As a side-point to that, one of the most obvious things that needs to happen right now is that Biden needs to make sure that transfers are available to federal prisoners because right now if you are raped and impregnated in prison, in a state that does not allow for abortion, they're going to force you to carry that baby to term. Biden can right now take that off the table by allowing for transfers to states that still provide services.
Kai: I'm going to interrupt you. We're going to come back with more of these details. We need to take a break. I am talking with Elie Mystal, author of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution and justice correspondent for the Nation Magazine. When we return listeners, I want to bring you into this conversation too. We're talking about the Supreme Court now, but we're going to go on to talk about LGBT issues shortly.
In general, my question tonight is this, if you're feeling your own rights taken away or put in jeopardy right now in some way, what is one thing you're going to do about it? It can be big, it can be small, it's not the point. It's just sharing our intentions, naming our attentions, that is the spirit of Pride for me. We'll take a break and we'll be right back. Stay with us.
Kousha: Hey, everyone. This is Kousha. I'm a producer. Two announcements. First in our podcast feed, you'll see that we've released the next episode of Keeping Score. Keeping Score is a new series from our colleagues at WNYC. It's about four schools, one building, and an effort to reverse segregation. Be sure to check it out and check back every Thursday for new episodes of that series. Second, the United States of Anxiety is now live streaming our episodes on YouTube.
That means you can watch these episodes live, see Kai and the guests, and even ask questions during the show through the live chat. We're going to try live streaming out for a while. If you'd like to watch the show in action, come hang out with us. Sundays at 6:00 PM on WNYC's YouTube channel. Just go to YouTube and search for WNYC. We'd love to see you there. As always, if you've got something on your mind, you want to share with the show, record your voice and email us, the address, email@example.com. Thanks. Talk to you soon.
Kai: Welcome back. I'm Kai Wright. I'm still joined by Elie Mystal, the justice correspondent for the Nation and author of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution. Your calls and comments are coming in. We're going to talk to Ellie about the Supreme Court here for a few more minutes and how you can check the power of the Supreme Court. We're going to in a minute turn to LGBT issues and just talk about the spirit of Pride and in the course of that, I want to know just for all of you out there, if you feel like a right that is important to you is in jeopardy right now is being taken away, what are you going to do about it?
What is one step you're going to take big or small? t doesn't matter. We're just trying to share our intentions. Now that is the spirit of Pride for me, is this notion that I stand in public and I say, "I am here, I am gay, and you are not going to make me go away." Let's share that on the range of rights issues today. Elie, one question we have gotten on Twitter about checking the power of the Supreme Court is what about Congress and what Congress can do. On the question of abortion in particular, and a federal abortion access law entirely out of the question now, and if they did pass it, I'm adding this part, couldn't the court just overturn that?
Elie: If you noticed in my first segment, I stayed with executive power because if the executive controls the Army. When [unintelligible 00:17:24] says like, "Oh no, you can't do that," Biden can say, "Yes, good luck trying to stop me. Congress is [crosstalk].
Kai: Really, genuinely, that's the level we have to think about it on?
Elie: Yes. That's how Republicans think. At some point, Democrats are going to have to start thinking the same way. Congress is a trickier beast because if Congress passes a law, federalizing abortion, federalizing abortion protection, what makes anybody think that the six bureaucrats that just thumb their nose at 50 years of their own president would not just thumb their nose at Congress.
If Congress passes an abortion law, I promise you the six justices on the Supreme Court will strike it down as an unconstitutional, use of the commerce clause power before breakfast. Now look, I'm not saying the Congress shouldn't pass the law, Congress should pass the law, but in order to secure the law, the only thing to do, the only check on Supreme Court power, the only constitutional check on Supreme Court power is expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court to drown out the voices of the six bureaucrats that we currently have.
That's in the constitution Article 3, leaves it up to Congress to figure out how many justices should be on the Supreme Court. When the country was founded, we had six, it went up to seven, Lincoln put it up to 10. Do you know why Lincoln put it up to 10? Because during the Civil War, Chief Justice Roger Taney, and a conservative majority on the court were telling Lincoln he couldn't use executive power. Lincoln ignored him, and then added a 10 seat to the Supreme Court to shut him up.
