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Bathroom Predator Myth

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  • Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups Family Research Council and American College of Pediatricians were on Capitol Hill fighting the Equality Act

    The meetings follow a history of FRC and right-wing media inaccurately presenting ACPeds as a legitimate source and giving the group a platform to discredit trans-affirming science

    Blog ››› ››› KAYLA GOGARTY


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ group the Family Research Council (FRC) brought American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) Executive Director Michelle Cretella and ex-trans activist Walt Heyer to meet with members of Congress to advocate against the Equality Act within a day of the bill’s introduction on March 13. The bill would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to existing civil rights nondiscrimination protections.

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have regularly and inaccurately portrayed ACPeds as a legitimate medical organization to add a veneer of credibility to the broader anti-trans agenda, even though the group is a small, right-wing organization that traffics in extreme anti-LGBTQ animus.

    While there is limited information available on the substance of these congressional meetings, FRC’s public discussions with Cretella and Heyer around the time of the meetings pushed the debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls and promoted an unvalidated hypothesis that transgender youth are coming out as a fad.

    In appearances around the lawmaker meetings, FRC and ACPeds pushed anti-trans myths

    In the day after the introduction of the Equality Act, Cretella participated in two interviews with FRC to discuss their shared opposition to the bill and to promote anti-trans policies. During those interviews, Cretella and FRC leaders acknowledged that they met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss the bill.

    Outside of those appearances, FRC has not published materials about the meetings, so there is little information on which lawmakers the groups met with or what they discussed. On March 13, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted a picture with FRC President Tony Perkins, writing that the two discussed the work of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (for which Perkins is a commissioner).

    During the March 14 edition of Perkins’ podcast, he revealed that ACPeds joined FRC in meetings with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss anti-trans policies:

    TONY PERKINS (FRC PRESIDENT): So here’s the question: Is this transgenderism or gender dysphoria -- is it an issue of the mind, or is it an issue of the body?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA (ACPEDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR): You know, Tony, that is the foundational question, and the answer is gender dysphoria, transgender belief is in the mind. And what we are facing in medicine, and psychology -- and as you said, from pre-K to the halls of Congress -- is a top-down tyranny of -- It’s basically a cult. It’s a cult that is telling us that children are born with the belief that they are trapped in the wrong body, and it’s simply not true.

    PERKINS: Now you joined us the other day on Capitol Hill for some briefings with lawmakers, and I -- you know, I deal with this stuff almost every day. But we can always learn, and I learned a lot from listening to you more about this where -- and you made some illustrations which I think are very important. When someone has anorexia or another type of situation that is really psychological, physiological, we treat it a certain way.

    Perkins’ comments comparing transgender identities to having an eating disorder mirror talking points from the flawed concept of so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, an unvalidated hypothesis that suggests teenagers are coming out as trans due to “social contagion.” However, the original study that promoted the concept was re-evaluated following complaints about its research and methodology, and on March 19, the academic journal which published it issued a correction to note that the study only “serves to develop hypotheses” and that the concept has not been validated.

    In addition to Perkins’ interview, FRC senior fellow Peter Sprigg also interviewed Cretella and Heyer in a Facebook video on March 14. During the interview, Sprigg acknowledged the Capitol Hill meetings, and Cretella falsely claimed that being trans is comparable to having anorexia. She also falsely claimed that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women, a myth that has been repeatedly debunked. From the March 14 video:

    PETER SPRIGG (FRC SENIOR FELLOW): I want to move on to now to some of the policy issues, public policy issues, and you’ve been gracious enough to share on Capitol Hill today with members of Congress and their staffs who are considering a number of pieces of legislation that would make gender identity into a protected category under civil rights laws, notably one called the Equality Act, which would include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

    Dr. Cretella, I wanted to ask you about one of the issues that has come up with respect to gender identity protections in public accommodation laws, which is: What does this do for the privacy and safety of women and girls?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Sure. You can’t -- if we protect gender identity as if it were a trait like sex, you eliminate girl and women rights. There are no women’s rights. Why? Because any man, any boy can simply proclaim, “I’m a girl.” All you have to do is say it. Being transgender -- OK, transgender people are real in the same sex that anorexic people are real. An anorexic person is a man or a woman who has anorexia, which is an emotional or mental disorder. Transgender people are a man or a woman, men or women, who have a disorder. So in public accomodations, if we protect gender identity, any man can walk into a woman’s restroom. Any man can walk into a women’s locker room, a women’s domestic shelter, homeless shelter, a -- women’s prisons, they can be housed with the women.

    Women and girls’ safety goes out the window, and this is not a bigoted statement. It is reality. Women have fallen prey to male violence for eons. It’s just a fact. It’s a biological fact that men are bigger, taller, stronger, faster. That’s biology, and that is why we’ve always protected women’s spaces and women’s sports.

    Anti-LGBTQ groups and right-wing media have elevated ACPeds’ bad science as an alternative to the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics

    Extreme anti-LGBTQ groups such as FRC regularly tout ACPeds as an expert source on scientific and medical issues related to LGBTQ people despite the fact that it is a discredited, partisan organization.

