On a Sunday, two weeks after President Trump was sworn into office, a 20-year-old girl in Michigan took her own life. Maria Voorhees struggled financially, was autistic and a transgender lesbian. Since the day she left this world, the day-to-day reality for people like her has only grown darker.
For a lot of Americans, the Trump administration brings times of uncertainty. Of a lack of safety. The internment of immigrant children is still fresh in people’s minds, but it is only the tip of a very, very sharp spear.
Transgender people, especially women like Voorhees, face a lot of dangers. Nearly half of all transgender youth surveyed in 2014 attempted to take their own lives. Many come from homophobic or transphobic families. One family in Ohio told their child to kill himself for being transgender.
Ohio has now proposed legislation would make it a felony for a teacher or caseworker to assist a transgender youth and compel those professionals to disclosed any suspicions of gender nonconforming behavior to parents. And even if parents are supportive and are backed by doctors, conservative judges in Ohio can reject the right of a transgender person to change their name solely based on their gender identity.
Culture is not at a place where queer people can feel safe. That transwomen were at all welcomed in the women’s marches this year was noteworthy. And conservative transphobia takes its cures from the top: A president who wants transgender people out of the armed forces. While the courts have been stopping him, he’s been shaping the courts.
And now he’s going to shape the next generation of United States Supreme Court decisions.
That creates the pressing question: What can stop him?
Republicans have so far shown a profound willingness to allow Trump to create an autocracy. Trump’s primary qualification for hiring and appointing people to offices of government is their loyalty to him above all else. With these things taken together it can be assumed that the only real thing that a Supreme Court nominee needs is unflinching loyalty to Donald Trump.
And without Kennedy, who had built a legacy as the court’s defender of LBGT rights and reproductive rights, a new court will easily demolish those landmark rulings. More than that, though, a new court wouldn’t find it hard to support Trump’s transgender military service ban or Ohio’s compulsory outing of suspected transgender youth.
And while there’s cause to be optimistic about chances to place breaks on presidential power in Congress, those ought to be taken with more salt than the media often offers. It is possible, if difficult, to flip the House, but the Senate is another story. And no matter what happens in November, the Court will already be dyed deep red.
At that point, very little is left that can actually check this President’s power besides the infighting among Republicans that slowed him this year. But even then, Kennedy is an important portent. Kennedy is, after all, the latest in a long, long line of conservatives critical of Trump that are retiring this term. This further weakens the check on Trump from his own party and cements the one-party rule of America.
As for 2020?
Trump has already laid groundwork for disputing the legitimacy of an election he doesn’t like with regularly debunked claims of voter fraud, and the Supreme Court long ago laid the groundwork for deciding disputed elections.
So, again, what is left to stop Trump?
Almost a third of Americans think a new civil war is coming. Some voices on the periphery think it’s already here. But when Donald Trump has the Congress, the Courts and the 82nd Airborne, there’s no serious threat from the citizens to his power either.
The answer might be nothing can stop him.
Fear is the normal reaction to this. Women and queer advocates are expressing terror for what will come next. What happens when the first step going forward is the curtailing of essential rights? That alone paints a horrifying picture of what America will be like in two more years. Or three. Or ten.
And those groups are just the beginning. Without concern for the swing vote, what is in store for fair housing? Campaign finance? Protections for the poor? Voting rights? Human rights? We did, after all, leave the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.
We’re already long past “first they came for.”
And with five journalists shot amid a time of constant threats and violent rhetoric toward the press, how long can media that the president decries as fake operate safely? How long can you be shown pictures from inside internment camps, see administration officials challenged or see the horrible effects of cruel disinterest in impoverished communities?
Maybe all we can do is ease the suffering of those under threat by the nascent autocracy that is the Trump Administration. And we can start with a transgender girl who died two weeks in to our collective nightmare. We need to go forward with kindness and tenderness and love for this administration’s victims, because sooner or later they’ll be coming for you, too.
Voorhees’ family is raising money for a scholarship in her memory. That’s as good a place to start as any.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.