The last most of us heard about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, she wrapped up her unsuccessful presidential bid, read the writing on the wall, and endorsed Joe Biden for president. Now, the Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii is making headlines for an entirely different reason: Trying to fuck over transgender youth.
On Thursday, Gabbard introduced legislation to the House that would prohibit schools from receiving federal funding if they allow transgender girls and nonbinary people to play on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. The objective of the “Protect Women’s Sports Act”—co-sponsored by Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin—is to “clarify Title IX protections for female athletes is based on biological sex.” But the rule is actually a means to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from athletics, based on the erroneous notion that they’re manipulating gender identity to steal athletic success away from cisgender girls.
In a statement, Gabbard described Title IX as a historic measure that provided equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports, opening doors that were once only accessible to boys and men. In Gabbard’s mind, the mere presence of trans athletes destroys these strides.
“Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes,” Gabbard said. “Our legislation protects Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex. It is critical that the legacy of Title IX continues to ensure women and girls in sports have the opportunity to compete and excel on a level playing field.”
Mulin was more upfront in his statement: “Allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports diminishes that equality and takes away from the original intent of Title IX. As the father of three girls involved in athletics, I want them to be able to compete on a level playing field.”
This fear-mongering is not unlike transphobic bathroom bills: Transgender women aren’t lurking in public restrooms waiting to assault cisgender women, and they’re not pushing cisgender women out of sports either. Additionally, there is no concrete research supporting the claim that transgender girls and women have a distinct competitive edge over cisgender girls and women.
So what is this really about? The answer is simple: Run-of-the-mill transphobia, helmed by a woman who already has a history of being anti-LGBTQ despite considering herself an ally.
Gabbard twice called those in favor of same-sex marriage “homosexual extremists.” One such incident was in 2004 when, as a state representative in Hawaii, Gabbard testified against a bill that would legalize same-sex unions.
“To try to act as if there is a difference between ‘civil unions’ and same-sex marriage is dishonest, cowardly and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” Gabbard said. “As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists.”
Gabbard apologized for her remarks in early 2019, just after she announced her presidential run. But it’s worth noting that when confronted with these past comments during a 2015 Ozy interview, Gabbard played dumb and was hesitant to repeal her past statement, despite numerous attempts from the interviewer to force her to comment. She pointed, instead, to her support of the Equality Act, which extended anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans.
That doesn’t quite absolve her of her pejorative remarks, and it certainly doesn’t cancel out her support of an anti-transgender bill now.
Gabbard has always been a bit of an enigma: A Iraq War veteran who is a strident supporter of demilitarizing the police and ending the War on Drugs, and also capes for Bashar al-Assad and right-wing Hindu nationalism. Now we can add unapologetic transphobe to the cons column, her pivot to perfect politician for Joe Rogan fans now complete. Soon, the only thing left in the pro column will be her cool stripe of silver hair and incredibly hot husband.