    ACPeds is a small and extreme anti-LGBTQ group of physicians that broke off from the legitimate American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and provide foster care. While AAP is a professional organization of 67,000 pediatricians, ACPeds reportedly has only a few hundred members. Cretella and ACPeds have worked for years to discredit trans-affirming science, and right-wing media and anti-LGBTQ groups have elevated ACPeds’ bad science by presenting the group as a medical authority.

    Right-wing media add to the false perception of ACPeds’ credibility by citing the group as an alternative to trans-affirming AAP guidelines and by using Cretella as a source to dispute trans-affirming care and other trans-inclusive policies. For example, in response to an Associated Press interview with the lead author of AAP’s transgender policy about the differences between sex and gender, the American Family Association’s outlet OneNewsNow quoted Cretella disputing AAP’s points and calling the author a “transgender activist.”

    FRC in particular has given ACPeds a national platform to push anti-trans narratives for years, including hosting Cretella on a panel at its 2018 Values Voter Summit to compare affirming trans identities to “child abuse” with FRC’s Sprigg. In the last six months, Cretella has been on Perkins’ radio show at least three times to discuss the Equality Act, so-called rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and the Trump administration's anti-trans policies.

    FRC and other anti-LGBTQ groups have increasing influence over the Trump administration’s policies and enjoy regular access to members of Congress. For instance, Perkins played a leading role in crafting the Trump administration’s ban on trans service members in the military, and he was appointed as a commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

  • Right-wing media and think tanks are aligning with fake feminists who dehumanize trans people

    TERFs use feminist vocabulary but are aligned with national anti-LGBTQ groups

    Blog ››› ››› MADELINE PELTZ


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Tucker Carlson recently hosted Julia Beck, a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” or “TERF,” in a segment promoting the illusion that there is an important divide over the importance of transgender rights within the LGBTQ community.

    Beck and other TERFs claim to be feminists, but they hold vehemently anti-trans views and are widely rejected by LGBTQ advocates and organizations. In fact, TERF groups and activists have joined with right-wing, anti-LGBTQ organizations around the country in lawsuits against trans rights.

    Beck's appearance on Fox was just the latest example of right-wing figures and groups promoting TERFs, who use feminist vocabulary to disguise their anti-trans bigotry.

    TERFs have appeared on right-wing media and at right-wing events

    Beck appeared on the February 12 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss her recent removal from Baltimore’s LGBTQ commission for her anti-trans views. During the segment, Beck, who is a lesbian, said, “Women have been speaking out about this for decades, but we have been effectively silenced. Many women like myself have been pushed out … simply because we acknowledge biological reality.” She also claimed that transgender identities are “opposed to biological reality,” said she doesn’t “think it’s fair to lump us all into the same acronym,” and pushed the thoroughly debunked myth that trans-inclusive policies threaten the safety of women and girls.

    Beck has also appeared at the anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation as part of a panel of people labeled as being “from the Left” who oppose the Equality Act, a bill that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to existing nondiscrimination laws. The January event was moderated by Ryan T. Anderson, an anti-LGBTQ activist who has previously hosted other TERF activists at the Heritage Foundation to attack trans-inclusive legislation.

    On the panel, Beck said, “There are only three sexualities -- homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual; all the hip new identities in the alphabet soup like nonbinary, gender-fluid, [and] pansexual are not actually sexualities. Neither is transgender.” She added that the “T” in LGBTQ is “diametrically opposed to the first three letters” and claimed that transgender identities “undermine and erase homosexuals.” She also said the definition of a woman is limited to an “adult human female,” echoing a rallying cry of the U.K.-based TERF movement.

    Beck spoke on the panel alongside Kara Dansky, a leader of the TERF group Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) who has also appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight. During her 2017 interview, Dansky said, “We're called transphobic bigots because we ask questions about gender identity. We're asking questions and we're standing up for women and girls.”

    Another TERF activist has recently leveraged her anti-trans beliefs into a flood of sympathetic coverage from right-wing outlets.

    Meghan Murphy, who founded the pro-TERF blog Feminist Current, is suing Twitter after she was banned from the platform for intentionally misgendering and deadnaming a transgender person. Deadnaming is the act of calling a transgender person by the name given to them at birth that they no longer use and that does not align with their gender identity, and it is a violation of Twitter’s new hateful conduct policy. Right-wing media rushed to cover Murphy’s lawsuit after she posted a YouTube video about the ban, leading to favorable coverage from Quillette, The Federalist, National Review, The Daily Wire, Townhall, The Spectator, LifeSiteNews, the Washington Examiner, and The Daily Caller.

    Right-wing media suggest TERFs are liberals; in fact, they’re aligned with extreme right groups

    Right-wing outlets seized on Murphy’s self-identification as a “feminist” as evidence that anti-trans reactionaries do not solely come from the far-right. On his Fox show, Carlson similarly identified Beck as a feminist and claimed that WoLF leader Dansky is a “radical feminist” and “not on the right at all.” And during their appearance together on the Heritage Foundation panel, which was titled “The Inequality of the Equality Act: Concerns from the Left,” Beck expressed her surprise at participating in an event hosted by a conservative think tank.

