GOP candidates discover the latest "wedge issue" in transgender individuals

As 2022 elections heat up, derision and denigration of trans Americans are rampant on the airwaves as well as in the statehouses all across the country.

GOP candidates discover the latest "wedge issue" in transgender individuals

Dr. Mehmet Oz reaches out to a little girl and asks, "Do your parents think you are a boy?"

The "Dr. Oz Show" episode that featured transgender children in 2010 only had a few seconds. The clip is now in an attack ad that was aired in support of one of his Republican primary rivals in the crowded, high-stakes race to the U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

Another campaign ad from Vicky Hartzler, Republican U.S. Senate Candidat in Missouri, targets transgender persons in sports. She refers to Lia Thomas , NCAA swimmer, by her deadname, and says "women’s sports are not for men pretending to women."

On Wednesday, Texas Governor. Greg Abbott, a Republican running for reelection, directed the state's child welfare office investigate reports of abuse or gender-confirming care given to children.

As the 2022 elections heat up, derision and discrediting transgender people and those they perceive as their allies are rampant on the airwaves as well as in statehouses throughout the country. Political observers believe it's a traditional strategy to find a "wedge" issue that motivates a base.

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen (executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality) stated that "they are just weaponizing" the fact that most Americans don't realize they know someone transgender. It is easy to fall for myths about people you don’t know. That’s human. It is just too unfortunate to see politicians trying to make this work for their own benefit.

According to Neil Newhouse, a veteran Republican pollster, Republicans use it because the public opinion is on their side.

Newhouse stated that parents of transgender high school athletes love the idea of restricting their athletes from being transgender. This motivates the Republican base and is carried by swing voters by 2:1.

Newhouse stated that a Republican candidate could use it in a primary to prove their conservative credentials, to be first or to assert enough power to take on the issue. He said that it could also be used to push a left-leaning candidate.

Oz's campaign, which uses inaccurate terminology to describe transgender females, was not available for comment.

Transgender and other LGBTQ people are being represented in political campaigns.

Minimum 10 states have banned transgender athletes participating in sports that are not compatible with their gender identity.

Indiana could be the 11th. However, federal courts have blocked Idaho and West Virginia laws. There are also states that ban or investigate gender-confirming treatment. Texas is one such state.

Andrew Proctor, an associate professor at Wake Forest University and LGBTQ political scholar, stated that the narrative of transgender people being a threat is very similar to those of same-sex marriage bans.

Proctor and others stated that the political framing often revolves around protecting girls. This is likely to increase its appeal.

It's good messaging. Don Haider Markel, a University of Kansas professor of political science, said that no one doesn't want children to be protected.

While examples such as Lia Thomas are rare in the United States, Hartzler -- citing her experiences as a high-school athlete and coach -- stated in an interview that the issue is important in a Senate race since it "represents the wokeness which is being inflicted on us from all sides. It has gone beyond common sense."

Thomas was not available for comment by University of Pennsylvania athletics spokesperson.

In January, the NCAA adopted a sport by sport approach for transgender athletes in order to record testosterone levels prior to championship selections. The states have several policies for high school sports.

The TV ad for the super PAC that supports Republican David McCormick in Pennsylvania tries to portray Oz as a "Republican In Name Only" or not conservative enough.

Ken Griffin, a conservative billionaire, donated millions to Honor Pennsylvania's super-PAC.

The ad cuts a few seconds of the episode and presents it in a way that is not consistent with a show that examined transgender children from a balanced perspective, with input from parents and a pediatrician on their newfound happiness.

After Oz asks the girl from a military family if she can recall when she thought she was a boy, the clip in the attack commercial ends. Continue watching the full episode:

The girl replies, "A little bit,"

Oz replies, "Talk to us about that a bit." "What are you remembering?"

The girl's mother sat next to her and said: "Like how did you feel when you used to take me and get your hair cut at a barbershop on base?"

Josie replies, "It made my very angry."

The mother said, "You didn't like your hair cut." "Why not?"

Josie replies: "Because i'm a girl, and not a boy."

Honor Pennsylvania's political consultant did not respond to messages asking why Oz is not considered conservative enough. McCormick campaign spokesperson didn't respond to messages asking whether McCormick agreed with the attack.

Josie and her mom could not be reached for comment about Josie's appearance in a political attack advertisement years later.

Lisa Middleton (transgender mayor of Palm Springs), California said that "It's extremely sad that a political leader finds the only way they can get themselves elected is to attack vulnerable children and their parents." It is irresponsible to make transgender children and their parents more difficult to navigate adulthood, given all the problems that face us today in this world and across the country. It's un-American."

Republicans are not the only party to use wedge issues. Democrats also often portray the wealthy in a negative light to gain political points.

Paul Goren, a University of Minnesota political psychology professor, stated that the GOP's focus on transgender people might have a shelf-life. This is just as public opinion has shifted with both parties' efforts to oppose same-sex marriage. He said that if it fails to pay off in electoral victories, Republicans will continue their efforts.

Abbott's Texas letter was sent just one week before the state's Republican primaries, which were the first in the country for the 2022 cycle. This letter aligns with a recent state Attorney General Ken Paxton's legal opinion, which is directed at gender-confirming treatments that include hormone therapy and puberty blockers.

A Arkansas law prohibiting such treatment to anyone younger than 18 years has been blocked by the federal judge. Other states are looking at similar legislation.

Texas's civil liberties groups, medical practitioners and some county district attorneys are provoking a lot of backlash.

Kimberly Shappley is a Texas nurse who is also the mother of Kai, an 11-year old transgender girl. She said that she was devastated and had started looking for work in another state. She said that the family was already on edge for years about efforts to stop transgender children using public restrooms that are compatible with their identities.

Shappley stated, "As a parent of trans kids, I can tell ya that our close-knit family is just a wreck," during a video conference hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union. It's been a lot more than tears. There has been much discussion about, "Do we have all our papers in order?" Are we following our plan? Are we ready to move?

She said that it was difficult to know where to go.

"The entire United States is on fire for anti-trans legislation. Shappley stated that it's not Texas. "Where do you believe trans children can live in safety right now?" Because there aren't enough.

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