Bias Watch

Anti-vaxxers now “identify as fully vaccinated” to get out of mask mandates

Anti-vaccine protestors
Anti-vaccine protestors Photo: Shutterstock

Internet trolls are now saying that they’ll skirt new mask guidelines by mixing anti-vaccine ideology with an anti-trans joke.

“I identify as fully vaccinated,” tweeted libertarian activist Michael Rufo. His message is that transgender people aren’t really the gender they say they are but liberals accept their stated identities, so why can’t he just say the same about being vaccinated?

Related: A shockingly high number of transgender Americans are forced into conversion therapy

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new coronavirus guidelines that said “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.” The guidelines said that someone is fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Businesses and other places where people congregate indoors often don’t have a way to tell who is vaccinated and who isn’t, and establishments may implement an honor system.

But a lot of Americans don’t want to get the vaccine, and they tend to be rural Republicans and white Evangelicals. That is, they’re the same people whose representatives are pushing anti-transgender legislation all over the country.

Rufo isn’t alone. Virginia Commonwealth University researcher Caroline Orr Bueno found dozens of examples of people making the similar statements on social media.

“It’s the new anti-vaccine talking point,” she wrote.

This isn’t the first time coronavirus conspiracy theorists have coopted progressive ideas to avoid anti-pandemic measures. Last year, anti-maskers even created fake laminated cards saying that the Americans with Disabilities Act exempted them from mask mandates.

This is also part of a long pattern of people misconstruing the concept of gender identity as simply stating that a person is whatever they want to be – often just to win an argument or get some material benefit – instead of expressing a deep sense of one’s own reality and living as a person’s authentic self.

Rachel Dolezal was a white college teacher who said that she was Black for years before she acknowledged that she was “born white to white parents” in 2015, and she compared her “transracial” identity to being transgender.

Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband sued his country several years ago to have his age reduced by 20 years.

“We can make our own decisions if we want to change our name, or if we want to change our gender,” he said at the time. “So I want to change my age. My feeling about my body and about my mind is that I’m about 40 or 45.”

His lawsuit was rejected even though the Netherlands has some of the most liberal laws on transgender rights in the world, because his argument wasn’t about a matter of identity but about an event – his birth – that happened on a certain date.

This misconstrued version of gender identity – that it’s a fiction or even a lie used for personal gain – has been behind many of the attacks on transgender youth this year. Republican lawmakers all over the country are arguing that laws are needed to stop cisgender boys from pretending to be transgender girls in order to win at sports, something they can’t name a single example of.

Meanwhile, people who oppose transgender equality have turned the idea into an internet joke to disparage trans people, usually with people saying that they “identify as an attack helicopter.”

This is why transgender advocate and LGBTQ Nation contributor Gwendolyn Ann Smith called the recent “I identify as fully vaccinated” trend “The one joke, COVID-19 edition.”

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