    TERFs’ embrace of supposedly feminist aesthetics and rhetoric can make it more difficult for media consumers to identify what they really stand for, and right-wing media take advantage of this confusion to push the illusion that activists “on the Left” share their anti-trans agenda. But TERFs are distinctly on the side of right-wing groups, and they have even allied with the efforts of national anti-LGBTQ groups to oppose trans rights in the judicial system.

    In 2016, WoLF sued the Obama administration after it issued guidance to public schools regarding transgender students’ access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. In the suit, WoLF alleged that these accommodations would lead to “indecent exposure” and “voyeurism” -- a claim that has been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked. In reality, transgender people are more likely to be victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination in bathrooms than to be perpetrators of such crimes.

    In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, WoLF submitted an amicus brief filed jointly with the Family Policy Alliance, a national anti-LGBTQ group with an alliance of state groups that work to deny LGBTQ people their civil rights. The brief argued against extending Title IX protections -- which “protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance” -- to include gender identity. WoLF’s brief was submitted in support of a school district that refused to accommodate the needs of a transgender student.

    WoLF also filed a brief in the Doe v. Boyertown Area School District case in support of a client of the extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom, who sued his school district for allowing transgender boys to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as him.

    Another coalition, called Hands Across the Aisle, which includes TERFs as well as conservative Christians, has also been actively supporting anti-LGBTQ groups in their legal actions against transgender civil rights. Like WoLF, the group filed an amicus brief in the Boyertown case supporting ADF’s efforts to roll back protections for transgender students.

    Hands Across the Aisle also wrote a 2017 letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson urging him to rescind protections implemented by the Obama administration in 2016 for transgender people seeking assistance in homeless shelters. The letter was signed by dozens of leaders of various anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Family Policy Alliance, Concerned Women for America, and the Texas Eagle Forum. (A prominent member of Hands Across the Aisle, Meg Kilgannon, was recently interviewed on Fox’s The Ingraham Angle about the group’s opposition to transgender athletes.)

    One prominent TERF has also connected with extremist movements overseas to support reactionary movements seemingly unrelated to her anti-trans agenda. Kellie-Jay Minshull, who goes by Posie Parker, recently traveled to Norway for a conference where she posed with far-right Hungarian politician, Holocaust denier, and Islamophobe Hans Lysglimt Johansen.

    Additionally, Parker has repeatedly expressed support for far-right anti-Muslim activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson. Robinson, another former Tucker Carlson Tonight guest, has also expressed anti-trans views in a video for far-right media outlet The Rebel.

    Right-wing media misleadingly suggest TERFs demonstrate a division within the LGBTQ community

    The idea that TERFs are liberal feminists -- bolstered by right-wing media -- helps create the illusion of a growing division within the LGBTQ community over transgender civil rights. In reality, mainstream LGBTQ rights organizations support and campaign for transgender civil rights, and lesbian institutions such as the Dyke March explicitly champion issues impacting transgender and gender-nonconforming people while also preserving pride events as a form of radical protest. Civil liberties advocates have also taken on the Trump administration’s anti-trans agenda and sued on behalf of transgender people for their right to access public accommodations. There is no such “divide” among mainstream feminists and LGBTQ advocates regarding the inclusion of transgender people in the queer community, as TERFs would like us to believe.

    In a piece about U.S. TERFs for Bitch Media,Tina Vasquez wrote that the debate over transgender rights “is not just feminist-theory inside baseball. Though outspoken, politically active trans-exclusionary radical feminists are relatively few in number, their influence on legislation and mainstream perceptions of transgender people is powerful and real.”

    Right-wing media figures like Carlson -- who has time and again demonstrated his intimate familiarity with extremist movements and a willingness to champion their causes -- are pushing a larger agenda that is anti-transgender, which includes denying trans people health care, expelling them from the military, and legally undermining their existence. And along the way, they’ll undoubtedly continue to uplift TERFs’ viewpoints under the guise of progressive feminism. But other media outlets and media consumers should be aware that nothing could be further from the truth; without transgender people leading the way, LGBTQ liberation cannot take place.

  • Anti-trans activists “from the Left” joined right-wing Heritage Foundation to rail against trans people

    Trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, use a veneer of progressivism and feminism to advocate against trans equality

    Blog ››› ››› BRIANNA JANUARY


    Media Matters / Melissa Joskow

    On January 28, the vehemently anti-LGBTQ advocate Ryan T. Anderson hosted a panel attacking the Equality Act, a bill that would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to existing nondiscrimination laws, and the talk featured several “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” or TERFs. TERFs claim trans identities threaten women’s safety and equality and actively work to deny their existence and rights. During the event, the panelists, who were identified as "from the Left," demeaned transgender people and used anti-trans language, with one saying, “It’s not a fucking ‘she’” in reference to transgender women.

    The event was held at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has railed against LGBTQ equality for decades. The New York Times has written that the group is “stocking Trump’s government,” including by recommending “some of the most prominent members of Trump’s cabinet.” Anderson, a senior research fellow, is one of the group’s most vocal anti-LGBTQ figures. He wrote an entire book dedicated to denying trans identities and reportedly helped craft the Trump-Pence trans military ban.

