Suiting Up to Protect LGBTQ Rights (with Charlotte Clymer)

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Julián and Sawyer talk about a shocking abortion case in Texas that plays into the GOP’s overall goal of ending reproductive rights in America. The two also discuss the empowering news of Amazon employees unionizing for the first time ever and the reverberations that’s caused for workers nationwide. Later they welcome trans activist and speaker Charlotte Clymer to talk about the onslaught of anti-LGBTQ legislation following the passage of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bil.

Follow Charlotte online at @cmclymer.

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Charlotte Clymer, Julian Castro, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there. I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett  00:16

And I’m Sawyer Hackett.

Julian Castro  00:17

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. Before we get started, we wanted to let you know about last day. Last Day’s a riveting Gracie award winning podcast that zooms in on the last day of someone’s life and out to view the larger, deadly influences that led them there. It’s hosted by our show’s executive producer and Lemonada co-founder Stephanie Wittels Wachs. This season, the series is tackling the American gun crisis by zooming in on communities in rural Montana, impacted by a high rate of firearm assisted suicides. The Last Day team also covers the high murder by firearm rate in Atlanta, Georgia. Last day poses the question of how do we live safely in a country where there are more guns than people? Last Day is out where ever you get your podcast, with new episodes premiering every Wednesday. Now this week on the show, we’re going to discuss an abortion case out of Texas, where a woman was arrested for murder after self-inducing an abortion. And we’ll discuss the latest news from the labor movement, including the unionization of Amazon employees for the first time ever. We also welcome Trans activist and speaker Charlotte Clymer to talk about the onslaught of anti queer legislation sweeping the nation following the passage of Florida’s don’t say gay bill. But first, let’s talk about this abortion case out of Texas. Sawyer, what happened there?

Sawyer Hackett  01:46

Yeah, so last week, a 26-year-old woman in Texas named […] Herrera was arrested and charged with murder after what authorities claimed was a self-induced abortion. Herrera went to the hospital for a miscarriage and confided in hospital staff that she had attempted an abortion. As folks likely know Texas enacted a law in September that banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy before most women even know they’re pregnant. Under that law, SB8 enforcement was left to private citizens so any person can sue anyone who performs an abortion or help somebody get an abortion after six weeks. However, on Sunday, the district attorney’s office said that it intended to dismiss the case against Herrera saying in reviewing the applicable Texas law, it is clear that Miss Herrera cannot and should not be prosecuted for the allegation against her. The initial arrest and charge confounded legal experts because the DA never connected her to a violation of a specific portion of the law. And it wasn’t brought by a lawsuit but was rather a criminal charge. Some have pointed out that this may be a sign of what’s to come if Roe is overturned, Texas does have a law on the books right now that has essentially been made unconstitutional by roe since 1973, which criminalizes abortions. But Julian, it appears the district attorneys can’t even really understand this law, SB8 in Texas. So, you know, what did you make of this case? And what do you think it pretends for the state of Texas for the issue of abortion for, you know, the midterms? What did you make of this?

Julian Castro  03:14

Well, I mean, it’s scary. I think it sent shivers through the spine of a lot of people. Because in many ways, this is the world that these far-right wing folks who are now in charge of the Texas Legislature and the Republican Party at large and are in charge of many states, in their own state legislatures and Governor Manchin’s, this is what they want. In one way. It’s what they’ve been pushing for the last 50 years, ever since Roe became law chipping away at it. Texas is passage of SB8 basically gave license for a whole bunch of folks out there to figure out a way a clever way to be able to, you know, either bring a lawsuit or in this case, actually charge somebody criminally. You know, I was reading a report on this from USA Today. They came out on Sunday. And one particular paragraph caught my attention. And I want to just quote ideally quickly, it said in the Sunday statement, Ramirez, that’s the DA that ultimately dropped the charges, you know, came to his senses or whatever Ramirez said the STARR County Sheriff’s Office, quote, did their duty in investigating the incident which was brought to the attention of authorities by a hospital in the area. But I haven’t seen anything else on that but what the hell is going on? If that is the case, you have a hospital that is forwarding to the Starr County Sheriff’s Office. This is deep south Texas, the Starr County Sheriff’s Office, some sort of information that leads to a criminal charge against this person. I mean, it is scary.

