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Tennessee Mothers Discuss Raising LGBT Kids in a State Set to 'Legalize Hate'
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49266"><span class="small">Khushbu Shah, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Tuesday, 28 May 2019 08:41

Shah writes: "In recent months, Republican lawmakers introduced six anti-LGBT bills, dubbed by the campaigning group Tennessee Equality Project as a Slate of Hate."

A rally for LGBT rights. (photo: Jon Shapley/Corbis)
A rally for LGBT rights. (photo: Jon Shapley/Corbis)


Tennessee Mothers Discuss Raising LGBT Kids in a State Set to 'Legalize Hate'

By Khushbu Shah, Guardian UK

28 May 19


Republican lawmakers have introduced six anti-LGBT bills, which the Tennessee Equality Project has dubbed the Slate of Hate

fter a round at the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays, the moms gather in a booth at the back of the restaurant in Clarksville, northern Tennessee.

Dawn Moore had a horrible day because another mother confronted her for speaking to her child during a practice session for the local soccer club. Andrea Kulp tells a story about her youngest son and husband flipping – and losing – their canoe on a recent day out fishing.

Laura, who only wants to be identified by a pseudonym, pipes in with an anecdote about the town’s leadership.

“The Clarksville mayor is LGBT friendly,” she informs her audience of three. Eyes light up around the table. Everyone leans in over their salads.

In the town near the Tennessee-Kentucky state line, they have all had to navigate or are navigating raising LGBT children in a state where, in recent months, Republican lawmakers introduced six anti-LGBT bills, dubbed by the campaigning group Tennessee Equality Project as a Slate of Hate.

They range from: the protection of private adoption agencies allowed to reject an adoption based on religious views; to a law that advocates say would allow businesses to discriminate against people based on religious views without repercussions; and an “indecent exposure” bill that limits used of public changing spaces and restrooms to single sex. This last bill, though not explicitly stated, would directly affect transgender individuals because Tennessee is one of a handful of states that does not allow people to change the gender on their birth certificate.

After outrage from the likes of the singer Taylor Swift, who donated $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project, other prominent voices have protested against the plans. Businesses, including Amazon and Lyft, signed a letter condemning the bills, signaling potential financial repercussions for the state.

The Tennessee Titans, the local NFL team, issued a statement in opposition to discrimination and the economic ramifications of such bills, saying: “Discriminatory legislation hurts all of us.”

None of these proposed bills are new to LGBT advocates and the lawmakers putting them forward. In fact, a number of states have seen similar laws, pushed by Christian groups, pass through their state legislatures. The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) has put together talking points and “model bills” for lawmakers to replicate at the state level. Along with those coordinated efforts across state legislatures, a number of Christian groups have put together a 100-plus page handbook, Project Blitz, with chapters such as Religious Liberty Protection Legislation – Public Policy Resolutions and Legislation Regarding Our Country’s Religious Heritage.

The Guardian reported last year that, in 2017 and 2018, more than 75 bills had been brought forward across the United States that appear to be modeled on the objectives of the organization and some of its sample bills.

For now, most of the Tennessee bills have been tabled until the 2020 legislative session that resumes in January.

But that has not eased the fears of those targeted.

Julia Tate-Keith is an adoption attorney in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In her dining room, doubling as her home office, she sits across from Ernie Ratliff, who has four adopted children with his husband George.

Ratliff worries about the proposed legislation targeting adoption, even though the current spate of bills have been shelved for the rest of the year. He says, hundreds of children are in the care of the state of Tennessee and there aren’t enough guardians to go around as it is, without discriminating against LGBT couples, Ratliff says.

If something like the Tennessee adoption law passed, he worried, what would happen to the children who asked to be specifically placed with LGBT parents because they identified as such? “My belief, which is not everybody’s belief, is it’s a kid. Who cares? Take ’em?” he said.

Ratliff and his husband began adopting children in 2009 and fostering children, as well. In the past decade, they have adopted and fostered more than 40 children.

“Hatred is a big part of [why they’re trying to pass these laws],” he surmised.

Back in Clarksville, Laura navigates healthcare and insurance through her city job for her transgender son, She says the sense of hate has shocked her, as well. She’s had to go to human resources a number of times to negotiate health insurance benefits as her transgender son’s needs change.

Worried about the reactions, Laura has yet to tell any of her colleagues she has a transgender child, which is why she asked the Guardian to refer to her only by her first name.

She had asked a local doctor, who had never had a transgender patient, to take on her 17-year-old. “My youngest child is transgender,” she said, relaying what she told the doctor that day, “and I started to cry because I don’t say it very often.”

She was pleased, though, because the doctor’s interactions with her son made it clear he had done his research before meeting the teen.

The other mothers can relate.

Moore just sent her youngest teen daughter, to an eighth-grade dance after she came out. Proudly, she pulls up a picture of her daughter. “She wasn’t nervous at all,” she said. Surprisingly, Moore’s two brothers, both Baptists, liked the picture she had posted of her daughter on Facebook, dressed in a black suit and a rainbow bow tie.

Another mom asked to remain anonymous because her own transgender son is looking for a job after college graduation. He transitioned, the 60-year-old mother of three says, during college and only told her during his sophomore year. For nearly six months after she found out, she was upset.

But soon after, she started advocating on her son’s behalf. Now, she proudly said, he sometimes says to her, “Mom, I think you might be more gay than me.”

She calls her representatives regularly, though they have yet to address any of her concerns about the bills. “But they don’t care about me and my kid,” she added. So she took it upon herself to create this support group, a place where mothers can meet monthly to talk about their own lives, and not the bills.

Kulp relays the latest about her son Brandon, who has moved to Ohio with a Japanese boyfriend he met while studying abroad. On the last visit, the couple slept in the same room as his parents. “Who doesn’t love sleeping in the same room as their parents?” she asks. As everyone laughs, Laura answers a question about if and how she speaks to her son about his transition and the looming laws in his home state.

No, she says. “I don’t want the world to feel hostile for him.”

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+2 # margpark 2019-05-28 13:54
I think this is a Republican phenomena. Can anyone tell me of a Democratic led state that is passing laws against LGBT people. I think it is the same for the anti-abortion states. All Republican or are them some Democratic led states that are passing anti-abortion laws? If it is all Republican states it is because the entire Republican party has been taken over by far right and white evangelicals who seem to take all their rules for life from the Old Testament.
 
 
0 # lfeuille 2019-05-28 17:33
The best thing to do right now would be to get the hell out of Tennessee at least until this blows itself out.