Republicans are bashing trans people to try to win over women voters. It won’t work.

San Francisco, CA - January 20, 2018: Unidentified participants in the Women's March
San Francisco, CA - January 20, 2018: Unidentified participants in the Women's March Photo: Shutterstock

Republicans are scared of women after they spent years attacking their rights, culminating in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision that ended the federal right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade last year.

So what are they going to do to win back women? Change their stance on reproductive freedom? Expand protections for women in the workplace? Encourage more women to run for elected office?

All of that is too difficult for them. Instead, the bandaid they’re offering this year is to attack transgender people’s rights.

Republican lawmakers in half a dozen states introduced bills this month mendaciously called “Women’s Bill of Rights.” One would think that, with a name like that, they would enumerate rights for women. They could even list rights that women already enjoy in the U.S. to show, at the very least, that Republicans don’t believe these rights should be taken away.

Instead, these bills merely define gendered terms in the law based on body parts. Georgia’s bill, for example, defines “female” as someone with a “reproductive system that at some point produces, transports, and utilizes eggs for fertilization” and male as someone with a “reproductive system that at some point produces, transports, and utilizes sperm for fertilization.” Other terms associated with gender, like “mother” and “father,” are defined based on body parts as well.

Arizona’s, Iowa’s, West Virginia’s, and Virginia’s Women’s Bills of Rights all do the same (Virginia’s has already been tabled).

While this idea isn’t brand new in February 2024 – Oklahoma’s far-right Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) enacted a Women’s Bill of Rights with similar language last year through executive order, and several House Republicans introduced a Women’s Bill of Rights with no actual rights in it at the federal level in 2022 – it’s striking that so many states are trying to pass almost identical bills in such a brief period of time, just before a major election.

In the West Virginia House of Delegates, Republicans actually mocked the Equal Rights Amendment – which would have enshrined women’s right to be treated equally in the Constitution – while speaking in favor of their empty Women’s Bill of Rights.

“Since the 1970s, radical feminist supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment have sought a world in which men and women are treated exactly the same in every single circumstance, regardless of physical differences,” said Del. Kathie Hess Crouse (R), the lead sponsor of the bill. “A world where men and women may never be separated for any reason. The Women’s Bill of Rights aims to halt this radical agenda.”

So the best thing she could say about her Women’s Bill of Rights is that it stops the “radical agenda” of… women having equal rights.

“This does not help women in any capacity at all,” Del. Kayla Young (D) shot back. “In fact, it just says that men and women can have single-sex environments. It provides the same thing for men that it does for women, it doesn’t do anything for women.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) tried a similar message on the far-right Newsmax as he introduced his “Protection of Women in Olympic and Amateur Sports Act,” which does nothing to address issues that actually keep women from participating in sports, like school bullying, underfunding, and sexual abuse.

Democrats “do not like women,” he said. “They want women to be extinct.” Trans people have existed for ages and women have not yet gone extinct.

Republicans are right to be scared of women voting for President Joe Biden this fall and voting the GOP into a minority in the House of Representatives. Abortion rights saw some early victories in late 2023; Republicans lost control of the Virginia House of Delegates after campaigning hard on an abortion ban, and a constitutional amendment protecting abortion rights won in Ohio.

A Quinnipiac poll in January found that the gender gap in support for Trump and Biden is growing even bigger this year, with 58% of women saying they’d vote for Biden and only 36% saying they’d vote for Trump. And a jury found that Trump sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll and then ordered him to pay over $80 million; that won’t help Republicans win over women at the polls.

The overarching problem is that Republicans don’t have much to offer women. Their framework for understanding the world is built on patriarchy. Women – and men too, for that matter – overwhelmingly support basic access to abortion in the first trimester, and people under the age of 29 support it even more.

But that’s not a position that the GOP is willing to budge on. They worked to overturn Roe for decades, and in June 2022, they finally got what they had been longing for. They’re not going to give up their newfound control over women’s bodies that easily.

Instead, all they can offer is… even more control over people’s bodies, enshrining into law which bodies get defined as women and which get defined as men, reassuring who knows how few people that their personal definition of “woman” and “man” will be safe from those dastardly LGBTQ+ people, at least in the eyes of the law.

Then the GOP can hope that women will care more about excluding trans women from the legal definition of womanhood than they will about the material impact of GOP policies on their lives.

It’s quite a gamble, but at this point, it’s all the GOP has left to bet.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated

Can drag queens swing the election? Cynthia Lee Fontaine says they’re more powerful than you think.

Previous article

Donald Trump is considering anti-LGBTQ+ extremist Greg Abbott for vice president

Next article