Sawyer Hackett  05:04

Yeah, I mean, she apparently went to the hospital after attempting to induce an abortion herself, and confided in those hospital staff that she had done that. And they then reported her to the sheriff’s office, which, you know, seems to be a clear violation of their Hippocratic oath not to disclose patient information to authorities, especially when it involves something as sensitive as you know, reproductive rights. But as you mentioned, like SB8, it was specifically written to avoid, you know, these legal challenges, they put the burden of, you know, the enforcement on private citizens as opposed to law enforcement. But Republicans, I think we’re very clever in putting it together in that none of the legal challenges were ever to be brought against the women themselves for getting those abortions, it was always targeting the providers, you know, targeting people who helped women get abortions, but never the women themselves. So, you know, I don’t know whether the sheriff’s office or the DA or who got this wrong, but clearly, they just misunderstood the law entirely, because the law was never intended to criminalize the act of getting an abortion even if it was self-induced. Clearly, this was just a complete misinterpretation of the law. But we should also point out like this took place with Roe intact right now. But this is definitely what the future looks like without Roe.

Julian Castro  06:19

Well, I mean, it’s people getting emboldened by a Supreme Court that is had been let SP8 stay in place that has not stood up for precedent has not stood up for Roe, right? I mean, this is the kind of crap that you get, people running amok.

Sawyer Hackett  06:33

Almost every single state, every single red state, Republican state has laws on the books essentially criminalizing abortion if Roe is lifted, and many are pursuing new laws right now, you know, trying to pass laws right now that would criminalize abortion, abortion providers, women themselves, even in cases of incest and rape, you know, to criminalize that act, the second that Roe is lifted. And so that is the future we’re looking at when this law is gutted, and it’s likely to be gutted. And we should be talking about this case, all over the news, it should be front and center, because this is the future that Republicans want, where women are criminalized for seeking reproductive care. And when they can’t get that care in a state like Texas, you know, doing it in a dangerous way, in an unhealthy way, you know, seeking it from somebody who might not be a licensed medical official or might be doing it themselves. And so like, this is the future that Republicans want without Roe.

Julian Castro  07:26

Let me just parse that a little bit. Because I do think that the vast majority of those right wingers, they want that, they believe in what they call a pro-life stance. But I want to address the politicians themselves for a second, the Greg Abbott’s of the world the Dan Patrick’s, even if they call themselves pro-life, they also have no spine, they also don’t want to face the consequences, I think, have actually seen somebody get charged with murder for self-inducing an abortion. They know that on the other side of what they’ve been trying to do, trying to curry favor with the right-wing base for to essentially get rid of the right to an abortion. They know that on the other side of that is the fury, including of many young people who have not been active in politics, who perhaps haven’t paid attention as much to it. haven’t participated in the democratic process. But there is a storm that is brewing in Texas and these other states, if roe actually goes away, and if this does become the future. And so on the one hand, I think that the vast majority of the folks associated with that movement and the rank and file out there, they do want it that’s what they believe. On the other hand, I think these politicians are so craven, that they probably feel a little bit of sense of relief that that this was withdrawn. They can pretend that they’re, you know, they’re doing as much as they can to end it, but don’t actually have to face the consequences of the bullshit that they’re trying to bring about.

Sawyer Hackett  09:04

Yeah, I mean, I think it’s part of this, one of the most important dynamics of our political situation right now is this, you know, widening divide between red states and blue states and what these legislators are doing what these governors are doing, you know, this eagerness of state level local level Republicans to push the envelope on policy like abortion, you know, that they hadn’t been able to dare to do before. And they’re getting rid of some of the greatness in the policy about things like exceptions for rape and incest, whereas before they would write those into those bills, to assuage some of the outrage by liberals word liberals could point to those cases where somebody you know, was raped and became pregnant and then got an abortion and say, you want to force this person to carry this baby determined, like they’ve gotten rid of that gray area entirely and are just pursuing it, you know, full force. And you know, Oklahoma just passed a blatantly unconstitutional bill, outlawing all abortions and making performing one a felony punishable by 10 years in prison, also known as no exception for rape and incest. These laws are creating this dynamic where red states, fundamental rights just don’t even exist anymore. And in blue states, we’re working to protect them as fast as possible, because we know that the Supreme Court may undermine them soon.

