The latest transphobic comment to come out of a Republican’s mouth? Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida made a mockery of H.R. 5 (known as the Equality Act) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday night by hypothesizing about whether or not the measure would allow Trump to call himself the “first female president.”
The Equality Act aims to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in areas where the community is still particularly vulnerable, such as employment, housing, and use of public spaces. (No, marriage equality didn’t cover all of those things.)
Gaetz, of course, made a vague proclamation that he “will not denigrate or deny their existence or their struggles” before proceeding to disrespect the trans population. The representative from Florida seems to think he gets points for simply conceding that transgender people do, in fact, exist. But then he has no problem spreading dangerous misinformation and stereotypes.
“What happens when sex is defined as gender identity, and gender identity is terribly vague?” Gaetz asked at the hearing on Tuesday night. “Will all sex-based distinctions be erased? … Would grants for female-led businesses or programs for women in STEM fields suddenly be open to all persons, whether they believe or not that they identify as a woman?”
Ah, yes. Pretending to care about women in the name of renouncing the rights of trans people … many of whom are women, too. Anyone else recognize this rhetoric from the bathroom debate? Exhausting.
“Consider this possibility: If President Trump were to say, ‘I am now the first female president,’ who would celebrate that?” Gaetz suggested at the hearing. “Would those who support the legislation think that’s a good thing or would they be dismayed? Bad actors have already weaponized some ostensible equality laws for their own benefit.”
Gaetz’s argument is disrespectful and offensive for a number of obvious reasons. Perhaps what is most dangerous, however, is that it plays on an old stereotype that trans people “choose” their gender identity as a means of manipulation, getting ahead, or being otherwise deceptive.
While there’s no saying whether or not Trump would call himself the “first female president” as a joke, that’s a far cry from someone actually identifying as a trans woman, trans man, or non-binary person. Gaetz makes a mockery of the real violence the trans community faces in a way that is, frankly, unforgivable (albeit not surprising).
Here’s a clip from the hearing:
In a statement, Gaetz’s press secretary, Luke Ball, attempted to do some damage control. His angle? Blame the “poor language” used in the bill. “Congressman Gaetz stated in his remarks today that no one should face discrimination based on their sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” Ball said. One thing is obvious: The person using “poor language” here is Gaetz.