Dakota Johnson claims kids in schools are identifying as cats

Dakota Johnson on Ellen's show
Dakota Johnson on Ellen's show Photo: screenshot

50 Shades of Grey actress Dakota Johnson is the latest prominent person to repeat the absurd and transphobic myth that schools are allowing students to identify as and behave like cats. The myth usually involves claims that student-furries are using litterboxes instead of toilets at school in order to associate living one’s life authentically with poor hygienic conditions, although Johnson did not mention that part.

Johnson was asked about “the discourse around this rise of polyamory” in a recent interview with Bustle and she started giving an answer about how people should do what they want if they’re “not hurting anyone.” Then she got into students behaving like cats but appeared supportive of those students.

“My stepson had a friend who was saying that at her school, some kids are identifying as cats,” Johnson said. “And I was like, OK, good for you.”

When asked about her stepson’s friend’s reaction, she said, “She’s like, ‘I guess I have to call [her] Kitty now.'”

The student-furries myth was a theme in the 2022 midterm elections, with several Republican politicians and candidates claiming that schools were allowing kids to use litterboxes. The myth was a favorite among the anti-trans right, who wanted to denigrate the idea that children could know their gender by comparing it to identifying as a non-human animal and defecating in front of others.

Republican politicians and right-wing commentators have repeated the urban legend to gin up moral panic around trans and nonbinary kids and also to push efforts to ban students from using school bathrooms that match their gender identity. Schools in the U.S. and Canada were forced to send letters to parents explaining that kids aren’t allowed to use litter boxes in school, while others – including a few in Colorado that were specifically accused by the Republican gubernatorial candidate – had to defend themselves in the media to the accusation.

But in October 2022, NBC News reported that none of the school districts that had been accused by Republicans that year of installing litter boxes had actually done so. What’s more, one Renison University College professor who studies furry culture noted that she has never once come across any evidence of actual furries using litter boxes.

That hasn’t stopped the myth from spreading. Rightwing podcaster Joe Rogan shared a similar story to Johnson’s in 2022 when he claimed his “friend, his wife is a school teacher, and she works at a school that had to install a litter box in the girls’ room because there’s a girl who’s a furry, who identifies as an animal and her mother badgered the school until they agreed to put a litter box in one of the stalls.” He made the statements while talking to anti-trans former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii as they complained that some people are transgender. He later admitted that the story was fake.

And earlier this year, a Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma introduced a bill to allow animal control to remove student-furries from school.

Johnson made headlines in LGBTQ+ media when she sparred with former daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. In 2019, Johnson was a guest on DeGeneres’s show, and Ellen said that she had not been invited to Johnson’s 30th birthday party.

“Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen,” Johnson said, unwittingly making a clip that went viral online. “I did invite you, and you didn’t come.”

DeGeneres pressed Johnson and repeatedly said she didn’t remember being invited, but she later admitted that Johnson invited her.

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