Julian Castro  10:17

Yeah, I mean, it’s just what you see here in Texas where I am, of course, it’s like we’re just going backward and backward and backward.

Sawyer Hackett  10:25

And I think you’re right, you’ve always said this about Greg Abbott and some of those other Texas Republicans that they want to pass these laws to get credit with their base and to assuage that right wing. But ultimately, they know that they’re extremely unpopular. And if they were enacted, they’re only pushing Texas even further to the left to the middle with how unpopular they are. But, you know, the other big issue that we wanted to check in on before we speak with Charlotte, later in the show, is this increasing labor movement, empowerment that’s taking place across the country. You know, a couple weeks ago, employees at Amazon’s massive warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union. This is one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation, they took on one of the most powerful companies in the world and won by more than 10 percentage points, becoming the first Union victory at the company. After years of allegations of mistreatment. Amazon responded by saying they’re disappointed in the outcome. You know, they believe that having a direct relationship with the employees is best for the company. But this union was started by Christian Smalls, who’s this former Amazon employee, you know, they relied almost entirely on current and former workers rather than these professional organizers. It was funded by you know, GoFundMe account contributions rather than the dues of existing members. You know, this success comes on the heels of worker successes in other places. 2018 we saw, you know, rank and file public school teachers in West Virginia and Arizona planned walkouts at Starbucks workers have voted to unionize 11 corporate owned stores and filed for elections in 150 more stores. And just this morning, a Starbucks in Boston voted to unionize as well. So this is all, you know, prompted these important conversations and debates in the worker movement, some suggesting labor is embracing these new strategies of organizing, communicating, distancing itself from some of the tactics of some of the bigger, you know, more institutionalized labor unions in the country. And of course, the pandemic is a huge factor in all of this. And it’s empowered workers to sort of reevaluate their relationship to work. But it’s definitely an exciting time for the worker for the labor movement right now. What do you make of this?

Julian Castro  12:27

Yeah, I mean, it was such a wonderful David and Goliath story. You know, when I first heard about it, I thought, wow, they finally broke through all of us know, the resources that these corporations like Amazon or Starbucks, which is also being unionized. You know, they’re attempting to unionize in my home city of San Antonio, other places in Texas and the country. Yeah, no, here, there’s a very active group here that’s trying to unionize a couple of Starbucks, in San Antonio, and I think maybe a couple in Austin. But look, I mean, they hire their high-priced lawyers, these union busting law firms, they have their shit down, they have their formula, like, you know, they focus a little bit on how this was different from the usual formula of not being associated with big labor and not using union dues. I think that had, you know, probably a good amount to do with how the campaign came off, it probably came off to some people that could have voted either way, maybe is more authentic, you know, maybe it’s more down home and genuine. That’s not to say, you know, the labor organizations, the establishments have, of course, a lot to offer and the resources that they bring are important a lot of times, but my guess is that many of those workers that perhaps may have been turned off, or maybe they would have been susceptible to an argument by these union busting firms about this is just about more dues for big labor. This effort caught these union busting firms in their activities, like off guard, they didn’t know what to do with it, you know, almost a different way of playing the game a different style that they weren’t as used to, and that their cookie cutter formula to undermine people’s willingness to join the union wasn’t as successful against obviously, to win by 10 points. I mean, we know elections, people know, elections that are, you know, out there. 10 points is a big damn win. Doesn’t matter whether you’re running for a dog catcher or you’re running to unionize your shop. That is a big win. And maybe this is the beginning of a new blueprint for how to do it, especially in some of these workplaces, like Amazon, like Starbucks, like some of these tech firms that have been pretty successful at beating back unionization over the years.

Sawyer Hackett  14:51

Yeah, it was reported that Amazon has spent, you know, more than $4 million last year on labor relations consultants, essentially folks that trying to bust up these unions. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said on Monday that the company was, quote, being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization. This is all coming against the backdrop of, of, I think a few different factors contributing to like worker empowerment right now, obviously, the pandemic is reevaluating the relationship to work that most people have, you have a very pro-labor White House, you know, Biden saying just last week, we’re coming after you Amazon, he fired that the management friendly general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board on inauguration day, you have this super tight labor market where, you know, folks are begging people to get back to work coming back to work with higher benefits, better pay. And you have this key NLRB settlement with Amazon in December that paved the way which enabled organizers to talk to warehouse workers when they weren’t on duty, which was overriding this policy that the company had essentially saying, you can only stay at your place of work for 15 minutes after your shift ends. So these are all tactics that they have tried to use. And since, you know, Amazon is now considering this platform. I think The Intercept reported this that they’re considering this in house internal communications platform for their employees, which would allow them to communicate or whatever, but it would ban specific words keywords on the platform like slave compensation and restroom just to name a few. But there’s like dozens of them essentially. So they’re scared. I mean, they’re terrified right now of what’s happening. And Christian Smalls who started this union at this facility in Staten Island, told reporters that he’s been contacted by employees at 50 other Amazon buildings across the country looking to unionize.

