As Donald Trump’s reelection hopes continue to sink, some Republicans are pushing for him to take up the mantle of their culture war against trans people as a winning strategy—and this time, focusing the laser beams of their bigotry on trans kids, whose lives the Trump administration has already tried very hard to ruin.
A prime example is Terry Schilling, the incredibly homophobic and transphobic CPAC board member and executive director of the American Principles Project, a conservative religious think tank that, as its website states, believe in “the union of one man and one woman as the definition of marriage” and the “recognition of the reality of human beings as divided into two distinct and complementary biological sexes.” Schilling made a bit of a splash in 2019 when the American Principles Project ran a series of transphobic ads and sent texts to voters targeting then-Kentucky gubernatorial candidate (and now governor) Andy Beshear, that warned darkly that Beshear “wants boys to compete against girls in girls’ sports. You can’t make this stuff up!”
“What we’re doing is trying to show Republicans how to win on these key issues,” Schilling told the New York Times, despite the religious right’s failure to turn bathroom access into a winning salvo in their culture war. But as Politico reported, Schilling is back on his transphobic bullshit, this time planning to roll out a series of ads in Michigan targeting Joe Biden that falsely describe gender-affirming care for youth as “very dangerous and irreversible.” Via Politico:
Next week, APP will debut two ads in battleground Michigan that accuse former Vice President Joe Biden, who has generally used his platform to promote protections for LGBTQ youth, of endorsing “gender change treatments for minors,” including surgery and hormone therapies for transgender youth. One of the ads, featuring former drag queen Kevin Whitt, warns that children “need time” to develop a stable sense of their gender. “As a young teen, I felt I should be a woman,” Whitt says. “Seventeen years later, I felt I should be a man again. Treatments to change the gender of a minor are very dangerous and irreversible.”
“What I’m hoping is that once we release these ads and numbers start to move, the Trump campaign will see it’s a powerful issue that the Republican Party can use to its success,” Schilling told Politico. It’s natural that Schilling thinks running on transphobia is a winning one for Republicans, given that he himself is a Republican that hates trans people. As he’s written in the past, he believes that bans on gay conversion therapy were a “trojan horse” meant to “[lock] children into a transgender identity no matter the circumstances.” And earlier this year, Schilling came under fire for a series of homophobic and transphobic tweets. Via the Globe Gazette:
In a now-deleted Tweet from May 22, 2019, Terry Schilling wrote, “I have zero problem explaining heterosexual sex to my kids if they ask — it’s how babies are made. Am I really a snowflake for not wanting to explain butt sex to my kids? ‘Dad, can two dads have kids together? Why do they get married? How do they have kids?’
“’Yes, two dads can get married and can have kids, but they have to hire a woman to implant an embryo in her uterus and carry the baby to term, then the two dads take the baby away from the mom, just like a puppy.’
“Is this the conversation I should have with my kids?” Schilling wrote. “Parents, you’re not snowflakes for not wanting to explain the sordid world of gay couples — who really don’t get married anyway.”
After another Twitter user shared those deleted tweets, Schilling decided it was an opportunity to double down on his bigotry:
A Twitter user by the handle of @dawall reposted the Tweets on Monday and tagged Terry Schilling, saying, “Weird, some of your best Tweets have gone missing. That’s OK, we archived a few.”
Terry replied the same day to @dawall, “I will give you even better ones in the future!” and added a hashtag, “#womencanthavepenises.” He followed with one more Tweet, “Would you like me to send some *really* offensive ones right now? I can get some good ones going.”
According to Politico, “Schilling has a formidable roster of like-minded allies at the highest levels of the Trump administration,” from Stephen Miller to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows to HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, all of whom have pushed and enacted anti-trans policy.
Others in Trump’s orbit, however, are not so sure. “This might become a hot cultural issue, but it’s not a thing yet. Right now, it’s just an easy issue for the other side to attack us on. They will call us bigots,” a Trump campaign senior adviser told Politico. For once, they’re absolutely right.
But no matter what Trump decides to do, the people who lose out are trans kids, who continue to see their lives used as a talking point by adults who see their existence as nothing more than a tool to wield in their quest for power.