Trump Admin Will Protect 4-H Cows From Gay Kids
Remember when access journalist Maggie Haberman claimed Donald Trump would be a queer ally to the LGBT community? This wasn't quite Judith Miller level stupidity but it's starting to get there. The Trump administration has over the past two years proven overtly hostile to LGBT rights; they tried to bounce transgender soldiers from the armed forces and later attempted to completely "unperson" all trans people. Trump has never even acknowledged Pride month, unless you count his tweeting out support for a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker who refused to make a "gay" wedding cake.
Now, we learn the Trump administration doesn't even want LGBT kids in 4-H, the agriculture-oriented youth organization that teaches children responsibility and resiliency, the latter of which is especially useful if you're a LGBT kid in Trump's America. 4-H had published an inclusion guidance early this year that stated the group welcomed "all gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations and sexes."
Children feeling safe and wanted is vital to their development. LGBT kids can also face the torturous choice between living openly and losing their place in peer groups and extracurricular activities. These inclusion guidelines were "safety nets" for queer youth, so of course conservative Christian groups were quick to rebuke them. Can't have God's Unwanted Children using the bathrooms or locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
Former (I'll get to that in a bit) Iowa 4-H state director John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas said that the new set of rules led to heated debate from both sides of the issue.
Some people are calling to say "Thank you. Go. Thank you for doing this. We need this. This affected my life when I was in 4-H," Chaisson-Cárdenas said, "and then you have people saying, you know, 'The wrath of God will fall upon you.'"
Hmm, OK, so one side is all "this affects me on a deeply human level" and the other is "argle bargle, fire and brimstone!" Guess which "argument" was more compelling to the Trump administration? Within days of the policy's publication early this year, Heidi Green, chief of staff for US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requested that it be rescinded. She no longer has this job because that was months ago and this is the Trump administration we're talking about. It's like the black plague over there.
Christian groups pressured 4-H leaders to remove the document, and a Christian law firm threatened to sue on likely dubious and discriminatory legal grounds. Some groups folded, but Chaisson-Cárdenas, the only statewide Latino director in 4-H's history, resisted. Chaisson-Cárdenas, who's dyslexic and a former Guatemalan refugee, had reason to believe in inclusion. He remained steadfast in his view that 4-H was for "all kids," from all backgrounds, and not simply the life experiences that narrow-minded people believed was "appropriate."
Some conservative 4-H volunteers, leaders, former members and overall crappy people described the inclusion policy as a "fascist push to redefine humanity" (these creeps always Princess Bride the word "fascist"). They also literally claimed that transgender children were "sinful" and "horrendous." If you feel this way about any child, you're the one who doesn't belong within a thousand feet of an organization dedicated to helping children "reach their fullest potential." Turning children into "little boxes made of ticky tacky" is not a noble goal.
Chaisson-Cárdenas received death threats from people I'm sure identify as "pro-life." He still pushed back.
"I guess I am not sure why we are valuing the propaganda machine of a recognized hate group over the existing rights of LGBTQ youth?" Chaisson-Cárdenas wrote in reference to WorldNetDaily, an alt-right online publication that extensively covered the dust-up in Iowa.
The pressure from Green and the Trump administration led to 4-H retracting the guidance. Josh Lawrence, vice president of Iowa State University's Extension and Outreach, which oversees Iowa's 4-H program, disciplined Chaisson-Cárdenas and questioned his judgment and professionalism. He was given the option to resign in May or "next steps would be taken." Chaisson-Cárdenas declined this generous offer and instead held firm in his belief that xenophobia is "pervasive within 4-H" and that an updated inclusion policy with specific protections for LGBT members was necessary. He was fired in August.
Weird, huh, that while the media was lamenting the aborted dinner plans of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Trump administration was continuing its work behind the scenes to make life miserable for LGBT Americans. It's why I have so little sympathy for people who themselves possess little sympathy. They deserve all the public shunning (not harassment, as Jennifer Rubin clarified, but shunning) they receive.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."