Julian Castro  16:35

Well, I mean, yeah, again, it was a yeah, I mean, I think it was an authentic effort. It was a thoughtful effort, unique. I think they underestimated him and the team that put the effort together. Also, I mean, it wasn’t just a part from big labor. It was also a part from many of the usual political voices, as I understand it, that are behind union drives. And so that all of that probably ended up helping it. Now, you know, that doesn’t mean that that’s the only way to do this successfully. But it’s definitely fascinating that that’s how it succeeded.

Sawyer Hackett  17:13

Yeah, and I think that those major labor unions did assist this effort, even though they weren’t the ones driving it. I heard that they provided, you know, workplaces, for union members to collaborate, they definitely helped on the financing side of things. But you’re right, that this was, I think, a different model, that the labor unions are probably taking a closer look at much more emphasis on organizing, you know, relational organizing face to face organizing, you know, less of this top down, we bring in some staff to help control these employees and tell them how to do certain things. So yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s a fascinating story. And I think I hope that it’s, you know, just the beginning of it.

Julian Castro  17:50

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that, you know, obviously, our legacy labor organizations have so much to contribute, and hopefully they continue to get stronger. And then also, that you have organizers like these that are bringing their own, you know, as a new generation of folks their own eye toward this and tactics that are successful.

Sawyer Hackett  18:12

That’s right. And so after the break, we’re going to talk to our friend, Charlotte climber about some of these bills that are popping up including in Texas, these don’t say gay bills that have been, you know, obviously very hot issues in places like Florida, but are really just this new effort by the Republican Party to attack, you know, LGBTQ youth. So after the break, we’re going to have that conversation, looking forward to that.

Julian Castro  18:59

Charlotte Clymer is an activist, keynote speaker and military veteran. And in addition to her work at the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte has worked at groups designed to help military personnel, persons with disabilities, and women identified folks and politics. Her commentary has been quoted by the New York Times The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Guardian Time, Newsweek, and numerous other publications. And she’s also had work, writing that’s been published in many of those publications as well. Charlotte, welcome to the show.

Charlotte Clymer  19:35

Yeah, Mr. Secretary, it’s so good to be here. It’s an honor to share space with you again.

Julian Castro  19:40

Hey, thanks so much for joining us. Well, look, I want to do a deep dive into some of these anti LGBTQ bills. But first, can you give listeners just a sense of your background and how you got into activism and advocacy in the first place?

Charlotte Clymer  20:02

That’s a great question. Well, you know, I was raised in Central Texas from a long line of family, you know, in the south, and coming from that kind of conservative environment, I knew very early on that I was transgender, I didn’t know the word transgender, I didn’t know how to describe what I was feeling. But as I got older, and I served in the military and got out went to college, I felt like there was a part of me that kept pushing me to understand more about myself and those around me, and I think so many trans non-binary people are motivated, less by the happiness that’s extended to us and our authenticity, and more by the other depression, that comes with living in the closet and dealing with gender dysphoria. And, you know, as I got more knowledgeable about issues of gender, I kind of intersected with everything else, you know, intersects with racial equality intersects with disability policy and intersects with the way that religious minorities are often treated in the United States. You know, every marginalized community really does cut across gender, gender expression, gender identity, in such a profound way. And it really is the fight of all of us. And that’s how I got here is understanding that all the work that’s been done by civil rights leaders before now, pave the way for trans non-binary people to step forward into the world and be ourselves.

