Metro Weekly

Minnesota lawmaker disparages transgender people after Minneapolis City Council victories

Mary Franson posted a transphobic tweet after two trans women were elected to the council

State Rep. Mary Franson – Photo: Minnesota House of Representatives.

A Minnesota lawmaker is being criticized for a disparaging tweet about transgender people after Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, who are transgender, won seats on the Minneapolis City Council in historic victories.

State Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) posted the tweet on her personal account, writing: “A guy who thinks he’s a girl is still a guy with a mental health condition,” reports the St. Cloud Times.

Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin characterized Franson’s remarks as “hurtful” and an “attempt to cheapen this historic victory and take the wind out of the sails of equality.”

Franson then took to Facebook, saying she “should have shown grace and not come across the way” that she did. She added that it’s not the first time she’s offended “social justice warriors and it won’t be the last.”

Martin called Franson’s follow-up remarks, particularly her casting herself as an opponent of so-called “political correctness” a “non-apology.”

The Minnesota LGBTQ legislative caucus released a statement encouraging Franson to “get the facts and to get to know transgender people herself.” The caucus members also point out that the American Psychological Association no longer classifies transgenderism as a mental illness.

“When leaders who hold positions of respect casually trade in negative comments about transgender people, some interpret that as an invitation to treat their fellow Minnesotans poorly,” the caucus said in its statement.

Jenkins and Cunningham made history by becoming the first transgender people elected to the city council of a major U.S. city on Tuesday. Jenkins, 56, won an open seat for District 8, while Cunningham, 29, unseated Council President Barb Johnson in the race for the District 4 seat after “second-choice” votes from the third- and fourth-place candidates were re-allotted in an instant runoff.

Monica Roberts, the co-chair of the Trans United Fund, the nation’s only transgender-specific political action committee, which backed both Jenkins and Cunningham in their respective races, said she had not seen Franson’s comments but was not shocked to hear that a Republican lawmaker was saying anti-transgender things.

She also noted that Franson’s contention that being transgender is a mental illness is not backed up by science, or by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which serves as the American Psychiatric Association’s guidebook on how to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. All credible mental health associations have found that being transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.

“We know the Republicans have been averse to any science that doesn’t back their wealthy donors or their viewpoints,” Roberts said when asked why Franson hearkens back to the days when being LGBTQ was considered a mental illness. But even more importantly, Roberts said, Franson’s comments can’t negate the historic victories of two transgender people of color, which have been a long time coming.

“It’s past time that we’ve had people elected to our city councils and our state legislatures,” she said, referring to a host of other transgender electoral victories across the country in last Tuesday’s elections. “We are Americans, too, and we deserve a say in how we are governed.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com