    TERFs, who often refer to themselves as “gender-critical” or “radical feminists,” are anti-trans activists who are becoming increasingly visible. They have historically opposed trans-inclusive measures and denied trans identities. In 2018, TERF groups throughout the United Kingdom lobbied against improving the country’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004, a “piece of legislation regulating how trans people can legally change [their] genders” that currently “requires trans people to jump through numerous hoops to ‘prove’ that” they are trans. TERFs have cited the thoroughly debunked myth that allowing trans people, in particular trans women, to access restrooms and other facilities that align with their gender identity poses a threat to women’s safety.

    The Heritage Foundation panel identified its panelists as people “from the Left” who disagree with the Equality Act. One panelist, Hacsi Horvath, an adjunct lecturer at the University of California, San Francisco, says he formerly identified as transgender. His work also appears on 4thwavenow, an anti-trans online community that was critical in the creation and spread of the flawed concept of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). The theory posits that trans teens are coming out as such due to “social contagion,” but it relies on a study with a shoddy methodology that is under review by the academic journal that published it. Though all the Heritage panelists advocated against accepting trans identities -- and some even referred to the Gender Recognition Act as the “Women Erasure Act” -- Horvath made some of the most extreme anti-trans statements throughout the event.

    From the January 28 Heritage Foundation panel “The Inequality of The Equality Act: Concerns from the Left”:

    HACSI HORVATH (PANELIST): We have to get this gender identity out of the Equa -- the Women Erasure Act. But also, … I don’t play along. I don’t say “trans woman.” I don’t say “she, her.” I don’t care if it hurts their feelings. This is reality, and it gaslights everybody else if we have to -- it gaslights yourself. And you begin to internalize it, like, “OK, she” -- it’s not a fucking “she” -- sorry. I can’t help it. It’s -- just say it in reality, English language, what is happening here, and don’t play along with it. So, I just don’t play along. I won’t.

    The act of misgendering -- which LGBTQ-inclusive education advocacy organization GLSEN defines as “the experience of being labeled by others as a gender other than one that a person identifies with” -- is considered harassment, and it stigmatizes trans people, lowers their self-esteem, and erases and invalidates their identities.

    Horvath also parroted 4thwavenow’s messaging on ROGD, calling it a “mass craze” and saying trans identities are “the new eating disorder” or “the new goth.”

    Julia Beck, another panelist at the Heritage event, was removed from Baltimore’s LGBTQ Commission in 2018 after other members became aware of her anti-trans animus. Two other panelists, Kara Dansky and Jennifer Chavez, are board members of the TERF organization Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), which has teamed up with extreme anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in an ongoing court case that seeks to dismantle a trans-inclusive policy at a Pennsylvania high school.

    The Heritage Foundation’s panel is just one example of the growing alliance between TERFs and conservative groups. Along with TERF group WoLF siding with ADF on its anti-trans court case in Pennsylvania, TERF groups in Massachusetts joined with the anti-LGBTQ Keep MA Safe campaign to support its anti-trans referendum to overturn to state’s comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, which ultimately and resoundingly failed in the voting booths. And TERF groups in Canada joined conservatives in testifying against that country’s trans-inclusive nondiscrimination law. TERFs often identify with the left, and even though some identify as queer, they have made it clear that they are willing to take part in conservatives’ “divide and conquer” strategy to attempt to fracture the LGBTQ movement and erode trans equality.

  • 2017's worst anti-trans lies and smears 

    Media Matters looks back at some of the worst smears, lies, and liars attacking the transgender community in 2017

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Right-wing media figures and anti-LGBTQ hate group representatives have a long history of spreading anti-trans hatred and lies, and 2017 was no different. From hate groups attacks on trans children and students to Alex Jones’ anti-LGBTQ extremism, Media Matters rounded up some of 2017’s most transphobic misinformers and their lies.

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Alex Jones cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist

    Right-wing conspiracy theorist and ally to President Donald Trump Alex Jones has cemented his place as an anti-trans extremist this year as he repeatedly used the slur “tranny,” dehumanized trans people's existence, and spread vile rhetoric about them. Though Jones has repeatedly said he is “not against gay people,” Media Matters has documented a pattern of extreme anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that proves otherwise. 

    In one segment on his show, for example, Jones said that transgender women may be gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting “breast implants” and trying to “doll [their] hair up.” On another episode, Jones compared a transgender man who had a baby to Jones deciding that he is a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that “give[s] birth to leprechauns.” In other segments, Jones has said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips” and suggested that former first lady Michelle Obama has a penis and may have killed late comedian Joan Rivers, saying that he was “not putting trannies down” with the comments.

    Jones accused transgender women of being gay men who want “to go pick up more guys” by getting breast implants and dolling up their hair.

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 7/10/17]

    Jones compared a pregnant transgender man to a “50-foot, red, purple, striped giraffe” that gives “birth to leprechauns.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/3/17]

    Jones said that accepting transgender people is a slippery slope to “brain chips.”

    [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show, 8/7/17

    Hate groups and right-wing media figures attacked transgender children and students

    In 2017, hate group leaders and right-wing media personalities continued their fight against LGBTQ equality in schools, attacking transgender students and children, their parents, and teachers who teach trans-inclusive lessons. These attacks are also happening on a policy level, with hate group Alliance Defending Freedom spending much of the year trying to block transgender student equality by inserting itself in debates at local school districts and in state legislatures about transgender students’ access to restroom facilities that align with their gender identity.

