Bethany Kozma, Photo: Fairfax County Public Schools.
In another move likely to trigger criticism from the LGBTQ community, President Trump has reportedly appointed Bethany Kozma to serve as Senior Advisor to the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to BuzzFeed.
Kozma, a Fairfax County resident and mother, is best known for her anti-transgender activism, specifically for protesting the Obama administration’s guidance to schools encouraging administrators to treat transgender children according to their gender identity, including access to restrooms.
As part of those efforts, Kozma helped launch United We Stand, a campaign to educate parents about the Obama administration’s guidance and marshal them into opposing it. As part of that campaign, activists and parents partnered with some national organizations opposed to LGBTQ rights, including the Family Research Council, to inundate the White House with calls opposing the guidance.
The campaign also vowed to push at the local and state level for policies that would restrict transgender people’s access to restrooms, under the guise of protecting children from “sexual predators.”
Writing in The Daily Signal about her plans for “United We Stand” two days prior to the nationwide call-in to the White House, Kozma said: “Let me be clear: It is not transgender persons who I am concerned about hurting my children. Instead, I’m concerned about those who will abuse these new policies.”
But transgender advocates say that argument is a “strawman” designed to justify policies that discriminate against them. And they point to statistics showing no documented cases where a transgender person has been accused of assaulting a non-transgender person in a restroom or changing facility in states and jurisdictions with laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.
Kozma, who previously worked in the White House and the Department of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush, testified before the Fairfax County School Board, implying that young girls would be at risk from sexual predators if the school board were to implement its LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, which would allow transgender students were allowed to access restrooms matching their gender identity. (In fact, despite the passage of the nondiscrimination policy, Fairfax County Public Schools has not passed a sweeping policy on restroom use, but continues to make individual accommodations tailored to the need of each transgender student.)
Kozma also told the school board that, in its search for a replacement to former Superintendent Karen Garza, that the next superintendent must “not violate Title IX” by allowing “males to take over bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms and push out females, denying them their right for privacy and safety.” In the course of her activism, she has called transgender youth “gender confused children.”
Kozma also warned the Loudoun County School Board that allowing transgender students in facilities matching their gender identity “tells young girls who are students that you don’t care how they feel and you will be discriminating against your own students, potentially opening them up to sexual harassment.”
While USAID has supported programs in several countries with the goal of supporting LGBTQ economic empowerment, and adopted guidelines last year to bar overseas contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity, some advocates see Kozma’s appointment as concerning.
“When you google the name Bethany Kozma the first hit is a screed against transgender youth, but that’s not surprising since President Trump has been recruiting from a pool of the most vehemently anti-LGBTQ activists to run our great nation,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement.
“At a time when transgender women are facing rising levels of violence and income inequality, appointing someone to this post who has dedicated their life to harming transgender youth is a slap in the face to LGBTQ Americans and a huge leap in the wrong direction which could place some of the most marginalized Americans directly in harm’s way.”
“By this point, it is unsurprising, though still disappointing, that top posts in the Trump administration are still filling up with opponents of basic civil rights,” Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement. “It is particularly distasteful and dangerous that someone like Bethany Kozma would be chosen as a senior adviser for women’s empowerment.
“Last year, she opposed federal guidance that would make schools safer for transgender students, trotting out tired and discredited claims about transgender-inclusive policies. It is hardly empowering for a young transgender girl to be told every day that she does not deserve the same rights as her peers,” added Keisling. “Bethany Kozma’s appointment is an insult to transgender women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, and she is a wholly inappropriate choice for the position.”