GOP Congressional staffer’s temper tantrum over pronouns sparks Ethics complaint

Activists from the National Center for Transgender Equality, partner organizations and their supporters hold a rally.
Activists from the National Center for Transgender Equality, partner organizations and their supporters hold a 'We Will Not Be Erased' rally in front of the White House October 22, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Matthew Donnellan, chief of staff to Rep. Carol Miller (R-WV), is the subject of a complaint with the House Ethics Committee over an email he sent which includes strong anti-trans language.

Donnellan became enraged when the employee sent an email that included his pronouns, reports The Washington Blade, which viewed the email exchange.

“As a father, it is disgusting that anyone would ever tell my son or daughter that something is wrong with them and they should take sterilizing hormones or have surgery to cut off their genitals,” he responded to an email from a federal employee who had their pronouns in their signature.

“The fact that you support that ideology by putting pronouns in your signature is awful,” he added. “You’re disgusting and should be ashamed of yourself. Don’t email me or anyone from my office ever again.” 

Donnellan stood by his screed when asked about it by The Blade: “No one is ‘born in the wrong body,’ and it’s horrific to tell anyone that they need genital mutilation surgery or sterilizing drugs… people who push gender ideology, actively or passively, are awful and should be confronted every single time.”

He also said that he sends that response “to anyone who uses pronouns or pushes gender ideology in any way.”

One unnamed senior government official said that this transphobic behavior was completely in line with Donnellan. 

“I’ve heard from two colleagues several months apart about two separate transphobic emails, using identical language, from Matthew. Unfortunately these emails—though inconsistent with the typical collegiality one would expect from a Chief of Staff on the Hill—is likely a reflection of both increased partisanship on the Hill and a rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from the right.”

He also pointed out that even the most left-leaning officials in Washington work with conservative members who hold anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs when they need to. 

“Even some of the most progressive members, like [Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY)] have partnered with some of the most conservative members, like [Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Jim Jordan (R-OH)], respectively, when they can find common ground.”

“Not only is this virtual, hate-filled temper tantrum unbecoming of a Chief of Staff, inappropriate, and unprofessional, it also hurts his boss’s constituents. D.C. is built on congressional staff, members of Congress, and executive officials being able to put aside their differences to find unlikely areas of commonality where they can work together,” he said. 

A House Ethics Committee spokesperson declined to comment when asked if they could confirm receipt of the complaint against Donnellan. 

About the complaint, Donnellan said, “I haven’t heard anything from Ethics and doubt that I will; they generally don’t waste their time with sheltered progressives being forced into the real world for the first time.”

He also said that he doubted his boss, Rep. Miller, would reprimand him over his remarks, as her motto is “’cut the bull,’ and gender ideology is some of the biggest bull there is.”   

Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris administration has encouraged people to include pronouns in their email signatures, as has the Department of Agriculture. The State Department added pronouns to the signatures of all their employees. Along with being clarifying, the practice also “has the benefit of indicating to the recipient that you will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns.”

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