Sunday, Dec. 03, 2023|
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Madeleine Albright’s tenure as the first female U.S. secretary of state is a rich one, filled with moments of inspiration as well as regret, courtesy of hindsight’s unflattering gaze. But I would like to start this column with something that she started saying even before she became the nation’s top diplomat: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”
Over time that sentence and sentiment became part of her signature. That is, until she said it in 2016 at a Hillary Clinton campaign stop in New Hampshire. I was nearby when she said it. The partisan crowd loved it, of course. But the blowback from a wider public came quickly. A lot had changed in that catchphrase’s lifetime. The 1990s were a long time ago.
Albright penned a pseudo-mea culpa in the New York Times, writing in part: “I absolutely believe what I said, that women should help one another, but this was the wrong context and the wrong time to use that line. I did not mean to argue that women should support a particular candidate based solely on gender. But I understand that I came across as condemning those who disagree with my political preferences. If heaven were open only to those who agreed on politics, I imagine it would be largely unoccupied.”
I agree with what Albright wrote about heaven, and I believe we could have a little bit of heaven on earth if we, as she suggested, showed each other a bit more compassion. Yet none of us can overlook the fact that in 2016 and since, millions of women voted for candidates who wanted to dismantle Roe v. Wade, allow states to force rape victims — some as young as 10, apparently — to give birth. So, yeah, right now I’m thinking more about Albright’s line about hell. Too many female voters were OK with the fallout from an overturned Roe v. Wade happening to other women. Teenagers. Girls.
I spend a lot of time reporting on and writing about identity politics, but voting against oneself is something I just can’t identify with.
All of which brings me to the remarks Sen. Ted Cruz made Saturday: “The way the Constitution set up for you to advance that position is to convince your fellow citizens, and if you succeeded in convincing your fellow citizens, then your state would change the laws to reflect those views. In Obergefell, the court said, ‘No, we know better than you guys do, and now every state must, must sanction and permit gay marriage.’”
And in a post-Roe world, when Cruz said that 2015 decision was overreaching, what he was really saying is “you’re next.” Not that the LGBTQ+ community needed a heads up. President Donald Trump had LGBTQ content removed from federal websites his first day in office. Pride celebrations at the White House ceased. Trump’s secretary of education went after transgender children not long after confirmation. The message was clear. And the House on Tuesday passed a bill to protect same-sex marriage against the justices.
Almost as soon as the leaked Supreme Court draft regarding Roe v. Wade went viral, national LGBTQ organizations began sending email blasts about the threat to marriage equality. Surely no one — save for Caitlyn Jenner, the Susan Collins of LGBTQ equality — is surprised by Republican hostility.
What I am curious about is what will queer conservatives like Jenner do now that Cruz has said the loud part louder? We already have indication that the national anti-LGBTQ momentum that began during the Trump administration will not stop at marriage.
Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Cruz’s home state of Texas, has suggested he wouldn’t have a problem if sodomy were recriminalized or defending anti-sodomy laws to the same Supreme Court justices who just put a bullseye on privacy.
Richard Grenell, who became the first openly gay man in a Cabinet-level position when Trump designated him acting director of national intelligence back in 2020, would like to blur the lines and keep people guessing about whether Republicans will attack queer rights. Last month, when I was co-hosting coverage of pride weekend in New York, he tweeted: “LZ demands that blacks and gays all be Progressives.”
First of all: progressive is not how I would describe myself. I just don’t like voting against my survival. Second: It’s not me looking the other way when elected officials speak at white nationalists’ conventions or who “opposes all efforts to validate transgender identity,” which Republicans in Texas voted to do in time for pride month.
Cruz and Paxton are not talking in hypotheticals. They are sharing their plans for erasure.
What is the plan from conservative members of the LGBTQ community now that attorneys general like Paxton want to recriminalize intimacy? What is the plan if the intelligence community is instructed to turn the gay hookup app Grindr into a tracking system the way authorities have used social media during gay purges in Chechnya. The way the Taliban uses it in Afghanistan.
Now at this point you may feel tempted to think something like that could never happen here. I would only remind you that something like that already has. The first lavender scare of the 1950s brought Executive Order 10405, which allowed the federal government to fire those suspected of being LGBTQ. Sometimes all it took was a rumor to launch an FBI investigation. Sometimes the person spreading the rumor was LGBTQ themselves. If there is a special place in hell for queer people who don’t help each other, I would imagine the closeted FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is Exhibit A.
History is peppered with people like him, those who exchange their rights — and the rights of others like them — for what they consider power. As if true power can exist without dignity.
LZ Granderson is an Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
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