PBS’s Amanpour: Pro-Life Autocrats Here and Abroad and the ‘Anti-Trans Hate Machine’

Thursday’s edition of Amanpour & Co., which appears on PBS, went wild in defense of radical transgenderism, comparing American anti-trans bills to truly insidious legislation in dictatorships.

Host Christiane Amanpour set the table with an ignorant international comparison of supposed female/LGBTQ repression:

Martin, who will become host of NPR’s flagship show Morning Edition on Monday, asked Jones about bills that “identified or described as anti-LGBTQ laws…introduced in state legislatures across the U.S.”

Jones laid out the grand “far right” conspiracy against transgenders, while sneakily boosting the numbers of actual transgenders in America (a UCLA study finds 0.5 percent of the population to be transgender, three times less than the 1.5 percent Jones slips in, calling it “a tiny group of people”).

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Jones bragged that her band of “investigative journalists” uncovered the “anti-trans hate machine.”

The ideological rhetoric got worse as abortion was added into the political mix. Conservatives were smeared as being motivated not to protect innocent life, but by gaining “control” of other people’s bodies.

Jones smeared groups like Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, as if it was a conspiracy for social conservative groups to push social conservative policy.

The soddenly sympathetic Martin joined Amanpour in equating the United States with autocracies.

Never mind that until the Dobbs decision, most countries on earth had stricter abortion rules than did the United States, including (gasp!) France.

A transcript is below, click “Expand” to read:

Amanpour & Co.


1:47 am ET

AMANPOUR: And the insidious chipping away human rights is happening all across the world with women, minorities, and the LGBTQ particularly vulnerable. In a moment, we will look at the crackdown on women’s rights in Afghanistan. But first, to Uganda where parliament has applauded the passage of a bill making it illegal to identify as LGBTQ. And in the United States where the Georgia legislature has just passed the latest in this string of anti-trans bills. Our on next guest says this is no coincidence. Imara Jones is founder of TransLash Media, an independent new site focusing on transgender issues. She joins Michel Martin to breakdown what’s behind the onslaught of this anti-LGBTQ laws across America and around the world.

MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Christiane. Imara Jones, thanks so much for talking with us.


MARTIN: The specific thing we wanted to start with today is that in 2023 alone, this is according to the ACLU, more than 426 bills that have been identified or described as anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. And this is a market contrast from a few years ago when this was not a small number, but in 2019, there were some 60 some bills. This is, of course, also according to the ACLU. So, first of all, I wanted to ask you, what are the scope of these bills? What are some of the things that these bills would do?

JONES: In terms of the scope of these bills, I think what we have to understand is that the scope is increasing and becoming ever more aggressive. So, we started out essentially in the time period that you laid out with the anti-trans sports bills and the anti-trans bills that would people equal access to medical care for trans youth, what people called Gender-Affirming Care. And that kind of was where the universe of things started. And what we’ve witnessed over the past year is a far more aggressive and wide-reaching range of bills. That include, I’m mandating the use of certain pronouns that are on your birth certificates, that would ban drag performances, and in some cases would make it illegal for trans people to walk down the street and the clothing of their gender identity by extension. And increasingly, a ban on the medical care for all tran people, including adults. And now, most recently in Florida, a bill that would legalize family separation in the cases of parents who accept their trans children. So, what we see is a dramatic increase in the aggressiveness and a range of these bills.
MARTIN: How do you understand this? I mean, the fact of the matter is that people often introduce, you know, attention getting bills into state legislatures and the vast majority of them, you know, never see the light of day. You know, people want the headline, but they don’t necessarily

fight for the result. But given the sort of the dramatic increase in the number of bills, the types of bills, the kinds of things that they address, how do you understand this? How do you see this movement?
JONES: Well, I think that the thing to understand about this conversation is that we did get here by accident. The fact is that trans people are only 1.5 percent of the population. A tiny group of people. But have found our way into the center of the debate in American political life in this moment. And that’s makes roughly decade-long plan executed by the far-right and the Christian Nationalist Movement to bring us to the point of this conversation. You know, you don’t go from a handful of bills in 2019 to hundreds of bills in two years without there being a pretty wide range in infrastructure that includes nonprofit organizations, thinks tanks, political groups, religious organizations, billionaires funding it and a religious ideology motivating it. And so, I think that what we have to understand is that we’ve gotten here not by accident, but by design.
MARTIN: And here you are drawing a lot of the work that you’ve been doing over the last couple of years as the creator of TransLash Media, which is a nonprofit news organization. As you put it on your website, it produces content to shift the current culture of hostility towards transgender people in the U.S. Talk a little bit more about how you started reporting on what you see as this movement and what are some of the sort of the pillars of it.
JONES: When I saw in 2020, the second of these bills in Alabama. The first one I noticed was in Idoho, my ears picked up. And that’s because, you know, I have enough experience to know that when you see the same type of thing appear in a totally different part of the country with a totally different set of actors, that made point to the fact that that’s not just a coincidence, right? I think as the line from “The Majorettes” goes, I believe in coincidence, I just don’t trust in coincidence. And so, I put together a team or investigative journalist and we just started digging and just started asking the questions about, well, who are the people behind these and where are they? And I not only do we come up with links, you know, of similarities, but then, we basically uncovered what we could only describe as the anti-trans hate machine.
That’s why we labelled the investigative series that, because there is an interlocking group of organizations and systems that are driving these bills. They are in conversation with each other, they are in coordination of each other. They are testing these bills, parts of their universe. Have focused grouped this issue. That’s actually one of the ways that they landed on trans youth was because of a series of focus groups in 2018. So, I think that what we have to understand again is that vastness of the intent here to drive the conversation about trans people along specific parameters into public life. There’s nothing organic about this conversation.