Sawyer Hackett  21:26

So Charlotte, you had a great thread on Twitter a few days ago about these don’t say gay bills that are popping up across the country. You said, quote, don’t say gay don’t say trans bill signed by Governor DeSantis. It’s not about preventing inappropriate school instruction on sex. It’s not about keeping young children from learning about sexual activity in Florida, because that’s not happening anywhere in Florida schools. Can you tell us a little bit about what these bills are about in your mind?

Charlotte Clymer  21:52

Sure. You know, it’s a long bill but the key section specifically uses the phrasing gender identity and sexual orientation that […] through three teachers cannot instruct on gender identity and sexual orientation. Now, for the folks who are listening to this, when you see that phrase, that’s legalese. That’s like a lawyer speak for LGBTQ people. If a bill wasn’t about LGBTQ people, you wouldn’t even use that phrasing because it would be redundant or needless, right? What the GOP in Florida and really across the country are trying to do right now is erase LGBTQ people from the public square wherever they can. And it’s not just trans non-binary people, all of that should be enough. It’s also cisgender gay people. There has been a very concerted effort over the last two weeks especially, and we’re only going to see this get worse as the midterms approach. For Fox News, right wing media and many conservative lawmakers to once again resurrect the most awful propaganda about lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are cisgender. That means they’re not transgender, even them, framing them as pedophiles. This is always what happens to LGBTQ people, we are always driven back to this horrific narrative that paints us as perverted, sexually deviant, predatory, and it comes from a long history of sexual minorities being outcast from society. And meanwhile, you have you know, and let’s be real about this. You have many conservative public figures who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. And there is no accountability. So it seems like a lot of projecting lately from these quarters. And that’s how we’re seeing this legislation passed and a law, the anti-trans sports bills that, you know, take kids like teenagers and tell them, you can’t compete with a sports team, even though this is your family, even though that, you know, this, this team wants you playing with them. That, you know, we think it is unnatural, and unfair, even though we have no proof of that. And so we’re going to isolate you from the rest of your peers. Gender affirming care is a big one in Texas right now. Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton realized that the Texas Legislature would never give him support to do this. So the governor put out an executive order, enabling state agencies to investigate the parents of trans children who provide them with gender affirming care. One quick thing, gender affirming care has been validated and endorsed by every major medical organization and authority throughout the United States. We’re talking about the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, every pediatric group, you know, all these medical organizations have made it abundantly clear that gender affirming care for trans non-binary children and really for everybody who needs it is necessary and lifesaving. And what Governor Greg Abbott is trying to do in Texas is by having no medical degree, despite not having zero support from the medical community is trying to marginalize LGBTQ people and specifically trans non-binary children as a wedge issue leading up to the midterms, that’s all this says it’s just red meat for the base. It’s a way to weaponize the fear and ignorance of trans non-binary children against Democrats.

Julian Castro  25:12

Well, I agree with you there, Charlotte. I mean, you know, it seems like it’s part of the same blueprint, you know, to create a wedge ahead of important elections. And so, you know, I want to spend a second and just ask you about the actual impact of this legislation. If this isn’t the first time Republicans have weaponized, these types of bills against the LGBTQ community, even against LGBTQ youth, talk to you about the actual impact that you think this legislation is going to have on a community that is already marginalized?

Charlotte Clymer  25:49

I’m so glad you asked, sir. This is not a theoretical thing at this point. And I think that a lot of well-meaning folks out in the public square, look at this, and they think that they think it’s about Republicans simply being made, right, saying rude words, or having hate speech? No, no, no, it goes far beyond that. You know, in 14 states, so far, trans children have been banned from competing on sports games, 14 states, most of them in just the past three or four months, in three states, kids have been banned from accessing gender affirming care, with, you know, consultation of a medical provider and their parents, of course, that’s been banned. We have several states that are pursuing bathroom laws now. In fact, I believe it was Alabama this week, who passed into law, a bill banning trans people from bathrooms, I need to go back and look at that. But once they did do that, this week, we’re seeing a resurrection of these tired anti-trans arguments, try to back out seemingly to rile up the Republicans social conservative base. And here’s what’s so strange about this. When you look at the polling, the vast majority of Americans and nearly half of Republicans don’t agree with anti-trans policies, they believe that trans people should be protected from discrimination, and LGBTQ people in general. What happens from all this is that, you know, obviously, we’re going to see a lot of trans people, especially trans kids, their families forced to move away from their communities, because they won’t have the kind of access they need to critical medical care communities that support them. In Texas alone. 10s of 1000s of families, minimum, it’s probably more like 100,000, statistically, but at least 10s of 1000s of families with trans kids are now wondering how they’re going to afford moving to a state where their children are going to be protected. And then finally, and this is very critically important to point out, there is going to be a drastic increase in suicides, and homelessness and assaults, not just to trans non-binary children, but LGBTQ people, generally, we’re going to see that in the next year, new surveys are going to come out about the increase in suicides, and it feels like we’re watching this tidal wave of poor approach us and screaming at the top of our lungs to get leaders to pay attention. And it feels as though there is there’s very little cultural leadership to educate the public on what’s coming. And it’s coming. It’s coming very fast. And it’s scary.

