Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is the latest Republican politician to insist that kids are using litter boxes in schools as part of a rant attacking transgender youth.
During a recent tele-town hall event, Johnson was questioned by a caller who claimed that his niece told him that her school had provided litter boxes for students who believe they are cats. The caller, who identified himself as a former Democrat, wanted to know whether the senator had heard about things like that happening and whether Johnson would support a federal law similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“One of the things that COVID did was that parents were looking over their kids’ shoulders and they became aware of the indoctrination of our children by radical leftists within our education system,” he said.
He went on to claim that he’d heard “on a radio talk show” that England’s National Health Service (NHS) has declared that “transgenderism” is “just a phase for children” and that we shouldn’t “accommodate the phase.” Johnson continued his misinformed rant saying that children should not be given “gender-blocking drugs” or receive “sex change operations.” In reality, gender-affirming genital surgeries are not performed on minors.
Johnson concluded by claiming that teachers are “pushing this stuff on our kids.”
NEW: During a tele-town hall, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told a caller he was “aware” of litter boxes in schools, that teachers push “transgenderism” on students and schools should “not accommodate the phase” trans kids are going through (all are false). https://t.co/8uphkfCuwN pic.twitter.com/5DAT9rZbkh
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) October 26, 2022
Contrary to Johnson and other Republicans’ fearmongering, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and other major medical/mental health organizations all support gender-affirming care for young people when appropriate. This often involves affirming young children’s gender identity via social transitioning, and in the case of older youths, the use of reversible puberty blockers to hold off the permanent changes of puberty so that young people have more time to understand their gender identities better. Puberty blockers have been shown to significantly reduce lifelong suicide risk among transgender people.
As for Johnson’s false claim that kids are using litter boxes in schools, the absurd hoax has recently become a common talking point among Republicans attempting to demagogue transgender people. The rumor, which has been spread by anti-LGBTQ social media accounts like Chaya Raichik’s Libs of TikTok, seems to originate with a parent in Michigan who opposed allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. At a school board meeting in January, Lisa Hansen claimed that she had heard that students who identified as cats were using litter boxes in one school’s unisex restroom. The school board was forced to categorically deny Hansen’s claim.
But that has not stopped schools across the country from right-wing figures like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Nebraska state Sen. Bruce Bostelman (R), conservative podcaster Joe Rogan, and Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen from repeating the anti-trans hoax.
Johnson faces Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes in next month’s midterm election. Real Clear Politics‘ polling average shows Johnson is up by 3.3 points ahead of Barnes.