Anonymous | Contributing Writer
According to Central Connecticut State University LGBTQ+ Pride Club’s Instagram (@ccsupride), the Turning Point USA Club on campus is screening the documentary “What is a Woman?” by Matt Walsh. The club and many LGBTQ+ supporters have raised concerns about the film's transphobic rhetoric. Many have taken issue with the screening as it has the potential to “[promote] blatantly false information to reinforce a ‘grooming’ narrative, invalidate and deintegrate the identities of transgender people” by viewers (from a letter the club sent to administration).
One of the largest criticisms against it is due to the timing of the screening, which is set to take place this Thursday, November 17th. This is because November 20th, the upcoming Sunday, is Transgender Day of Rememberance, a day intended to highlight the violence and persecution that transgender people face. Many people use the week preceding the annual observance to participate in Transgender Awareness Week. The intent of the week is to raise awareness and visibility for the community and the issues they face (visit https://www.glaad.org/tdor for more information).
Though the Turning Point USA Club has yet to make a statement on the issue, many supporters of the event are expressing that this is an act of freedom of speech and that to cancel the event would be an infringement upon those rights. It is also expressed in an Instagram post from earlier this year that the club believes “#hatespeechisfreespeech” – with the spaces: “hate speech is free speech” (@tpusa_ccsu on Instagram).
Because hate speech is hard to define and therefore regulate, the first amendment does technically protect it, with a few exceptions. The freedom of speech, however, does not equate to the freedom from consequence. Unfortunately, if CCSU chooses not to reevaluate the club’s allowance to show the film, I fear the transgender students will be the ones to face the consequences.
The Human Rights Campaign has stated that “across the United States, stigma, bias, and systemic discrimination heighten the vulnerability of transgender and gender non-conforming people from an early age. Over the course of , we have seen the community dehumanized in the name of comedy and state legislators have waged an assault on transgender people, especially transgender youth.” Encouragement of spreading harmful rhetoric allows people with more extreme views to feel welcome expressing hateful sentiments or to lash out violently towards those they perceive as different. As the HRC explained, this is also fueled by an increase in transphobic legislation.
The Washington Post tracked 155 anti-trans bills introduced by October 13th of this year (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/10/14/anti-trans-bills/). These laws are proposed in order to tell transgender people that they are not welcome, usually under the guise of protecting another group of people, whether it be women or children. They also cause transgender people to feel as though they are not protected by the law or those in power.
Last year, in 2021, “the Human Rights Campaign tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people” — with a total of 50 fatalities (visit https://www.hrc.org/resources/fatal-violence-against-the-transgender-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2022 for more information). This year, they have tracked at least 32 fatalities so far. It is also worth noting that the majority of these attacks happen to trans people of color.
In addition to the violence forced upon them, transgender people are much more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. A study from 2018, before the majority of anti-trans bills were proposed, by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that “more than half of trans teen boys, nearly a third of trans teen girls, and 40 percent of nonbinary teens have attempted suicide” (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.vox.com/platform/amp/first-person/22977970/anti-trans-legislation-texas-idaho)
Because of the oppression faced by transgender people, I would encourage those in the Turning Point USA Club as well as CCSU faculty and students to think about the effects showing films with a transphobic rhetoric, especially in a public dining hall. I would also encourage people behind the event to reevaluate what may have influenced them to want to screen the film now.