Sawyer Hackett  28:25

So you brought up the polling on this. And you know, obviously, Florida isn’t the only state pursuing this, you know, more than a dozen states have proposed or are pursuing the you know, don’t say gay style legislation. With your Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, over the weekend announced that they’re going to pursue one of these. Clearly, Republicans see this as a winning political issue for them. But the polling tells a completely different story. But how would you and I think you’re one of the best communicators when it comes to these issues and so much more. But how would you advise Democrats who might be afraid of these issues, maybe don’t know how to speak about these issues, to speak out against these bills to what do you think is the most effective message to counter some of this messaging from Republicans?

Charlotte Clymer  29:05

Yeah, sure. I think everyone, or at least the vast majority, people listening and no LGBTQ people in their life, whether they’re family or friends or colleagues, neighbors, these laws, what they seek to do, for example, is in Florida, if you have a lesbian teacher, who has a picture of her wife and her kids on her desk, and a child were to walk up and say, you know, Mrs. Smith, who’s this, oh, that’s my wife and kids. That’s, you know, that’s little Johnny, little Jane, whatever their ages are. That’s illegal in Florida. Now, that’s illegal. That teacher can be fired from their job face punitive action, just for acknowledging that they have a family because that is technically school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. Everyone you know, who is LGBTQ, not just in states that are pursuing these laws, but really throughout the United States are vulnerable right now. We’re seeing this accelerated weaponization of fear and ignorance of our community. And it’s not just trans non-binary people either. It’s everyone who you know, who’s not transgender, but the gay bisexual, lesbian, what have you, they’re vulnerable too. And if we don’t stop this, it’s going to escalate into something that could realistically see Obergefell overturn the next five or six years, that’s the same sex marriage Supreme Court ruling. That’s not off the table. I think a lot of people think that’s settled, it’s not. If they can overturn Roe, if they can overturn labor practices that have been in place for decades, they can overturn Obergefell. And I really want people to prepare for that outcome. Because it is a very real threat at this moment, we really need to wake up and understand what they’re pursuing. They’re not stopping with trans non-binary people. They’re going after all of us.

Sawyer Hackett  30:54

Yeah, they even questioned in the KBJ confirmation hearings. I mean, they brought up Obergefell to ask KBJ whether she would you know, defend it. I mean, it’s wild.

Charlotte Clymer  31:06

It is it is and you know, what’s so interesting, too, is marriage and employment protections are the only two federal civil rights protections that LGBTQ people have. There’s, you know, the Obergefell Supreme Court ruling, which is marriage, and you have the Bostock ruling from a couple years ago that protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination so that an employer can’t fire you for being LGBTQ, which until two years ago was legal in most of the country. It was lawful. But still, in most of the United States, right now. LGBTQ people can be discriminated in housing, credit, public accommodations, jury service, so even assists white gay man who, you know, let’s say people to judge, people to judge Secretary […] wanted to go rent an apartment in Texas. And the landlord said, I don’t want to rent to you because you’re gay. There’s no law against that right now. There are no protections against that. I think most of the country has been lulled into the sense of complacency, that once Obergefell came down, that was the end of the fight, and we can pack up and go home. There’s nothing left to do here. But in reality, we are extremely vulnerable in this moment, and focusing to understand what’s at stake.

Julian Castro  32:40

After initially equivocating, one of Florida’s most prominent companies, Disney eventually came out against the don’t say gay legislation. They’ve also now been the target of attacks of pushback from Republicans there. At the same time, there are a number of other major Florida companies that haven’t said anything. And as state legislatures, from Texas to other red states across the country, take up this type of legislation. Do you think there’s gonna be a pressure campaign on these companies? What kind of effort is there to get them to speak up the way that I remember many of them did speak up in Texas, at least against the bathroom bill? A couple of sessions ago.