The idea that the number of justices can be changed has been done throughout American history and has been done specifically in American history to check of court that was completely out of step of where the popularly elected leaders were. If you actually want to codify the federal abortion law, to say nothing of codifying all of the other rights that we haven't even gotten to that the court is planning on taking away, the only actual solution is to expand the Supreme Court and fill it with justices who believe in pluralistic democracy as opposed to the theocracy.
Kai: You have been saying this for some time, Elie.
Kai: People who very much share your politics have said, "I think that's a bad idea." Have you sensed any shift in the appetite for such a thing as we have seen this court start to act in this term?
Elie: Some people on the ground, absolutely. From activists in the community, absolutely. From leaders? Right? Mondaire Jones, who currently is in a tough primary in lower Manhattan in Park Slope after his district got gerrymandered way. He is one of the only Congresspeople who is out front for court expansion, most of the other ones, and certainly, most of the senators have been very circumspect about it, and obviously, Joe Biden is dead set against it. That's a huge problem but when you talk to people on the ground, they're starting to understand that the Supreme Court is unlivable with the way it is right now right.
Like, if you don't expand the court, what you're saying is that you're going to gift conservative control over our laws, you're going to gift conservatives a veto over any law for the next 30 to 40 years. I say we expand the court and people say, Oh, well, if you expand the court, won't Republicans just expand it right back? Yes, so A, if you expand the court with liberal justices, they will secure voting rights, and then the chances that Republicans can take back all of government to re-expand it after you secure voting rights is a lot harder but B, even if I'm wrong, and the Republicans do take back the House of the Senate, and the White House and re-expand it.
Let's say I added 10 justice systems, it's 13-6, then the Republicans can come back in and add 10 justices, and it's 16-13. How is that worse than where we are now? At least if all I've done is given women, another, I don't know, five years of controlling their own bodies then I will put that on my headstone as good work for the day.
Kai: I'm going to stop you so we get to some calls, Elie. Elie Mystal continues to make this case, expand the court. You've heard it. Okay. Let's go to Tim in Brooklyn. Tim, welcome to the show.
Tim: Hi, Kai. Hi, Elie. We don't need to expand the court. We don't need to pass a new law. The right for a woman to control her own body needs to be recontextualized, reestablished as a basic right to self-protection and therefore, it does not depend on the right to privacy, it does not depend on the 14th Amendment, it does not depend on the First Amendment. It's based in millennia of common law.
Kai: Tim, let me ask you this though. Let me ask you this Tim because this is the question I've got for people tonight is name one intention for yourself, if that's what you believe, that's what you want to see happen. What's one thing big or small that you feel like this is what I'm now going to be doing? This is what I'm going to do to make this come true.
Tim: I'm going to be putting out this theory of the self-defense doctrine and I think it's a fundamental shift in our thinking and our defense of a woman's right to protect her own body because this used to be called the reasonable man standard. Let's apply the reasonable man standard. Ask any reasonable man, would he just eat a nine-pound parasite and expel it through his pelvis and would he consider that...
Kai: I'm going to leave it there, Tim. I think I got it. I just want to try to get as many callers in as possible. Let's go to Tullus in Harlem. Tullus, welcome to the show.
Tullus: Oh my gosh, thank you. I adore this show. Thank you for taking my call. I'm a heterosexual woman, I live up in Harlem, and listening to, is it Eli?
Kai: Elie Mystal.
Tullus: Elie. I learned more in the past 10 minutes. I'm gobsmacked. What I'm going to do is I'm going to let my representatives know that this guy is still-- Great, I didn't even know things could be codified.
Kai: You're going to fight for the codification of the right to abortion. That's what you're going to do, Tullus?
Tullus: Absolutely, and I'm going to use this interview to send to my representatives.
Tullus: I just think it's friggin brilliant.
Kai: Thank you for thatTullus. We enjoy your calls. Thanks for calling us up. Elie, I'm going to wrap up because we got to get to Pride issues as well here but I want to ask you the same question I'm asking listeners, you're making these arguments. it's great. We hear it. You're out there beating the drum for expand the court. Model for our listeners, for yourself. To make that thing come true, what's one intention you want to state?
