Conservatives celebrated the news from Oklahoma last month that the legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill to stop funding for transgender surgeries on kids under 16. Tweet after tweet and article after article hailed this move as a shining example of red state culture war virtue.
My original investigation broke the story, and The Washington Post story about the Oklahoma bill featured my role, so many expected me to celebrate. But I’m not celebrating because the legislature’s bill was a façade.
The Oklahoma Republicans used the naivete of conservative media to create a narrative of victory when, in fact, this was token legislation that distracts from the party’s shameful compromise with the transgender industrial complex.
When I refused to join the premature merriment, I heard nothing but complaints from conservative influencers and thought leaders. “You don’t want a Democrat as governor, do you?” “We are moving in the right direction.” “Just take the win.”
Prioritizing optics over policy has become a serious problem on the right. If we’re serious about protecting kids from this madness, we can’t give our leaders accolades for legislation that accomplishes next to nothing.
Here are the facts: Republicans have prevented Oklahoma University Children’s Hospital from using American Rescue Plan funds, which they were slated to receive, for gender-bending procedures. But there is no enforcement or oversight within the OU hospital, and the legislature will be out of session when OU begins using the budgeted funds. Oklahoma could even have a different governor at that point.
If the money is allocated to the hospital, it will be used to build a physical infrastructure — beds, staff, equipment — that can then be used for transgender surgeries later. Right now, they will call the line item “mental health facilities for children in crisis.” After the legislative tides change, they will use it as they see fit. The hospital staff are full-throated supporters of this ideology. Why are we rewarding them with our tax dollars?
Thanks to the Republicans’ failure, now $39 million in taxpayer funds will go to OU Children’s Hospital to add a 70-bed “mental health crisis” expansion for children who have undergone the very procedures the Republican’s bill claims to prohibit. Oklahoma lawmakers and Gov. Stitt know for a fact that many of these surgeries and hormone infusions will just move across the street to private surgeons to provide the procedures and chemicals, which are now prohibited for only OU Health. Then, these medically abused children will return to OU Children’s Hospital to receive “mental health care” to guide them in their state-sanctioned underage transition.
Instead of immediately calling a special session to outlaw physicians from prescribing wrong-sex hormones and puberty blockers, and performing mastectomies and hysterectomies on children under the age of 18, or even passing a provision that would follow Florida in blocking Medicaid coverage for such procedures, Stitt and Oklahoma’s Republican super-majority decided to conflate details of the issue in the minds of the public in order to cash a federal ARPA check.
Conservatives around the country must be on their guard against token victories such as these. They often cover up Republican cowardice.
In light of the string of stories such as Matt Walsh’s expose on Vanderbilt University, Oklahoma had a chance to set an example for the rest of the country on how to protect children from these lucrative and destructive medical practices. Instead, Oklahoma Republicans decided to protect their federal payday and did so at the expense of the health and safety of Oklahoma children.
What’s worse, Oklahoma Republicans and many conservative influencers actively set a false victory narrative that makes it much less likely that any real and meaningful safeguards will be enacted in the future. When the grassroots are fooled by the leaders and information handlers, it emboldens fake conservatives who obstruct real victories with fake ones.