University of California law professor Khiara Bridges called out Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) for being transphobic in the middle of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier today.
Bridges was testifying at a committee hearing about the legal consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the federal right to an abortion in the U.S.
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In her testimony, Bridges referred to “people with a capacity for pregnancy.” Her testimony was not specifically about transgender and non-binary people who can get pregnant – she was there to discuss the legal impacts of the decision on everyone and she spent more time highlighting the impacts on Black people – but she did use trans-inclusive language.
And that set Hawley off.
“Professor Bridges, you’ve said several times, you’ve used a phrase that I want to make sure I understand what you mean by it,” Hawley said. “You referred to ‘people with a capacity for pregnancy.'”
“Would that be women?” he asked.
“Many women, cis women, have the capacity for pregnancy,” Bridges responded. “Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as non-binary people who are capable of pregnancy.”
That should have ended the line of questioning; she wasn’t there to testify about trans-inclusive language and she clarified the expression that Hawley asked about.
But Republican lawmakers have been using questions about trans-inclusive language to derail hearings on other issues, pretending not to understand what appointees and Congressional witnesses are saying so that they can grandstand and give speeches about their opposition to transgender equality instead of addressing the issue at hand.
“So this isn’t really a women’s rights issue,” Hawley said.
“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups,” Bridges replied, laughing. “Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.”
Hawley then asked her what the issue of abortion is about if it’s not exclusively about women, but Bridges wasn’t going to let it go without calling out what he was doing.
“So I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing that,” she said.
“Wow,” Hawley replied sarcastically, “you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks who can have pregnancies?”
“So I want to note that one out of five transgender persons have attempted suicide, so I think it’s important-” she began.
“Because of my line of questioning?” Hawley cut her off. “We can’t talk about it?”
“Because denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist is-” she responded.
“I’m denying that trans people exist by asking you if you’re talking about women?” Hawley said, even though he asked his question to clarify what Bridges was talking about and she already answered.
Instead of playing his game, Bridges asked him: “Do you believe that men can get pregnant?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Hawley responded.
“So you’re denying that trans people exist,” she pointed out.
“Is this how you run your classroom?” Hawley asked.
“Oh, we have a good time in my class, you should join,” she responded. “You might learn a lot.”