Charlotte Clymer  33:26

Yeah, I mean, company is, over the past 10 years have played a critical role in pressuring lawmakers and elected officials to do the right thing. We saw that in Indiana, when Mike Pence went after LGBTQ people we saw in North Carolina when the GOP tried to push HB2 that horrific bathroom bill. And as you said, in Texas, when Greg Abbott trotted out that executive order, a lot of companies came out and said, no, this is this is unacceptable, and you need to resend this immediately. However, I think you’re absolutely right that we have seen a stark attrition and public support for LGBTQ people, among a lot of companies. Netflix, when that horrible anti-trans propaganda comedy special was put out, you know, it was clear from the community that this is bad for us. This is gonna encourage violence and discrimination against us. Netflix didn’t pull it. I think that we are seeing a very real effort by the Republican Party and really the conservative movement in general to rollback all the protections that have been won over the past decade by LGBTQ people. And by extension, everyone who’s not LGBTQ but enjoys these protections against discrimination based on how they look, there are a lot of LGBTQ people. Excuse me, there are a lot of non-LGBTQ people who may be coded as LGBTQ because of how they present or the sound of their voice, the kind of stereotypes that we see so often in pop culture. And because of that they’re discriminated against this these laws, protect them too, it keeps them for being investigated, harassed, fired from their jobs, etc, we need to understand that they’re not going to stop here. They’re going to go after anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their very strict interpretation of a religious bias against marginalized communities. I see that as a Christian, my faith is very important to me. I don’t see any of Christ’s love. And what we’re seeing right now, I think we’re seeing a lot of fear. A lot of, I would say horrific perception of our neighbors, the people we love. And there’s got to be a sense of standing up against that as you did, sir. I mean, you were the first presidential candidate to mention trans rights in a presidential debate during the 2020 primary. That was an enormous moment. I was told lawmakers is that you have two fights here, you have the law piece, getting the regulations in place, passing laws, and that is critically important that has to be done. But just as important as the cultural piece, what President Biden did a couple of weeks ago with the State of the Union, when he you know, said trans non-binary youth, you know, we have your back, that was arguably as important as any law that can be passed, millions of Americans are watching that, and they saw their president say no hatred and discrimination against LGBTQ people, specifically trans non-binary people. It’s unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it. And he has stuck to his word, that cultural leadership that he demonstrated that cultural leadership that you demonstrated in that debate and all throughout your 2020 campaign. That is so important. And I think right now we’re seeing a lot of lawmakers who are ostensibly on our side, not really being leaders in the public square when it comes to that.

Sawyer Hackett  36:43

I would love to dive a little bit deeper into that, because, you know, it seems like on the right, especially the far right, you know, people like Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, they framed a lot of these laws, these political fights around children. You know, in that Ketanji Brown Jackson hearing, they tried to make child pornography, the central focus, you know, with these bills, they’re trying to frame it around LGBTQ grooming. It seems like there’s this entire, like, dog whistle head fake to Qanon. Which is why I think some politicians in the Democratic Party, you know, would rather just ignore these attacks. But how do you think we can push back on these laws with these attacks on the LGBTQ youth, without empowering, without amplifying, you know, these conspiracy theorists that are growing in power I think every single day in the Republican Party.