Elie: Yes, well, if you've got to call. My father was a local politician. I used to joke that if I wanted him to change my allowance, I needed to call his office and get 10 more people to call his office because that's the phone that he always answered, right? You have to make your representatives know what you want because as I said, these ideas are out there, and there are people on the ground who believe in them but the leaders that we have right now are, from my perspective, letting us down. They're not taking the full measure of executive power.
They're not doing everything they can and when you look at how Republicans play, when you look at what the Supreme Court is going to do, you're about to talk about Pride issues, it's very clear that the next thing that they're going for are LGBTQ rights. They have said so, that's next on the block. When you look at Republicans using maximal power, I'm trying to call my representatives, I'm trying to get people to understand what maximal power looks like to defeat them.
Kai: Elie Mystal is the justice correspondent for The Nation and author of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution, bringing the fire and brimstone as always. Thank you, Elie.
Elie: Thanks for having me, Kai.
Kai: Pivoting slightly, as Elie has just pointed out, this is all of a piece and I want to start with, I think I had a useful experience this morning. I was in New York City this weekend. I had to take the train back into town and when I got on, it was just packed to the rafters with this wonderful melange of people decked out in rainbows and hearts and glitter and just all the fashions of Pride Day. There were a range of gender identities and body types and skin tones and accents and they were painting each other's faces and doing each other's hair.
There was this little girl who was asking her mom and dad whether they were going to see a friend that I guess they see every Pride and I just thought, this is beautiful. This is the reality that we built but the freedom on that train, it didn't just come to be. Generations of LGBT people and our allies work to make it so. I'm thinking what's to be learned from that experience and that history about how to protect our freedoms, about how to expand them, and about how we can all enter the necessary fights and struggles ahead over all of that without also allowing those fights to steal our joy and define us in them.
I have been having conversations about this in versions, in one version or another with my next guest for my whole adult life. Imara Jones is the creator of TransLash media and host of the TransLash podcast where she talks with trans people and allies about how we can create a more fair world for everybody. She happens to be, as I said, one of my dearest friends. Happy Pride, Imara.
Imara: Happy Pride, Kai. This is quite a change for us.
Kai: Is quite. Let's start there with our own Pride traditions. I mean, most years, right about now, we would be deep into running the streets, probably about to board a boat and dance the sun down over the East River. You have always been our fearless leader in that. What has that meant to you personally, not politically, just what has Pride in those traditions for us meant to you over the years?
Imara: I mean, it's just deeply affirming. It's deeply affirming in every single way. I was thinking about this the other day, but I think that the first time that I wore a dress in public was at New York Pride. I think it was in 2000 or 2001. I was thinking about that the other day, and how the response from people is something that I still remember. I mean, normally today is a massive community day. It is when community from all over the world and all over the country come together.
Our immediate community and usually, we do nothing the whole weekend, and especially the entire day, but take up space and take up space with who we are and we take up space unapologetically, and we are engaged with other people who also similarly you're taking up space and that freedom, that oxygen that people get from this event is powerful and necessary and it's why Pride continues to sustain itself, through all of the ups and downs and the bumps and bruises.
Even through the last three years, with all the controversies its had. It's still there and still powerful and still calls people and it's for that reason, I think that there's no way that you can gather with some number of hundreds of thousands of people, it ranges anywhere from about half a million. I think the 50th anniversary of Stonewall was a million. There's no way that you can gather with that many people and feel like you don't matter, and feel like you are insignificant, and feel like so many things that-- We've all grown up with it at various stages of our lives.
People telling us that we don't matter, that we're not real. There's no way that you can look around and be in that experience and believe that any of that is true. Which is why it remains a powerful draw. One of the ways that we know that Pride still is deeply relevant in matters is the number of young people that go. I'm talking people who are 18, 19, 20, 21. It's their first Pride.
Kai: And younger.
Imara: Yes, and younger. There's something that even in this age, where people are, "Oh, well, young people grow up with so many this, that in the third, and so many role models and all the rest of it." There's something still deeply needed and relevant to connect with other people in person on a massive scale to validate who we are.
Kai: How are you feeling this year? It's more complicated. We've talked about this privately but I have found it harder to claim the joy in the celebration that you're describing and that concerns me about myself. I never want to be trapped in defining my experience as a struggle and a fight and it feels hard this year. How are you doing on that?
