Ted Cruz has a new boogeyman to beat up on the campaign trail: the Department of Education, who, as he describes it, wants to let little boys shower with girls. That was an issue he brought up at two separate events yesterday in response to questions on education policy.
“The federal Department of Education is trying to force a junior high to let a little boy take showers with junior high girls,” Cruz said in Coralville “Now that’s crazy! Look, my five-year-old daughter, Catherine, she understands the difference between boys and girls. Now if a local school board tried to do that, the parents in Iowa would throw them out of office in a heartbeat.”
Unsurprisingly, the case he appears to be referring to is considerably more complicated than that. Federal education officials determined a school district in Palatine, Illinois violated anti-discrimination laws with a transgendered student. The student identifies as a girl, plays on girls sports teams, is referred to by a female name at the school and is undergoing hormone treatment. However, the district is restricting her access to shower in the girls’ locker room after receiving some concerns from students and a parent.
Now, if you read the whole article, one could see how rational people could disagree on whether the district’s compromise solution was sufficient, and whether the federal government needed to intervene in this issue. But for Cruz to present it in such simplistic terms that the Department of Education is trying to force a “little boy” to take showers with girls at school is very misleading. And it needlessly inflames a complicated issue of transgender rights, spinning it in a way to make legitimate concerns sound gross and perverse. By apparently referring to the student in the case as a boy, Cruz himself shows what he thinks of transgendered people’s own identity.
His use of this new talking point also presents somewhat awkward moments on the campaign trail, as it’s now a staple in his overall education policy response. In Coralville a sixth grade girl asked what he’d do about the education system, to which he replied to her with a scary story about boys showering with girls. That’s probably not the discussion the young girl was expecting to have with a presidential candidate. He also uses it in lieu of more substantive policies. In Clinton a 14-year-old boy asked what he’d replace Common Core with. Cruz did not explicitly answer that part of the question, mostly focusing on his general belief that decisions should be made on local level.
The Illinois case was not the only statements he made on transgendered people on this Iowa swing. On Sunday he had an exchange with reporters about the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting in which he pushed back against criticisms that it was likely targeted because of the man’s abortion beliefs. Cruz cited news reports that the man may have identified as a woman and was a “transgendered leftist activist.”
The Cruz campaign pushed back at the characterization that he himself was calling the shooter a “transgendered leftist activist,” saying he was merely pointing out there were news reports describing him as that. All Cruz meant to show was there was still an overall lack of information on the case, and that people shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions so quickly.
Even then, however, it’s questionable why Cruz felt the need to bring up that specific report. He was likely referring to a report from a right-wing blog that found that the gunman was listed as a woman on a voter registration form. Therefore, they concluded, he must “identify” as a woman (as opposed to the other possible explanation, that he or someone just checked the wrong box on the form). Interestingly, that blog post didn’t then conclude that he must be a liberal activist. Which makes it more odd that Cruz chose to use the term “transgendered leftist activist.”
It does seem to go a long way in showing Cruz’s mindset on transgendered people. Oh, they’re transgendered? Must by a lefty, an activist one at that. And clearly they’re unbalanced people, so it would make sense they might shoot up some place. Or at least that could be just as likely an explanation for someone to attack a Planned Parenthood clinic. Because people on my side of politics aren’t bad, your side is. So if something bad in the country happens, it should be blamed on your side.
All of Cruz’s fear-mongering rhetoric on transgender issues should be of concern to LGBT activists for the coming general election. Even if Cruz is not the nominee, Republicans apparently seem to think that vilifying transgender issues will be a winning tactic to rally conservative voters in 2016.
by Pat Rynard