    In July, anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) President Dr. Michelle Cretella asserted that parents accepting their transgender children's’ gender identity is “child abuse” and spread myths and junk science about transgender people during an episode of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group with only a few hundred members that is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics. In another example, right-wing media figures attacked a California elementary school teacher for reading two children’s books about gender identity to her kindergarten classroom after a transgender student brought one in to share. Right-wing website PJ Media suggested that parents “move out of [their] community” if they feel it is necessary to protect their children from being turned into “mind-numbed robots who nod affirmatively in the face of lies,” and anti-LGBTQ FoxNews.com contributor Todd Starnes called the events “an example of how schools have been indoctrination grounds for the LGBT agenda” and “activist bullies.”

    Anti-LGBTQ hate group ACPeds’ Cretella called accepting transgender children “child abuse.”

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 7/24/17]

    Hate groups and right-wing media continued to weaponize the thoroughly debunked “bathroom predator” myth

    Right-wing figures and anti-LGBTQ hate groups continued to reinforce the debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which asserts that policies allowing trans people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity will create an opening for sexual predators to assault women. That myth has been long debunked by experts and government officials in more than a dozen states, school administrators, and sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts, but pundits and anti-LGBTQ figures continued to push the lie in 2017.

    On February 15, Tony Perkins, the president of anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council (FRC), dubiously claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive bathroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms.” Similarly, on an episode of a special panel show on Houston’s Fox 26, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRTx) Jared Woodfill said that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” In yet another example, Charmaine Yoest, a right-wing political commentator who is now in a top communications post at the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.

    FRC’s Perkins claimed that Target’s trans-inclusive restroom policy gives people a “good chance” of seeing a “live rendition of CSI … because increasingly you’ve had crime scenes in their restrooms and in their changing rooms”

    [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/15/17]

    CRTx’s Woodfill claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be” with trans-inclusive restroom policies.

    [Fox 26, What’s Your Point, 5/22/17]

    Former right-wing pundit Yoest said that “the real issue” with trans-inclusive policies “is the opening that it provides for sexual predators … who might be using this as a way to get access to young girls and women.”

    [CNN, CNN Newsroom, 2/23/17]

    Conservative media figures misinformed about the transgender military ban and told lies about trans service members

    When Trump announced he would ban transgender people from the military, right-wing media and hate groups pushed misinformation about transgender service members and called them “mentally ill.” (The ban has so far been paused by the courts.) Other right-wing lies about the ban included the claim that the cost of medically necessary health care for transgender service members would be in the billions, that allowing transgender members to serve would interfere with military readiness and cohesion, and that a majority of transgender people are unable to be deployed due to their health care needs. Analysts have found minimal additional costs involved in providing health care to transgender service members and no negative impacts on military cohesion or readiness.

    Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro responded to the ban by saying that “the military should not accept mentally ill soldiers.” Shapiro tweeted that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military,” and again implied that transgender people have a “mental illness.” Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, who is the vice president of anti-LGBTQ hate group FRC, similarly pushed the myth that transgender people have some “kind of physical or mental illness” and claimed that their inclusion in the military was part of “a test bed for nothing but social experiments.” According to the American Psychological Association, “Identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.” Other leading medical organizations agree.

    FRC’s Boykin pushed the lie that transgender people are mentally ill, saying, "We shouldn't recruit people with any kind of physical or mental illness."

    [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/24/17]

    Shapiro claimed that “no one has the ‘right’ to serve in the military. People are 4F [unfit to serve] for a variety of reasons. Mental illness can be such a reason.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Shapiro said that “The military should not accept mentally ill soldiers,” but Trump’s announcement “should not have been done by tweet.”

    [Twitter, 7/26/17]

    Right-wing media figures used anti-trans language and slurs when talking about transgender people

    Over the past year, right-wing media figures attacked transgender people with offensive language, anti-trans slurs, and even the denial of trans existence. In addition to the steadfast slandering of transgender people by Alex Jones, other right-wing media figures employed transphobic rhetoric that can have severe consequences on transgender people and youth. Calls from transgender youth to the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline increased this year, and the project cited “anti-transgender rhetoric” coming from elected officials and others as “putting lives at risk.”

    In a November rant lamenting the surge of LGBTQ victories in 2017 elections, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh used the anti-trans slur “tranny” and insisted that LGBTQ people be referred to only as “homosexual,” saying, “the word is homosexual.” On Fox, Carlson hosted a transgender guest and insulted her by accusing transgender people of “faking” and repeatedly pushing the myth that people can just “decide” to be transgender on a whim. This kind of rhetoric places doubt on transgender existence.

    After trans candidates won 2017 elections, Limbaugh insisted that all LGBTQ people be referred to as “homosexual” and used the anti-trans slur “tranny.”

    [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 11/9/17]

    Carlson insulted a transgender guest and accused transgender people of "faking."

    [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 2/24/17]      

  • Calling Texas' anti-trans bathroom ban a "safety" measure is a nod to a pervasive, debunked lie

    Houston media echoed supporters of anti-trans bathroom ban calling it a "safety" measure. This is a nod to the debunked bathroom predator myth.