Imara: Well, for me, this is the third year that in some way, Pride is impacted by COVID. I mean, this year, as we sit where I'm doing it. I now for the first time contracted COVID and I'm luckily recovering just a word to the wise and anyone who said that it's light disease, lied. I think that the thing for me that's really deeply important is how--
I feel ambivalent about it this year, and I can't shake that.
There's a part of me that wants to be outside, and there's a part of me that doesn't want to be outside. I feel that deeply in myself this year, I think it's a combination of lots of different things. I think it is me still very much being aware of the fact that a million people have died and we haven't found a way to mark that in a way that I think actually honors the experience that we've all been through.
I think that it is really important for us to get together and to come together but I think that a large part of the drive has been forward because of corporate interest and that is a thing that makes me sad, aside from everything that I just said. Then I also think that this year, a lot of people showing up at Pride. It was important symbolically, but it was also symbolic and we need more than than that kind of what Elie was saying before. Then I think lastly, my ambivalence is the fact that for the first time ever, I wasn't sure that Pride was going to be safe.
Kai: Imara, let me interrupt you, we're going to come back to that. I need to take a short break. I'm talking with Imara Jones, host of the TransLash podcast, where she talks with trans people and allies about how we can create a more fair world for all of us. Stay with us.
Welcome back, I'm Kai Wright and I'm with Imara Jones, host of the TransLash podcast. We are talking about the week we have had, and really the year we have had that has culminating in LGBT Pride this weekend, and it's making that a complicated thing for both me and Imara. Listeners, you can join the conversation. I want to hear your intentions, I want to hear if you are feeling on your back foot right now.
If you are feeling like my rights are being taken away. They're in jeopardy, either because of the Supreme Court ruling on abortion or because of the coming rulings that people fear on LGBT issues in particular. Give us a call. What are you going to do about it? I want to know one thing that you're going to do. One intention, big, small, it doesn't matter.
Maybe it's just you're going to hug a bunch of people in the next week. Whatever it is, I just want you to bring that into the space. 212-433 WNYC. That's 212-433-9692.
If you're joining us on Youtube, drop your answer in the chat. Imara, when we went to break, you were talking about safety and that one of the reasons that you felt ambivalent this year is safety in general. I just want to prompt you, you said something to me once about safety is something that we all create together, actually. I wonder if you could just unpack that here in this moment. I'm particularly thinking about not just our physical safety, but our political safety.
Imara: Yes, conscious of time. I will try to do so really briefly. I think that one of the things that's really fascinating is how we have a concept that public safety is something that is imposed upon us, that it is police reliant but as you move throughout your day, if you, depending on what neighborhood you're in, most people, may not lay eyes on a police officer, and may do in passing.
Which means that the safety is something that we create. Safety isn't imposed upon us by an authority. We have a misconception of what is actually keeping us safe. What keeps us safe are, how strong our communities are, how well we look after each other, how well we are, personally, there's an entire sort of latticework of safety. I think that it's what actually made Pride feel safe for the longest time is that we realized that we overwhelmingly had each other and we noticed that, particularly during the Gutenberg era, there began to be a greater police presence that Pride.
In many ways that actually created less safety, particularly for the most vulnerable LGBTQ people. Towards the end of Pride, we'll actually see what happens tonight. I think that that's one of the things that we have done is that we create safety for each other overwhelmingly. I think there is a slightly different thing at work, where we realize that there are these people who are armed, like those in the military, who have been cultivated and quiet places on the internet, who are selectively being activated.
That creates an entire different layer of concern but I think that we create safety for each other, and I think that it's also the fact that I think that that's where ultimately the solutions to everything that we're facing are going to come from. They're not going to come from politicians because whatever politicians are in the system right now have been schooled in a certain way of thinking about what is acceptable.
I think that we're living in a time when whatever we thought was acceptable before is out the window, which means that there has to be new thought around how we create political safety in a broader sense along the ideas that we were talking about before. That means we have to become more and more reliant upon each other. I think that as we know, there's no consequence-free action in American politics. I don't think that this is going to go how the Republicans think it's going to go.
Kai: The Supreme Court ruling.
