Guest Commentary: Responding to Bourne’s Vanguard Piece

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

by Robert Bulman

I am pleased that the Davis Vanguard has published Beth Bourne’s response to my December 28, 2023 Op-Ed in the Davis Enterprise. Such free exchange of ideas is essential to a healthy democracy.

Ms. Bourne seems to think that I “slandered” her in that Op-Ed. However, my piece was not about Ms. Bourne specifically. I wrote a piece critical of Moms for Liberty, an organization Ms. Bourne has chosen to be the representative of in Yolo County. I stand by everything I wrote in that original piece. In short, the anti-trans agenda of Moms for Liberty is inseparable from an anti-gay agenda.

One argument that Ms. Bourne makes in response to my Op-Ed is that because some gays and lesbians are opposed to transgender rights that Moms for Liberty, by the transitive property, is not anti-gay. However, such an “argument” doesn’t begin to logically counter the points I made in my original piece. Such a response is akin to those who point to African Americans who support Donald Trump as an “argument” that Trump is not racist. But let’s move to a more substantive piece of her argument.

Moms for Liberty argues that it’s impossible for anyone to be authentically trans because being trans is just based on “feelings,” not biology, and feelings can be “indoctrinated” into kids by teachers, counselors, doctors, and even librarians (shockingly, Ms. Bourne objects to Davis public school students receiving library cards!). Ms. Bourne claims that opposition to the affirmation of transgender individuals is not homophobic because being gay is an “orientation” while being trans is an “identity.”  This is merely a quibble meant to obfuscate.

Moms for Liberty can’t explain why we should accept the “feelings” of gays and lesbians about their “orientation” but deny the “feelings” of trans individuals about their “identity.” Where does this “orientation” come from? If it is authentic, according to the logic of Moms for Liberty, this “orientation” must be based on biology (even if we don’t understand the biological roots of this “orientation”). But the only way for any of us to know if we are gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, etc. is by examining our “feelings” about romantic and sexual attraction. However, Moms for Liberty tells us that feelings are not to be trusted. This biological determinism boxes them into a homophobic corner.

Our identities as men, as women, as nonbinary, as trans, as straight, as gay are deeply personal and the result of a complicated interaction of biology (which is far more complicated than the anti-trans activists admit), society, culture, and individual agency. Moms for Liberty wants to impose biological determinism to deny the authenticity of trans lives but somehow leave the door open for gays and lesbians to be their authentic “natural” selves. The logic just doesn’t add up.

It was not that long ago in this country (and, sadly, is still the case in some quarters) that organizations similar to Moms for Liberty were making arguments that homosexuality was a mental illness; that homosexuality was being imposed on kids by activists; that homosexuality was unnatural; that homosexuality was sinful; that homosexuality posed a danger to society; that homosexuality was a social contagion that could spread through the schools; that homosexuals were pedophiles and groomers; and that schools should not acknowledge or support homosexual students or hire homosexual teachers. The 1978 Briggs Initiative in California would have permitted public schools to fire gay and lesbian teachers. The political motto for the campaign was “Defend our Children.”

You don’t have to be a sociologist to see the parallels to today’s rhetoric attacking transgender lives. In their efforts to undermine the affirmation of trans students, Moms for Liberty unavoidably undermines gay and lesbian students as well. Their logic can’t support the attempt to separate gay identities from trans identities. The truth about their tenuous position is revealed when you scratch just a little beneath the surface. For instance, Moms for Liberty hosts links to gay conversion therapy sites on their national webpage. Even our local Moms for Liberty chapter wants to eliminate not just references to and support for trans students, but also for gay and lesbian students. They don’t want rainbow flags, GSA clubs, comprehensive sex education, LGBTQ-themed books, or even references to gay marriage in public schools.

In fact, the local Moms for Liberty chapter is not only going after DJUSD policies that respect trans students (those policies are guided by State law), but they are going after the educators who follow the law by respecting the rights and dignity of gay and trans students. For instance, Ms. Bourne recently attacked a DJUSD teacher who dared to admit that she respects her students and State law by using her students’ preferred pronouns in class. Ms. Bourne responded to this teacher on Ms. Bourne’s public Facebook page by writing, “You are completely captured by this cult ideology and causing serious emotional harm to our children…I’m just going to expose all the groomers within DJUSD, you are on a list with 36 other school counselors and teachers.” This disturbing invocation of McCarthyism to target individual educators for following State law and respecting the dignity of their students should be condemned by everyone in our community.

Anti-trans activism is a package deal with anti-gay activism.  Even if they claim they are not motivated by homophobia, their actions are anti-gay in their consequences. Being trans is not a new phenomenon. The social acceptance of trans lives, however, is a relatively new phenomenon and it is struggling to survive in an atmosphere of cynical political attacks. Moms for Liberty is a regressive political force that ignores the authenticity of trans individuals and, in doing so, punishes the entire LGBTQ community by trying to force them back into the closet.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Matt Williams

    Robert, can you take a moment and share with everyone the differences and overlaps of  being trans and being gay?  I believe that would further the community dialogue.

  2. Matt Williams

    With respect to biology, I know my biology affects my feelings, and that the natural ebb and flow of my own personal biology produces very different feelings about the exact same set of facts at different times.  That is true not only of me personally, but of every single human being.

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