    Blog ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE & BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    Houston, TX, broadcast news media’s coverage of a proposed statewide anti-transgender bathroom ban -- which would prevent transgender people from using public restrooms that align with their gender identity -- frequently cited supporters’ claims that a ban was necessary in order to protect the “safety” and “privacy” of women and children. This rhetoric served as a less-explicit but still insidious nod to the debunked, anti-transgender bathroom predator myth that has been touted before, which claims that transgender-inclusive restrooms would allow sexual predators to enter women’s bathrooms and assault or harass them.

    On June 6, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced a 30-day special session to discuss 20 items that had not been approved during the legislature’s regular session, including legislation related to transgender people’s access to restrooms, officially billed as a “privacy” item. About a week into the session, which started July 18, Texas’ Senate passed its version of the bathroom ban, but the bill did not make it out of the House State Affairs Committee and thus never received a vote in the state’s House of Representatives.

    During the special session, Houston outlets widely mentioned supporters’ claims that the measure is a “safety” and “privacy” issue -- a nod to the debunked bathroom predator myth

    Though they generally also noted that the proposed bathroom ban would encourage discrimination, Houston news stations covering the special session repeatedly and uncritically mentioned the “privacy” and “safety” concerns of the bill’s supporters. Houston’s CBS 11 reported that “supporters” of the proposed bathroom ban “say it’s an issue of privacy and safety.” Houston’s NBC affiliate similarly said, “The bill’s author still argues the bill protects privacy and safety of Texans.” Likewise, Houston’s Fox 26 News claimed, “Supporters say it’s about safety and privacy, but opponents believe it targets transgender people.” Houston’s ABC 13 noted that “Republicans say this is a safety issue.” The reports mirrored the language Abbott used when he claimed the bill was meant to “help women have privacy, safety, and security to the fullest extent possible.”

    The claims that the “bathroom bill” is about “safety” and “privacy” concerns are an implicit nod to the bathroom predator myth, which media should acknowledge has been debunked.

    Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has been at the forefront of the fight for a “bathroom ban,” has consistently referred to the legislation as “privacy legislation.” He called it “Texas Privacy Act” and said it was a matter of “public safety” in a video about the special session. Patrick also said that “adult women don’t want men following them into the ladies’ room, nor do they want their little girls or granddaughters being followed in a bathroom by a man.” In an interview in July, Patrick said: “We don't want sexual predators — and I'm not talking about transgender people ... I don't want sexual predators masquerading as being transgender to enter into a bathroom to follow a little girl.”

    Similarly, before the special session began, Abbott said that Texas needed to address student “privacy, safety, and security” with a proposed ban. During the session, he asserted that he wanted a ban that “at a minimum … protects the privacy of our children in public schools.” In 2015, during a debate about a proposal to, among other things, add gender identity discrimination protections, Abbott tweeted a more explicit version of the myth: “Vote NO on the City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women’s bathrooms.” The Campaign for Houston, which was run by anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT), praised Abbott for the tweet. CRT interchangeably pushes “privacy” rhetoric and the bathroom predator myth, as seen in its pledge to “continue the fight for privacy” in a August 24 fundraising email which also says that the legislation “keeps biological males, including registered sex offenders, out of women’s bathrooms.”

    The anti-transgender bathroom predator myth has been thoroughly debunked

    The anti-transgender bathroom predator myth has been widely debunked by experts and government officials across the U.S., including in 16 states and the District of Columbia and school administrators in 23 school districts and four universities. In 2015, 17 U.S. school districts covering 600,000 students told Media Matters that they had not experienced any problem after implementing transgender protections. Saint Paul Public Schools in Minnesota assembled a “myths and facts” sheet about its gender inclusion policy, which said, “There is no correlation between unsafe school environments and providing equitable access to facilities for transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

    Likewise, numerous experts working in sexual violence and domestic prevention have said that the right-wing bathroom predator myth is false. In an interview with Media Matters, Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, said she has “never heard of … instances” nor “seen any research” to validate the bathroom predator myth. Palumbo also noted that “one of the most vulnerable populations there are is the transgender population” when it comes to sexual violence.

    The bathroom predator myth was widely reinforced in HERO coverage

    In 2015, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was put up for an unsuccessful vote as a ballot referendum. It would have protected people from “discrimination based not just on gender identity and sexual orientation, but also 13 classes already protected under federal law” including sex, race, religion, disability, and others. And according to The New York Times, an early “draft of the bill included a section, later removed, that would have let transgender people use the bathroom that best reflected their gender identity. Opponents seized on the issue and never let go.”

    The city’s media played a significant role in killing HERO by uncritically utilizing the bathroom predator myth in its coverage. During one month in 2014, for example, more than half of local station Fox 26’s coverage mentioned the bathroom predator myth. Both Houston’s Fox and CBS affiliates included b-roll footage of restrooms without commentary in over half of their HERO coverage during a two-week time period in 2015, and the myth was mentioned in at least 10 segments across the four major news networks in Houston during that same time. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups such as CRT and Family Research Council pushed the myth particularly hard, as did Fox News.