MARTIN: You also have written about the relationship between laws targeting trans people at the medical care that they can receive the institutions or, you know, places, public places that they can use or be seen. You also draw a connection to anti-abortion laws or laws that would restrict abortion rights that are also very much a part of the political moment. What’s the relationship there that you see?

JONES: Well, it’s the same groups. You know, it’s the lines, defending freedom, it’s the Heritage Foundation, it’s the Family Research Council and focus on the family, sort of these main stains of the rightly movement that have decided to put a lot of their weight behind these issues. And for them, you know, control over bodies, people’s ability to control their bodies is really about control over society. And it is because – and we know we’re really uncomfortable talking about this in mainstream media or in journalism in general, but it’s motivated by a very specific religious ideology and a religious essentialism that they believe has to animate public life in America. And a part of that is anything that is the exclusion of anything that is not biblically sanctioned for them, anything outside of the gender binary and anything outside of patriarchy, which for them is defined by God is actually a deep problem for the American body politic that they want to rectify. And so, it’s the exact same groups that are driving, and I have been driving the anti-abortion movement that are driving the anti-trans movement. And that is because unlike progressives or so-called progressives or even liberals who see these issues at separate, they very much understand the way that they link around the issue of bodily autonomy and it’s why they are pushing so on them. And it’s one of the reasons why we’re sinking the migration of anti-abortion tactics into anti-trans tactics such as, you know, targeting doctors, being outside of gender affirming clinics, you know, shouting at people as they go in. All of those things have started to migrate from the anti-abortion moving into the anti-trans movement because of these links.

MARTIN: You know, the other thing — interesting thing that you’ve pointed out, which I’m not sure whether journalists have kind of made this connection, some have, is that there really is along the rise of this movement against abortion rights has also been the rise of autocratic movements around the world. And many of them are deeply concerned with gender norms, with access to abortion. For example, like in Poland, for example, the push to sort of more autocratic means of government has also coincided with a push toward restricting abortion. And this — we’ve seen this in lots of places around the world. What is your theory of the case here? Why does this seem to be the concern of autocrats?
JONES: Yes, it’s really interesting. I had a long conversation recently with Masha Gessen about this and about Russia.
MARTIN: Masha Gessen, being the well-known writer, a “New Yorker” writer, and obviously a frequent guest on this program as well. And obviously, a very acute chronicler of all things written in Russia, politics and Eastern Europe more broadly, just — you were saying?
JONES: That’s right. You can almost look at the rise of authoritarianism within Putin’s regime, specifically, you know, as you’re moving from the last second to the third term with these increasing directives focus on gender and gender identity. Again, linking these two issues. And I think that there are a couple of things, right? I think one, it’s about emphasizing the muscularity of state, right? The power of the state, the need for the power of the state. The second thing that it does, is that it allows authoritarians to actually begin to road test how far they can go in their push towards authoritarians, what laws are they going to be able to do when executive actions, how aggressive can the police be and the judiciary? It allows them to be able to experiment with kind of the cocktail that they’ll use within their authoritarian regimes. The third thing that it does is that it creates then also amongst people a legitimacy for state action that is muscular and punitive. And what do I mean by that? By turning on a group of people that you can easily stigmatize, isolate and demonized you create a rationale for why this muscular state is necessary, right? Because you need to be protected from these people that you fear and that are a threat to everything that you hold dear. And I think those are some of the three essential ingredients as to why we can chart the rise of authoritarianism with a focus on gender and gender identity and their intersection. And it’s one of the reasons why alarm bells, I think, ringing here in America just now.
MARTIN: You know, the other thing that’s curious though is that right now there are transwomen like Laverne Cox and Mikaela Jae Rodriguez and Janet Mock who become huge stars on just well received, critically acclaimed, you know, programs and, you know, directing, producing, acting, you know, winning a lot of accolades for their work. And I was just wondering, how do you kind of reconcile or how do you see this? On the one hand, you see this kind of rise and pop culture, real success in pop culture, real influence in pop culture appreciation. And then, this sort of countervailing movement in the political world.
JONES: Yes. I mean, it’s one of the reasons why actually TransLash stands for transgender backlash. And for me, it was about wrestling with these two things that we’re seeing play out before us in real-time, the phenomenon that we’ve been wrestling with, the rise of the focus and peered (ph) nature of gender identity in this country. And what you say, just that tremendous power and brilliance of trans people, black trans women in

