A fledgling politician, 27-year-old Michigan Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) has a precocious grasp of social conservatism's #1 rule.
All is fair in the war. Politics is war.
Entering his sophomore year as a Michigan congressman, Scott, a rising star within the state Republican Party has grown up fast by GOP standards. He'll be seeking its nomination for Secretary of State, largely on the merit of a statewide, public smoking ban he helped legislate.
Ironically, Scott resorts to a smoke screen to launch his nomination bid. And where there's smoke there's fire.
In the official announcement letter of his candidacy for Michigan Secretary of State last week, Scott said he'll work to change several Michigan social policies including one that hits home in the LGBT community.
I'll make it a priority to ensure transgender individuals will not be allowed to change the sex on their driver's license in any circumstance.
If I didn't know better I might be led to believe the trans-community threatens to overrun the I-94 corridor of the Great Lake state. Of course, Scott's transphobic intent is no joke. He's serious about taking back a policy change enacted by the current Secretary of State five years ago.
In a letter to Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land in February of 2005 Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project argued against the discriminatory nature of the longstanding policy which permitted gender marker change to the driver's license only after gender reassignment surgery.
In addressing the driver's license/state ID issue with the Secretary of State Kaplan wrote:
The current policy excludes a majority of the transgender community who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and are under treatment of medical professionals. Most transgender persons cannot afford sexual reassignment surgery, nor have health insurance that will pay for such surgery.
The Secretary of State agreed with Kaplan. On April 1, 2005, the policy was amended in Michigan to allow gender marker revisions to the driver's license if accompanied by a supporting letter from a gender therapist.
So here we are today, five years later, confronted with a reverse case of déjà vu. Whoever said fair is fair obviously wasn't an LGBT American.
I'm not sure what's worse. Scott's hostile campaign rhetoric, an intolerant attack on an already disenfranchised minority or his supreme ignorance regarding gender identity issues facing transgender Michiganders.
It's easy to kick someone while they're down.
An excerpt from Scott's interview with the Michigan Messenger reveals the man behind the words.
"It's a social values issue. If you are born a male, you should be known as a male. Same as with a female, she should be known as a female."
When asked to explain how such a mandate from the Secretary of State would benefit Michigan, he said it was about "preventing people who are males genetically from dressing as a woman and going into female bathrooms."
He said his mandate would be in place even for those who had completely undergone sex reassignment surgeries.
"That's who you are. You can have cosmetic surgery or reassignment surgery but you are still that gender," he said.
Playing the bathroom card is nothing new. It's time-tested, social conservative fear-mongering. However, Scott also demonstrates confusion discerning between gender, a state of the mind, and sex, a manifestation of biology expressed in physical characteristics. Not so good when you're representing or misrepresenting constituents.
But why let semantics get in the way when might is right, right?
And so Scott aims to abolish Michigan's small, but hard-fought gain in transgender equality under the rhetorical guise of a return to "social values." Law & order the old-fashioned way: discriminatory policy against outliers of the hetero-normative mainstream.
Diversionary tactics are often the politics of choice in conservative election campaigning. Representative Scott's campaign "denouncement" is another example of politics gone awry, a putrid smoke screen designed to obscure the real issues of Michigan. Like an unemployment rate that leads the nation at 14%, an ignoble distinction the Great Lake State has held 25 of the past 26 months.
The agenda of social conservatism continues to plumb new lows. No wonder one of its self-proclaimed young stars is calling on a tried and true formula--fear mongering--to polarize a non-issue into a rallying cry to carry his fundamentally flawed campaign.
Denying equality of an oppressed minority is far easier than advocating substantive reform that will impact an unsettled majority--those everyday citizens besieged by the woeful Michigan economy.
Smoke and mirrors tactics like fabrication of the driver's license gender marker issue deflect the truth. They often obfuscate the true intention of legitimate reform. Distortion and denial remain twisted, but vital strategies of the conservative movement: Deny health care reform. Deny marriage equality. And now in Michigan, deny the existence of the transgender community.
Who ever said the air in Michigan was clearing?