    Some Houston outlets explicitly pushed the bathroom predator myth during special session coverage

    Though it was less explicit than in the HERO coverage, some outlets reporting on the special session still uncritically reinforced the debunked bathroom predator myth, beyond simply referencing “safety” and “privacy.” Perhaps the most egregious example came from the Fox 26 special panel show What’s Your Point. In May and June, the Houston Fox affiliate hosted anti-LGBTQ extremist and CRT President Jared Woodfill seven times in 10 days, and on May 22, Woodfill discussed the possibility of a special session on What’s Your Point. He claimed that “registered sex offenders who somehow believe that they’re a woman” would be “allowed to go into the restroom where our wives, our daughters, and our mothers are going to be.” Guest Steve Toth, a Republican former state congressperson, added, “This is not about a transgender boy. This is about a sex offender being able to walk into a bathroom, unchecked, and no one can stop them. That’s what this is about.”

    Houston media coverage has improved since HERO, but mentions of “safety” and “privacy” must have necessary context in the future

    Characterizing the bill as a “safety” and “privacy” bill still implies that transgender-inclusive bathrooms are unsafe. Though explicit mentions of the mythical bathroom predators have noticeably decreased, media must add necessary context to their coverage to clarify that banning transgender people from the bathroom facilities that correspond with their gender identity does nothing to ameliorate “safety” or “privacy” concerns. In fact, transgender people are the ones at increased risk for violence and sexual assault in bathrooms. The National Center for Transgender Equality’s landmark U.S. Transgender Survey found that 12 percent of transgender people “report that they have been harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom in the last year” and that 59 percent have “avoided bathrooms in the last year because they feared confrontations in public restrooms at work, at school, or in other places.”

  • Newspapers are turning to hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas over the state's proposed bathroom ban

    Conservative Republicans of Texas is an anti-LGBTQ hate group whose leaders have said that a “key part of the homosexual agenda” is “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia”

    ››› ››› REBECCA DAMANTE & BRENNAN SUEN

    National and local newspapers have repeatedly quoted and highlighted anti-LGBTQ hate group Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT) when reporting on proposed legislation in Texas that would prevent transgender people from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. CRT’s leaders have compared LGBTQ people to “Nazis,” claimed that a “key part of the homosexual agenda” is “overturning the laws prohibiting pedophilia,” and said that the “word transgender is a euphemism … for the word pervert.”

  • Fox affiliate in Texas hosted a hate group representative seven times in 10 days

    Fox 26 in Houston is owned and operated by 21st Century Fox

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Between May 29 and June 7, Fox 26 in Houston, TX, hosted anti-LGBTQ hate group representative Jared Woodfill seven times as a panelist to comment on local and national issues. Woodfill used three of his appearances to push for an extreme anti-transgender bathroom ban that his hate group has been lobbying to pass for over a year.

    In the 10 days starting when the Texas legislature officially adjourned on May 29, Woodfill, president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas (CRT), was a panelist on Fox 26’s What’s Your Point seven times: On May 29, May 30, May 31, June 1, June 5, June 6, and June 7. Fox 26 is part of a network of Fox News-owned and operated local stations.

    In three out of his seven appearances, Woodfill advocated for Texas to pass Senate Bill 6 (SB 6) during a special session of the legislature. SB 6 is an extreme anti-transgender bathroom ban that would prevent transgender people from using public facilities that align with their gender identity -- including students in public schools. On June 6, Gov. Greg Abbott called for a special session of the state legislature beginning on July 18. In a press conference announcing the special session, Abbott said, "We need a law that protects the privacy of our children in our public schools." In his June 6 appearance on What’s Your Point after Abbott’s announcement, Woodfill called Abbott’s decision a “big win”:

    While not mentioned in any of his appearances on Fox 26, Woodfill’s CRT has been designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2016 for peddling extreme, demonizing lies about LGBTQ people. For example, in a March 15 press release, CRT called transgender women “perverted men and boys” and claimed that the “homosexual movement wants to use the power of law to force individuals, churches, schools, businesses and private organizations to accept, affirm and celebrate those individuals who promote and practice deviant and perverse sexual activity, starting with children in grade school.”

    Woodfill previously helped lead a years-long campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In 2015, Woodfill helped to successfully defeat HERO -- a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance protecting discrimination against people based on 15 different characteristics -- by peddling the debunked “bathroom predator” myth. Using the tag line “no men in women’s bathrooms,” Woodfill and others effectively fearmongered that sexual predators would exploit the ordinance to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender.

    Woodfill and other anti-LGBTQ activists owed their success in part to lazy, uncritical reporting from local outlets, which helped misrepresent HERO and failed to debunk the “bathroom predator” myth. Fox 26’s reporting was particularly egregious, standing out for its unique and aggressive peddling of the “bathroom predator” myth and inaccurate criticism of HERO supporters. That kind of dishonest reporting was likely part of the reason that Woodfill regularly included clips of Fox 26's reporting in his messages to supporters.