particular shining through in some really powerful ways. So, I think that one we just have to live and understand that that contradiction and to understand that both are true at the same time. And I think it’s because there’s actually a real debate. There’s a real contest between these two visions of where trans people belong in society. And we actually don’t know how that’s going to play out. It’s an open question which of these two visions is going to succeed. I think the third thing that I would point to you, Michel, what can happen in entertain is kind of a preview of what can happen in the rest of society. But it’s not a foregone conclusion. So, I think, for instance, about Sidney Poitier and his groundbreaking rules in the 1960 at a time of segregation even, you know, before we’ve made tremendous amount of progress found later in the 60s, right? The rise of his stardom, the rise of so many others at that time. Lena Horne, that sort of previewed where society was going. But there was a lot of trivial events that was to follow, a lot of violence that was to follow, and a lot of things where there was discontinued contention about the role of black people in the country that we still haven’t answered. I mean, black people still are able to dominate in areas like sports and entertainment, for example, increasingly in entertainment. But still, that breakthrough is mirrored by the rest of society. So, I think we have to learn to live with these contradictions at — during this moment.

MARTIN: Can I ask you a personal question?

JONES: Please.

MARTIN: How — has the way you’ve started to move through the world changed in recent — I don’t know what time frame you’d pick. Just — you — when you — there’s this broader context of legal hostility, at least, sort of attempts at creating legal frameworks that would restrict where you can go to school or way or how you can move through the world. How you can — what you can do, what you can play, you know, what sports you can play. Has that changed your life in a way that you feel comfortable talking about?
JONES: Yes — I mean, I would say a couple of things. I think, you know, on the one hand, one of the things I do because I talk to trans people or trans parents all the cross the country is that, you know, increasingly there are political refugees inside the United States. That is to say thatthere are families and individuals that are fleeing the states and this country because they believe that they — that — they believe that they are going to be and they have started to be persecuted for being who they are or being loving parents. And that’s very reveal. And for me, the impact, personally, is two-fold. One, I’d think twice about what state I’m going go to. Not because I can generally navigate society just trying. But if someone recognizes me from doing this program or other things, and you know, I’m in the bathroom in a state or something that has passed laws, I could be real jeopardy. And so, I do think twice about where I’m going to go and how I’m going to spend my time in this country. The second thing that I would say is that it is not — I live in New York. But — and people would go, oh, well, it’s fine there. But just this weekend, outside the LGBTQ center here, there was a Proud Boys protest. And they have to be — the Proud Boys had — were there and demonstrating. And it got — contention sets at moments. We had increasing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers protest at various public libraries and events here. So, even in a place like New York, this growing rhetoric and focus on as this demonization (ph) which is giving people license to target us and these more aggressive and violent ways has even impacted me and the city where I live.

MARTIN: And so — and let me wheel it around now and put you on the spot, is there any part of you that feel some sympathy for people who just don’t understand this and feel that this is contrary to the world as they understood it? You know, they were taught a binary, there are men, there are women. They don’t know any trans people. And that it kind of upsets their concept of the way the world should be and they don’t know what to do with that.
JONES: I think that what makes me really upset is that the natural confusion or misunderstanding that people have is being manipulated and weaponized by a group of people who wish to do us harm. I don’t think that there is a chance, per se, in existence who minds a conversation about

well, what is this then? How did it come to be in? How did you become to be? And I don’t understand. I don’t understand is the gateway to understanding it. So, I don’t think that that’s, you know, that that’s the issue. I think the problem is that natural curiosity and misunderstanding is being weaponized by this wider group of people that I spoke about. Who have malintent. And that’s the thing that I think is so dangerous about this moment and that’s the thing that’s so enraging. And I think that once people get to know us, they generally accept this. I mean that’s the reality. And because I know that in our story of becoming ourselves is something that all human beings recognize, this desire and need to fulfill who we are and who we always known that we are.
MARTIN: Imara Jones, thank you so much for talking with us.
JONES: Thank you so much.

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