Brynn Tannehill has worn many hats in her distinguished professional life. The first of those was a crash helmet as a United States Navy aviator. She’s also defense analyst, an academic, and a prominent voice for trans rights. In 2015, she penned an article for Outsports calling for the NFL to pull the Super Bowl out of Houston after the defeat of an equal rights ordinance at the ballot box.
But these days, Tannehill is taking on the political turbulence of recent years, focusing on how it’s affected transgender Americans. Both themes were inspiration for her upcoming book, American Fascism: How The GOP Is Subverting Democracy.
In an appearance on The Trans Sporter Room podcast this week, Tannehill laid out an analytical, no-nonsense case on what is happening in the body politic as we move through the post-Trump era, and why its happening.
“Since the end of the Cold War we have seen a new type of autocratic regime arise called the competitive autocracy where only one party can win,” she said. “There are still elections, and they kind of feel like real elections, but they really don’t matter because you know which party is gonna win regardless,” she said.
“We’re not just seeing this in places like Hungary, Poland, Russia and Turkey, but places like Wisconsin and North Carolina where voter suppression and gerrymandering ensure that Republicans are always winning despite the way people actually voted.”
Using a combination of historical analysis about the growth of fascism and our current political scene, Tannehill shows how this competitive autocracy works in the contemporary American political and social context. The recent wave of anti-trans legislation in 20 states, including bills targeting transgender student-athletes and criminalizing affirming health care for transgender youth, provides a textbook example.
She took pointed exception to current debate over transgender inclusion in sports. “This is probably the most overblown thing since the trans bathroom debate,” Tannehill said. “We have precisely two trans athletes in the past decade who were top level in the United States. What have millions of high school athlete and we can only identify two trans athletes? We cannot find any instance of a trans person taking away scholarship opportunities from a cisgender person ever. This is basically a made up issue meant to get people angry enough to make bad things happen.”
Tannehill also discussed what is part of her “calling card” in the social media realm: her clinical approach to looking at issues that some may interpret as “gloom and doom”. Such interpretations have often proven accurate, but Tannehill notes that some of her outlook is influenced by moments where she thinks she underestimated how difficult the present situation is.
She notes the indifference to the COVID pandemic crisis on the political right as an example where she was off the mark.
“There are times when I underestimate the capacity for human stupidity and such was the case a little more than a year ago,” she said. “I knew that we would not do well handling the pandemic as a country, and I thought it would be due to infrastructure, poor leadership, lack of coordination, or a bad health care system. I totally did not get how far down the rabbit hole conservatives had gone. They would basically lick a subway pole just to prove liberals wrong and show that COVID wasn’t a thing.”
Listen the full interview where Brynn Tannehill breaks down the breakdown of our political process in The Trans Sporter Room. Like all Outsports podcasts, The Trans Sporter Room is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you find Outsports podcasts.