Charlotte Clymer  37:28

Yeah, no, that’s a great point. Here’s why we pivot away. And, you know, Sawyer is a comms person, you understand this as well as I do. You pivot away from an issue, when you feel that spending too much time on it, or bringing attention to it is going to be harmful in the long run, right? Now, if that were a solid argument here, coming from the people who claim that I might be willing to, you know, talk it out and also understand where they’re coming from. The problem is, is that because Democrats are leaving this vacuum, because they are receding away from this discussion, and not taking the time to educate the public and inform the public on what the Republican Party is so blatantly and openly doing, the Republican Party is all too happy to fill that void. They’re not going to stop, they’re not going to stop at these laws, they’re not going to stop at the outrageous statements they’ve made, they’re going to keep going up and up and up, increasing the volume, increasing the heat, until they can weaponize it to the maximum possible effect before midterms. So here’s my advice to really everyone in the Democratic Party. You can’t ignore this. If you’re ignoring this, because you think it’s going to help you in the midterms, trust me when I say that all it’s going to do is empower them to make it even worse, the propaganda is going to get some more severe, it’s going to get more blatant, it’s going to get more clownish, and it is going to tap into every conceivable bias that they were the American public has been conditioned to have about LGBTQ people. And they’re going to translate that in as many votes as they can. Here’s the flip side, though. If Democrats are willing to push back on this, educate the public, stand strong in our values, I firmly believe this is a fight we can win. Of course it is. Everyone has LGBTQ people in their lives, everyone. But they don’t know what they don’t know. And if they don’t have leaders telling them what’s going on and what we have to do to fight this, preventing from happening. They’re going to go along with whatever the Republicans say, we have to suit up. If we don’t suit up, we’re going to lose, big. Ignoring this is not going to make the problem go away.

Julian Castro  39:32

When Charlotte, you know, there are a lot of folks out there some of them listening to this podcast, that want to do their part to help defeat these laws as they roll into their own state legislatures. I mean, what’s the best way for people who want to support the push back against this anti-trans legislation? Where should they direct their support their donations? What kind of activities can they engage in to push back?

Charlotte Clymer  40:03

That’s a great question. Here’s the easiest thing people can do. Talk about it, talk to their friends and family and neighbors about what’s going on. This is not complicated, I promise. It’s not it seems complicated from the outside if you’re not part of the LGBTQ community, but even reading two or three articles that just give you a basic primer on what’s happening is more than enough to inform on how to talk to people who don’t know a lot about this issue. They need to do what you did, sir, quite frankly, they need to do what you did during the debate, you took the opportunity on a question that wasn’t even about trans rights. By the way, you took that opportunity to give people insight into what’s going on. And millions of people were educated from that overnight, overnight, people thought, Oh, this is something I really should care about. If even 10% of registered Democrats talk to their communities, and let them know, hey, trans non-binary people are not a threat to us. These people trying to make us fear them are the real threat. And we need to have their backs against discrimination, that would take care of so much of the problem. Two more things, register to vote, register, register, register to vote, I know that we have these horrific anti-voting, you know, regulations in place where we’re seeing voting rights attacked on every level, I get that, we still got to try. And if you’re in the position of privilege, especially where you can register to vote, and have that power to make your voice heard, especially on behalf of those who are powerless and can make their voices heard, you need to do it. There is no reason, no conceivable reason for the vast majority of Democratic voters not to register to vote and to exercise that vote. And finally, I would tell them to donate to the organizations on the ground doing the work. The ACLU has the national organization also has the state-based organizations. ACLU of Texas, ACLU Florida, these state organizations are doing incredible work at pursuing these violations in court. And making it clear from a legal standpoint, why these actions are unconstitutional, and go against not only LGBTQ freedoms, but really the freedom of everyone to be who we are, regardless of our gender identity or sexual orientation. Those are the three easiest things that they can do. And if they do these things, I really do believe we can win this fight, but we can’t win it without people doing those things.

Julian Castro  42:20

Charlotte Clymber, advocate, activist, where can folks find you on social media?

Charlotte Clymer  42:27

I’m at @cmclymber on Twitter. And if folks want to follow my writing, they can go to That’s the name of my day. My blog. My blog is Charlotte’s Web Dots. And you can check that out. And I also want to take a quick moment, just to say how cool it is to have a conversation with a progressive Texan who has made such an enormous impact on our country. It’s amazing, isn’t it? I mean, we  both grew up in Texas. And I love our state, I really do. I love our culture. I love our people. And I really wish that folks can understand that there are millions of people in that state who can’t just move away from their communities. We need to stay and fight. We need to fight for what’s right and that state and make it the kind of environment we all want to live in. We can’t just run away from the problem.

Julian Castro  43:13

Absolutely. Thank you so much for joining us, Charlotte, and thank you for fighting the good fight.

Charlotte Clymer  43:19

Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And Sawyer, thank you.

Sawyer Hackett  43:22

Thanks, Charlotte.

Julian Castro  43:23

Thanks so much for joining us on this episode of our America. Leave us a voicemail sharing the stories you care about the most right now at 833-453-6662. And don’t forget to subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts.

Julian Castro  43:58

OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.

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