The Conservative Crusade to Define Who Counts as a Person

The conservative legal movement's hate campaign against LGBTQ+ communities is also a larger and ongoing project against our democracy.

They/them Barbies in their packaging shown on pink shelves
What if we reimagined "we the people" and made it Barbie themed? Introducing "They the People." All photos by Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

For related stories, check out our special issue, “They the People.”

There is a terror campaign afoot in our country targeting the LGBTQ+ communities generally and transgender folks and kids specifically. Spearheaded by organizations like Moms for Liberty and Alliance Defending Freedom, the campaign is multilayered and well-organized. From book and drag show bans sweeping GOP state legislatures to the “groomer” rhetoric spewing from conservative lawmakers and social media influencers, the coordination is clear.

And it has one ultimate goal in its sight: continuing the conservative legal movement’s project of redefining equality and personhood and, as part of that project, reversing the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges and all the brief but important gains since.

Barbie weddings

In fact, Alliance Defending Freedom already has a case lurking in the Court’s shadows this term that targets trans rights—and plenty of others on the horizon.

The legal conservative movement understands that if it is to be successful in rewriting the Constitution to redefine our personhood, it needs to press ahead as aggressively as it can while it still maintains full control of the federal judiciary. Imani Gandy correctly argues that the movement’s ability to strike at trans rights with alarming speed is thanks at least in part to the openings that already exist in our constitutional law.

Because campaigns like these run directly against democratic beliefs and norms, they require a well-coordinated and well-financed enforcement arm. It’s no surprise then that the anti-trans movement is following the same exact playbook of violence and disinformation as the anti-choice movement, as Garnet Henderson details in her reporting.

Just like the worst of the anti-trans and anti-abortion movements share much in common, the best parts of the trans and reproductive justice communities do too. And the anti-trans movement may have thought that public schools and their teachers were simply going to be steamrolled and shouted over, but that’s just not the case.

It’s all part of our latest special issue “They the People,” taking a look at this ongoing campaign against the LGBTQ+ communities, the resistance to it, and connects it to the larger and ongoing campaign against our democracy. And yes, it’s Barbie themed.