Conservative activists are pushing the Donald Trump campaign and other groups supporting his reelection to focus more ads on attacking transgender youth as a way of getting votes for the GOP this fall.
The American Principles Project (APP), a conservative non-profit organization, will be debuting two ads next week in Michigan that attack Joe Biden for allegedly endorsing “gender change treatments for minors,” citing his support for measures to fight against LGBTQ youth homelessness, school bullying, sexual assault, and suicide.
One of the ads features former drag performer and “ex-gay” Kevin Whitt saying that children “need time” to develop a sense of gender and therefore transgender youth should not be affirmed but instead told to act like their sex assigned at birth.
Whitt has previously claimed that God showed him his “true identity” as a cisgender, straight man and his “desires to do drag, party, or have sex lessened.”
Conservative activist Terry Schilling of APP said that his group ran similar ads in Kentucky and their research showed that they were able to move thousands of conservative Democrats to vote for the Republican gubernatorial candidate with the anti-transgender message. Those ads showed cisgender boys competing in girls’ school sports and said that supporting transgender youth will “destroy girls’ sports.”
“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.
Christian conservatives would like the party to attack transgender youth more, according to the article. They cite the Trump administration’s record on rolling back transgender people’s rights – including protections for transgender youth in schools, allowing homeless shelters to turn away transgender people, and expanding religious exceptions for medical professionals who want to discriminate against transgender people – as proof that he would be credible on the issue.
Trump is falling behind Biden in current polling, due to mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic, massive unemployment, and the Trump administration’s almost daily scandals. Activists like Schilling believe that transgender youth could be a way to take focus away from those issues.
And Republican lawmakers all over the country seem to agree – Republicans in dozens of states earlier this year filed bills to roll back transgender rights.
Other Republicans said that such attacks could backfire.
“This might become a hot cultural issue, but it’s not a thing yet,” an unnamed senior Trump adviser said. “Right now, it’s just an easy issue for the other side to attack us on. They will call us bigots.”
Transgender Republican Jennifer Williams said that such a strategy would be a “dangerous betrayal” of what she believes are conservative values.
“In the short term, some of these groups might get what they want,” she said. “It will gin up Trump’s base and drive turnout. But if we’re true conservatives, we’re supposed to be about limited government intervention in people’s lives.”