Targeting the Marginalized for Political Gain is Nothing New in Texas PoliticsRoundup
tags: conservatism, feminism, Texas, transgender, LGBTQ history, Phyllis Schlafly
Nancy Beck Young is professor of history at the University of Houston and author of multiple books including Why We Fight: Congress and the Politics of World War II and Two Suns of the Southwest: Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, and the 1964 Battle between Liberalism and Conservatism.
On Friday, a judge will consider whether to block enforcement of a letter that Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) issued Feb. 22 related to transgender minors. After the precedent established in 2021 by the state’s restrictive abortion law, Abbott called for members of the public to report the names of Texans suspected of providing certain medical treatments, such as puberty-blocking hormones, to the Department of Family and Protective Services. The governor’s directive followed a legal opinion issued Feb. 18 by State Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-Tex.) that classified such treatments as child abuse.
If Abbott’s directive remains in effect, Texans risk losing their children to the foster-care system for providing gender-affirming health care. Neighbors could soon turn on neighbors, as the newest iteration of McCarthyism weaves its way through the medicine cabinets of teenagers in Texas.
While restricting the rights of transgender individuals and youths in the state is a relatively recent phenomenon, the discriminatory intent behind these efforts is not. There is a long history in Texas of “otherizing” people in marginalized communities for political gain, with little regard for the truth.
Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, for example, conservative Christian activists targeted feminists, the LGBTQ population and eventually AIDS patients — people they thought were violating God’s preference for the heterosexual nuclear family and its traditional gender roles.
In 1977, Houston hosted the federally funded National Women’s Conference (NWC), which drew approximately 22,000 participants, 2,000 of whom were delegates, with the rest observing. Conservatives found the conference horrifying. One journalist writing for a right-wing John Birch Society publication denounced the event for encouraging “militant lesbianism” and permitting participation by “old-line Stalinoids” and “active enemies of the United States.”
Anti-feminist, conservative activists — who adopted the moniker “pro-family” for their movement — sought to undermine and disrupt the conference. Some did so from inside the conference itself as delegates, including a few from Texas. One “pro-family” delegate from the Lone Star state complained that the delegate selection process had occurred before conservatives in the state could mobilize, meaning that “pro-lib, pro-ERA, pro-lesbian minority group[s]” outnumbered “the majority traditional American women who are concerned about the moral fiber, and the families, of the United States.”
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