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LESHER: Youngkin and Transphobia

How Youngkin twisted a case to justify transphobia

<p>Even if Youngkin’s policies never enter public education, his rhetoric and actions have identified to the right that transphobia has the potential to be a powerful fear mongering tool.</p>

Even if Youngkin’s policies never enter public education, his rhetoric and actions have identified to the right that transphobia has the potential to be a powerful fear mongering tool.

On Nov. 2, Glenn Youngkin was elected Virginia's next governor. From the Trump camp to the more moderate conservative wing, Youngkin harnessed middle class parents upset over public education to move his way into the Governor’s mansion. Many attribute Youngkin’s success to his stance on critical race theory and focus on business. However, he has another view that for the first time in Virginia Governor politics may have also given him an edge — transphobia. 

For the previous three decades, Virginia had somewhat of a progressive track record in transgender rights, even becoming the first state to appoint a transgender person to a state legislature in 2017.  However, in 2021 that positive track record has now been tarnished by our new Governor, who is twisting a court case that occurred in Loudoun County into fuel for transphobic rhetoric and parental, rather than educator, control of public education. 

As a public official, Youngkin has a moral and ethical obligation to present truthful portrayals of information as clearly as possible. He must represent the interests of his constituents, and fight for initiatives that better the Commonwealth and its people. And as an official who now represents me, a transgender student in the state of Virginia, Youngkin faces an ethical and moral obligation to uphold my rights to their utmost and protect me as he would any other of his constituents. Based on his highlighting and twisting of this court case, Youngkin has no plan to do so. 

In Loudoun, a 15-year-old boy —  who often wore clothes traditionally attributed to either sex — sexually assaulted one of his female classmates in a restroom at their school. The alleged attacker often wore jeans, polos, skirts and just about any article of clothing he wanted to. However, he never identified as transgender according to his mother. Another aspect to this case was that the boy and his victim were already involved sexually with one another and had multiple consensual sexual encounters in the bathrooms before the assault occurred. From the details of this case, it’s clear that this is not a story of a transgender person manipulating policy to commit assault, this is the story of a disturbed boy in a system that has failed multiple times to restrain him from hurting the girls he’s involved with. 

To Youngkin, however, this case of abuse was an opportunity to identify his issues with progressive thought and policy. During many key points in his political career, Youngkin voiced and supported transphobia. Youngkin has shown disregard for LGBTQ+ indidivduals at every turn — from supporting Tanner Cross, a teacher that blatantly ignored policy that ruled in favor of educators using the preferred names and pronouns of their students, to publicly voicing his personal opposition of same-sex marriage. 

Youngkin further claims that school boards are full of far left, progressive political operators allied with billionaire George Soros, distant from the everyday parents sending their children to school. This sentiment was well received by some Virginian parents, who are apparently frustrated by the fact that public education is in the hands of educators. By verbally alienating the school boards from the parents, Youngkin has poised himself as one of the only authorities to trust in public education, and the only one to eliminate perceived corruption — a manipulation tactic famously used by one of Youngkin’s supporters, Donald Trump. 

This twisting of the court case for political gain has, and will have, disastrous outcomes for the transgender community — particularly transgender Virginians like myself. Even if Youngkin’s policies never enter public education, his rhetoric and actions have identified to the right that transphobia has the potential to be a powerful fear mongering tool. Some political strategists are predicting that transphobic rhetoric will begin to enter more public elections, perhaps even becoming a central issue in the 2024 presidential race. 

Further, Youngkin’s push to get more parental involvement in Virginia public education will likely also stifle trans rights in the classroom. This is especially true in Loudoun County, where the meeting to discuss policy on trans students’ rights erupted into chaos and threats toward board members. This parental protest has already gained national attention with anti-trans rhetoric directed at the fair treatment of trans students. 

Youngkin is absolutely justified in wanting to prevent any coverups of sexual assault and addressing how this obviously troubled student never should have been sent to another school following the first assault. As a public representative, Youngkin has a duty to protect all his constituents. However, when it comes to his transgender consituents like myself — he conveniently ignores this duty in favor of pushing his political agenda. 

Oliver Lesher is a Viewpoint Writer for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.

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