Imara: I also think that the ability to be able to-- I mean, for them, now the sky's the limit, right? They think that it's just an inexorable ride to the top of the maximalist edition of their erasing space for anyone who they don't want to be included and it's not going to happen like that.
Kai: One of our YouTube viewers mentions the sort of lack of access to equal information. They were talking about some of the stuff that Elie was saying, but I think that's also true for a whole host of things, and particularly thinking about access to equal information about our lives as queer people and about the lives of trans folks in particular. Just respond to that a little bit for me in terms of the idea of equal information of what it means for our ability to protect our rights.
Imara: Well, I mean, I think that the "lack of equal access of information" is not an accident. The fact is that there's an entire misinformation effort on the internet in many ways, stocked by the same institutions and people that are behind the mainstream funding of our rights. They have an entirely separate operation online, as we spent a lot of time digging into. There's an entire pipeline of people who create misinformation on 4chan, who are then funneled up into certain chat rooms that are then echoed by the right wing, echo chamber and then funneled to the mouths of politicians.
For example, right after Uvalde within 24 hours, the rumor on 4chan, of the shooter being a trans person, went from being on 4chan, to out of the mouth of a GOP politician and that pipeline, there's nothing artificial about it. There's an entire misinformation effort. I think that we have to get it away from this idea that somehow we are naturally divided or somehow there's a misunderstanding or gee whiz, there's just these forces out there. We don't understand each other. We have to understand that, there are dark voices at work in our country that have been here for a long time that have brought us to this place.
Kai: Not understanding one another. It wasn't accidentally so.
Imara: And to weaponizing the misunderstanding.
Kai: One of the things that I think is interesting though, and if you'll bear with me on this is I try to tease it out? Because when I think about your reporting on what has happened at the state level, with this machine that you're describing, trying to target trans youth and make them a political football and just the ways in which the positive version of the access to information.
The ways in which folks who you have met and interviewed have said, "Oh, wow, wait a minute. For the first time in the course of these politics have been introduced to the trans community. I have discovered this incredible movement that is on the rise," and that is the winning team, so to speak, and that they didn't even know about it. I wonder about that too, not just the misinformation about each other, but the obscuring of the good news.
Imara: Because the obscuring of the good news is also a part of the-- I think about the way in which, for example, this misinformation that we're talking about has come to shape the debate in mainstream newsrooms. Terrible articles, for example, that have come out from the New York Times, recently about trans people and about a whole host of other things. Whereas, as I constantly tell people, one of the biggest underreported stories, I think of our time is just the breath and the power and the visioning that Black trans women are doing across a whole host of areas.
For example, and so again, I don't think that it's an accident. I think that there's a combination between these institutions that are at work in our society, and also combining with the way that white supremacy works to value who's heard and who's important, and who we think we should write about. Those two things work on each other to erase and obscure. I think that's part of the problem and we need a total revolution. Just got a [unintelligible 00:42:38] idea, a revolution of thought in terms of who we perceive matters and how our institutions work.
Kai: I guess to comment another way too, what I'm asking there, how would you describe the state of the movement for gender freedom today? Because we have both been in around LGBT politics for a long time, and it feels to me like we are in a unique moment and have been for a couple of years, where the trans community has really taken leadership.
Imara: I think we're just at the beginning of this fight, and I think it's because related very much to what you've been talking about all hour, which is that the next front in this war for the abortion rights movement are trans rights. They pretty much made that explicit. They've already began to migrate the same tactics that they used in fighting the abortion rights movement to trans rights.
For example, they started just this year beginning to target trans doctors, for example with the exact same tactics that they used in abortion rights, and what the right does is that it road test ideas. It's going to see how successful they are in getting people to back down. They've already forced a clinic or an entire medical practice as a part of a university system in Texas to shut down. I think we're going to see more of this.
The labeling of trans people as pedophiles and the way in which they then turn their guns on the people that they label pedophiles as we've seen throughout recent history. I think that we're just at the beginning. Corresponding to that though is both the necessary response is, as we say, the creation of a lot of trans leadership. I think that the reason why trans leadership is so needed right now is because it was created outside of the traditional strictures, which means that it is more in line with the radical vision that needs to be made to respond to the moment than anything else.
