Election 2024

Mike Pence left stammering when CNN host points out his hypocrisy on trans youth

Hershey, PA / USA - December 7, 2019: US Vice President Mike Pence speaking at a political rally after the US Congress House Leaders announced impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
Photo: Shutterstock

GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence could hardly respond when a CNN reporter pointed out his hypocrisy on LGBTQ+ issues. Pence argued that parental rights are paramount in one instance and then argued against parental rights when it comes to gender-affirming care.

CNN held a town hall event for Pence last night – the same kind of event that has gotten CNN criticized for not properly fact-checking the GOP presidential candidates as they speak in front of a hand-selected and very friendly audience – and he railed against gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

“We’re gonna protect kids from the radical gender ideology and say no chemical or surgical gender transition before you’re 18, period,” he said, getting applause from the conservative audience.

Host Dana Bash pushed back: “I just want to be clear on this because you are so adamant about parents’ rights.”

“Right, I am,” Pence responded.

“But in this particular case, parents who say, along with the doctors, that what is best for their kids, what their kids feel most comfortable with doing, is gender transition,” Bash said. “The parents should not be allowed to do that?”

Pence did not appear to have a response ready for this fairly obvious question.

“Right, look, I, I, look… The, the s- state has the obligation to see to the safety and health and well-being of the people in the state,” he said, even though Pence adamantly opposes safety measures like vaccine mandates, which do a lot more to keep people safe than focusing on transgender youth. “And I accept that. Look, yet… I, I take your point, I take your point….”

Bash insisted that she wasn’t making a point, “It’s a question,” as Pence continued to stammer.

“Well, I, I, look, this… Well we have afoot in America that is a radical gender ideology that has taken hold in our schools, that has taken hold in our universities, it is afoot across the nation….” Pence responded, trying to talk about anything other than the inconvenient fact that many parents of transgender kids support their children.

Parental rights” have been used in the past several years to attack LGBTQ+ equality, with anti-LGBTQ+ bills often being named after parental rights. Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law was officially named the “Parental Rights in Education” law. Anti-LGBTQ+ activists often style themselves as parents’ rights activists since they believe that parents have a right to prevent their children from knowing that LGBTQ+ people exist, and they simply assume that all parents agree with them.

“Parental rights” has become a particularly useful expression for the right when arguing that schools and teachers have an obligation to out LGBTQ+ youth to their parents. They say that parents have the best interests of their kids at heart and that child abuse is so rare that parents should be given unfettered control over their children’s lives. The ideology is even applied to non-LGBTQ+ issues, like opposition to vaccinations and critical race theory, arguing for a parent’s right to keep a child ignorant of the history of racism in the U.S. or unvaccinated against preventable diseases.

The rightwing narrative around transgender youth – supported by even elected officials like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) – is that schools, social media, and greedy doctors are turning children transgender, and honest, salt-of-the-earth parents are fighting against these institutions. In reality, many parents are supportive of LGBTQ+ youth, and the parents of transgender children have been particularly active as state legislatures across the country attempt to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Transphobia takes center stage in Republican campaign strategies for 2024 presidential race

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other potential 2024 presidential candidates, like Nikki Haley and Mike Pence, are emphasizing transphobia in their political campaigns.

DeSantis sidestepped a question about the Russia-Ukraine conflict to focus on what he views as the politicization of the military, including “gender ideology.” Haley blamed transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for teenage girls contemplating suicide, despite no evidence connecting Mulvaney to such rates.

Transphobia is increasingly becoming a central issue for Republican candidates, similar to how marriage equality was used to drive voters in the 2004 election.

Candidates like Pence promise to ban transgender people from the military and implement a national ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth if elected.

The upcoming Republican primary may see more sensationalized stories about transgender individuals, signaling a shift in political strategy towards targeting the rights and humanity of transgender people.

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