Groomers Inc.: A young person holding a rainbow flag and wearing a T-shirt that says "Love Is Love." Behind him an angry young person has hands outstretched while a member of "HATE" media is pointing a finger at the youngster holding the rainbow flag. A hulking man with an NRA hat is placing an AR-15-style weapon in the angry youngster's hands, and a US flag-drapped blond man is holding a crucifix and speaking into the angry youngster's ear.
Credit: Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Susan Bigelow

What does it mean that the General Assembly approved as new judges two men who, when they were state senators, voted against the landmark 2011 transgender rights bill? In any sane universe, it shouldn’t mean anything. The bill was signed into law, and a judge, as a critical part of our legal system, is required to uphold the law rather than undermine it.

But in the here and now, it’s deeply unsettling for the trans community and our friends, loved ones, and allies.

You can’t blame the trans community for being a little jumpy. The past year has seen one devastating attack after another hit home in red states like Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee. Just like the LGBT community predicted, a movement that started out with the stated but obviously bogus goal of keeping kids from sexually-explicit materials in the early grades has morphed into bans on drag, prohibitions on using bathrooms designated for a different sex than the one you were born into, bans on medical care for trans teenagers and, in some cases, adults, and a vicious new bill in Florida that would allow trans kids to be taken from their parents for the crime of letting them be themselves.

Every single one of these new laws are based on lies and bigotry, and most are deeply rooted in the hateful illogic of right-wing Christian fundamentalism.

I’m grateful I live here. Connecticut’s one of the most trans-friendly states in the nation. But I look at what’s happening elsewhere in the country and I worry. There are so few of us, and we depend so heavily on other people seeing our humanity. We are gut-wrenchingly, dangerously vulnerable. This is especially true for trans people who are already vulnerable for other reasons, like Black and brown people, disabled people, or unhoused people.

It sometimes feels like we’re just a few steps away from falling into that same abyss that’s swallowing up half the country. It’s not true, not now, but given everything that’s happening it feels like it’s always breathing down our necks.

I wish Gov. Lamont and the legislature understood that. Really being a friend to trans people requires more than just lip service, more than just raising the trans rights flag over the Capitol for half a day in March. I appreciate those things, for sure. But I would have liked to see these two former senators who are now set to become judges pressed more on their 2011 votes. I would have liked to have seen them explain, and reassure, much more than they have.

It matters, because judges have a lot of power. Because our legislatures are too often a gridlocked, unresponsive, self-interested mess, the judicial system has often stepped into the void they’ve left. The Supreme Court is by far the most influential and powerful branch of the federal government, so much so that even when they are corrupt and partisan, they are in no danger of losing their positions. 

I’m also not clear why so many former members of the legislature seem to make it into the judiciary. Surely there are other possibilities out there? Are they really the best choices, or is this just the legislature taking care of its own?

No matter the reason, it’s a bad time for two men who have questionable records on the fundamental human rights of trans people to be ushered onto the bench. I hope that they will be as fair and impartial as they have pledged to be. And I hope that Connecticut’s commitment to trans rights, and LGBTQ rights in general, is a real and sturdy thing.

Our country diverges; we part ways with one another. The paths one side will take are radically different from the ones the other side will take. I am relieved I’m here, but my heart breaks for people trapped on the other side of that divide.

But despite all of that, despite everything that’s happened, I still believe in America. I believe in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and I believe that our nearly 250-year-long struggle to live up to those ideals is a noble and worthwhile one. Justice, liberty, democracy, and freedom will win out, in the end. We just have to keep fighting, like our forebears have in every generation between 1776 and here. There is nothing more American than this.

Thank you all for reading

On a personal note, this is my last column for a while. I’ve been writing about Connecticut politics in one form or another since 2005, and my reservoir has been running very low as of late. I need some time away to explore my own branching pathways, to see where they might go.

Thank you all for reading. It means the world to me that I’ve been able to share my thoughts with you for so long.

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Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of or any of the author's other employers.