    Now, Woodfill can just send out footage of himself on Fox 26 -- and that’s exactly what he’s done. On June 6, Woodfill posted his Fox 26 appearance from that day to CRT’s news website with the headline “Fox26Houston TV, Jared Woodfill defends Governor Abbott’s call for a special session to include SB 6, ‘No men in women’s bathrooms.’” Woodfill plugged that exact phrase on a May 29 appearance on Fox 26, essentially using the local Houston station as a platform to push his hate group’s slogan:

  • Four facts reporters should include in stories about Texas’ pending attack on the transgender community

    Blog ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    The Texas legislature is currently debating bathroom ban legislation which could potentially target transgender youth in public schools or the entire transgender community in Texas. Reporters covering the bathroom bill-type legislation should avoid parroting anti-transgender misinformation peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups, and instead report the facts about transgender people, particularly the safety and necessity of protecting transgender youth.

    On May 22, the Texas House passed a bathroom bill amendment to Senate Bill 2078, a bill focusing on emergency operation plans for public school districts. While some school groups have said that the exact implications of the amendment are open to interpretation, the crux of the amendment would prohibit transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. But that amendment did not go far enough for the more conservative Texas Senate, which rejected the amendment on May 23. In response, the Senate then tacked on a more expansive bathroom bill provision to an unrelated proposal on county governments -- but a Democrat in the House has promised to reject the changes. The legislature is expected to continue to push for some form of bathroom ban before the session ends May 29.

    In the past, journalists have often stumbled when reporting on transgender people’s access to bathrooms and locker rooms, sometimes parroting unfounded claims peddled by anti-LGBTQ hate groups. Here are four facts journalists should include in articles about pending public accomodation restrictions to ensure accurate, responsible reporting:

    1. Empirical data debunks the “bathroom predator” myth.

    Law enforcement and government officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia -- including experts in Austin, Dallas, and El Paso -- have all debunked the “bathroom predator” myth that sexual predators will exploit nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in public accommodations. Last year a national coalition of over 300 sexual assault and domestic violence prevention organizations also came out in opposition to anti-transgender bathroom bills and in favor of laws and policies that “protect transgender people from discrimination, including in accessing facilities that match the gender they live every day.”

    Additionally, school administrators from 23 school districts and four universities across the country with trans-inclusive nondiscrimination policies have debunked the notion that allowing transgender students to use school facilities that correspond with their gender identity is a safety risk, as claimed by Republican lawmakers in Texas. In total, these schools serve an estimated 1.5 million students each year without any incidents of sexual harassment, assault, or inappropriate behavior as a result of allowing trans students to access bathrooms that align with their gender identity (per reporting to Media Matters in 2014, 2015, and 2016).


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    2. National leading child welfare organizations oppose bathroom bills targeting transgender youth.

    Leading national child welfare and advocacy organizations oppose bathroom bills that single out transgender students for discrimination. Noting that empirical evidence already shows that transgender kids are “at heightened risk for violence, bullying and harassment,” last year leading national child welfare organizations signed a letter standing in opposition to “shameful” bathroom bans and called on “legislators across the country to reject these harmful measures.” Signees included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Counseling Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National Education Association.

    Reporters should also be wary of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), a deceptively named extremist group with an estimated 200 to 500 members whose name is meant to be confused with the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). ACPeds has been designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for spreading malicious lies about LGBTQ people and deliberately misrepresenting legitimate research to attack LGBTQ equality.

    3. Several federal courts have ruled that discrimination against transgender people is illegal sex discrimination.

    Earlier this year, the Supreme Court punted on ruling on whether a transgender Virginia high school student had the right to access restrooms and locker rooms appropriate for his gender identity. However, several lower courts have found that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination. From a 2016 New York Times analysis:

    The Supreme Court has not addressed whether the same language protects transgender rights, but several lower courts have. In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that it does, and some other courts have since agreed. But in 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit made the opposite finding.

    In 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that discriminating against a transgender person was sex discrimination — not based on the civil rights statute, but based on the 14th Amendment. And last month, relying on a 1972 law, Title IX, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that a high school must allow a transgender student who was born anatomically female to use the boys’ bathroom.

    In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled, as the Sixth Circuit did, that discrimination against transgender people violated the Civil Rights Act’s ban on sex discrimination, a decision hailed by advocates as the executive branch’s first unequivocal statement to that effect.

    4. Anti-LGBTQ hate groups and extremists with high-level Texas government connections are behind the push for bathroom bills.

    For over two years, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- the nation’s largest anti-LGBTQ hate group -- has been leading the fight against transgender student rights. By drafting model legislation and policies, testifying at hearings, and suing school districts, ADF has used its mammoth network of over 4,000 affiliated lawyers to convince local school boards, and last year North Carolina (via the infamous House Bill 2), to pass anti-transgender policies. ADF has high-level government connections throughout the country, including three former staff members in Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office.

    In addition to ADF representatives, a number of anti-LGBTQ extremists with high-level government connections have been pushing for a bathroom bill since before the 2017 legislative session began. Those extremists include:

    • Steven Hotze and Jared Woodfill of the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Conservative Republicans of Texas, which has called the word transgender a “euphemism, a weaker alternative, for the term pervert”;
    • Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, who once compared repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to letting loose a “poisonous cloud of chemical weapons” that would “release GLBTQIA activists onto our soldiers like hound dogs of hell”; and
    • Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values, who has said that gay sex is a “dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person's well-being.”