On March 1st, the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC) kicked off a four-day conference in Washington, D.C. – and anti-transgender hate was at the top of the agenda.
The conference featured an array of speakers including prominent Republican politicians and policymakers as well as right-wing pundits. They were joined by conspiracy theorists like Jack Posobiec, purveyors of COVID disinformation like Dr. Robert Malone and anti-LGBTQ+ extremists like Chaya Raichik. The lineup continued a trend of problematic CPAC speakers and attendees; the conference has previously welcomed white supremacists, right-wing nationalists and other extremists.
At the March 2023 event, anti-trans rhetoric was a central theme, promoted by extremist and mainstream speakers alike. One speaker went as far as to call for the complete eradication of “transgenderism” from American society. This disturbing rhetoric reflects the broader, dangerous trend of anti-LGBTQ+ extremism in the U.S.
Anti-trans rhetoric at CPAC included attacks on gender-affirming care, trans-inclusive athletic regulations and bathroom policies, as well as false allegations of pedophilia in the LGBTQ+ community and “transgenderism” as a radical ideology.
Speakers primarily focused their attacks on gender-affirming healthcare, targeting providers and hospitals with lies and sensationalized accusations of “child mutilation.” Gender-affirming care refers to a holistic form of healthcare that includes non-surgical and non-pharmaceutical options for LGBTQ+ persons, such as mental health and educational services. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also found that “there is strong consensus among the most prominent medical organizations worldwide that evidence-based, gender-affirming care for transgender children and adolescents is medically necessary and appropriate." Despite these facts, this type of care has long been demonized by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists, leading in recent years to attacks on and violent threats against gender-affirming care providers and facilities.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) centered attacks on gender-affirming healthcare, trumpeting her recent reintroduction of the 2022 “Protect Children’s Innocence Act” in the House - a bill which would make it a felony to provide gender-affirming care to minors. Greene falsely and inflammatorily claimed that gender-affirming care is designed to “mutilate your kids” and “chemically castrate them.” Other speakers echoed this theme, with former Trump official Sebastian Gorka claiming that kids were being “mutilated” on the altar of “transgender insanity” and Tom Fitton of the right-wing activist group Judicial Watch alleging that gender-affirming care was a “demonic” assault on American children. Former president Donald Trump closed out the 2023 conference by claiming that he would “revoke every Biden policy promoting the sexual mutilation and chemical castration of our youth, and [I] will ask Congress to send me a bill prohibiting child sexual mutilation in all 50 states.”
CPAC speakers used their platforms to advocate for policies that would ban trans athletes in collegiate and professional sports. Former president Trump stated that as president he would “keep men out of women’s sports.” In a speech laden with anti-trans rhetoric, college athlete and anti-trans activist Riley Gaines spoke about her recent experiences testifying at state legislatures across the country to “save women’s sports” by banning transgender athletes. This movement is part of efforts in 29 states to pass anti-trans student athletic bills in 2022.
Speakers also targeted trans-inclusive bathroom policies. L. Brent Bozell III of the conservative media watchdog “Media Research Center” and U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL), spoke about an incident in Loudon County, VA, which has been falsely reported in right-wing media as an instance of a trans student abusing inclusive bathroom policies to attack young girls. Riley Gaines also claimed that trans-inclusive athletic policies allow trans women to “take advantage” of sharing locker rooms with women -- falsely insinuating that trans people are sexual predators.
CPAC speakers played into the dangerous and baseless narratives around “grooming” and “pedophilia” in the LGBTQ+ community – narratives that have inspired real-world violence against that community. U.S. Rep Lauren Boebert (R-CO) claimed that educators are attempting to “groom” children, echoing similar claims from Libs of TikTok. Former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard baselessly claimed that the LGBTQ+ community was trying to gain acceptance for pedophiles by labeling them “minor-attracted persons” and allowing them to teach in schools. Sebastian Gorka continued his anti-trans rhetoric by claiming that drag shows for children are “sexually perverse.”
CPAC speakers also made repeated references to “transgenderism” and “gender ideology.” As the LGBTQ+ media advocacy organization GLAAD notes, these are not terms that trans people use. They are instead used by anti-trans activists to “dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to ‘a condition’ or a ‘dangerous ideology.’”
Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project announced that his CPAC panel was focused on the issue of “transgenderism,” and misgendered prominent trans activists during his comments. Marjorie Taylor Greene referenced “gender ideology” in her speech and said it “…tells the most incredible lie that children can actually change their gender.” Tulsi Gabbard claimed that the Biden administration cannot recognize the “objective truth” of womanhood – a concept which leaves out trans women and instead advocates for the intentional and repeated misgendering and marginalization of trans people. Each of these comments rejects the existence of trans people and denies them recognition and respect.
Perhaps most ominously, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles said “For the good of society, ‘transgenderism’ must be eradicated from public life entirely.” The call was met with rousing applause.
The research in this article was made possible thanks to a partnership between ADL and GLAAD focused on countering anti-LGBTQ+ extremism and hate. Click here to learn more about this critical partnership.
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