It is the solution, because everything else has been co-opted as a part of the system into people thinking they're protecting something that's already gone. I think that trans people recognize quite clearly that it's gone, in many ways it was never there. What you were doing was shadow boxing with the idea of safety, the idea that you had these rights, but these rights were not in practice for everyone, which is why they were tenuous. That's why there's been a lot of visioning in trans leadership and why I think trans vision and trans leadership is so important and I think will be turned to more and more.
Kai: It's a very interesting point. Folks who are not invested in the institutions in the first instance are able to see that they cannot save us. Let's go to James in Westfield, New Jersey, James, welcome to the show.
James: Hey, how are you doing? Thank you for having me.
Kai: Thanks for calling in. Do you have an intention for how you're going to contribute to try to protect any rights that you feel are slipping away from you?
James: I do. What I plan to do is to take to Instagram and Facebook and various social medias, and to really just-- I think one of the big problems that we have is everything becomes such a polarized issue. What I think we really have here is a situation where the right is decimating everybody's rights. I support everybody. I see no reason for me or anybody else to be persecuting or harming any group, but as a straight white man, 65 years old with tremendous privilege in America, white privilege.
It's easy sometimes to think like, well, we're immune to all of these problems, but we're seeing that we're not. The right is going and just taking out fundamental rights of people.
We're all vulnerable to that. That's not the reason why we should be doing this. We should be doing that to protect everybody anyway, but where everybody's [unintelligible 00:47:09], I have a cousin a little bit older than me. [crosstalk] I'll make this really quick.
Kai: Just for time though, James, if you can say it really fast.
James: Okay. I have a cousin, conservative, votes conservative across the block is outraged at what's going on right now with Roe V. Wade. Wake up, this is what's going to happen. Anybody that thinks Trump and all these people are working in their interests are sadly mistaken.
Kai: Thank you for that, James. Imara, I think this connects a little bit to what you were saying is that this can go too far, this being the attack on rights can go too far even for the conservative movement. The notion that whatever identity you've got, wherever you sit, that this is not going to come for you eventually is misguided.
Imara: Yes. I think that for me, I think a lot about US history because these battles for rights take place over a giant canvas of time. I really think that this is akin to the [unintelligible 00:48:18]. I really do think where was the radicalizing moment.
KAI: I have felt the same.
Imara: I really think it was a radicalizing moment where people thought, oh, this thing that I thought was over there and was never going to touch me and wasn't going to bother me. They're always talking about, but in my day-to-day life, I'm able to be okay. When you're they're like,"Oh no, the state can force me to do things that I individually cannot resist." That is to say, the state can deputize me and say that I am a deputy US marshal and that I have to go capture slaves. Even though I may be an abolitionist, even though this may be against my beliefs was a radicalizing moment. I think that this is that, and this is why any time there's a move like this in American history, it's never cost-free.
Kai: As we wrap up, I want to try to bring us back around to just the celebration of this. As I said, one of the things I've struggled with is how to hold both. That is something I think you are uniquely good at in my life. Can you talk, just leave people with this thought about how you manage to face all this reality that you're describing but also continue to celebrate ourselves.
Imara: Because today is fun. Even with everything that's there, when I am looking out through my timeline and turning on television and seeing streaming and that sort of thing, it's fun. It is still fun. The reason why is because there's just a part of us and we know this is any people who come from oppressed people. This is just the case, whether or not you are American or Puertorican.
There are a lot of oppressed people is that there is something that we learn that is brought forth in humanity that's just a part of us that isn't contingent upon what other people think of us. We're still able to relish that about ourselves and relish that about each other. That's going to continue regardless. They're not going to steal all the hope in the world. That's just not going to happen and that's just impossible. Today is still fine and we're still fine.
Kai: We will have to leave it there. Imara Jones is the creator of TransLash media and the host of TransLash podcast. She joins us even as she gets over COVID. Thank you so much, Imara, and I hope you feel better soon. The United States of Anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. You can follow us wherever you get your podcasts at wnyc.org/anxiety or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do send me those statements of intention. What are you going to do to protect yourself? I'm Kai Wright. Thanks for spending this time with us. Talk to you next week.
[00:51:28] [END OF AUDIO]
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