Metro Weekly

Michigan ads attack Joe Biden and Sen. Gary Peters over support for trans rights

Misleading ads equate Democrats' support for Equality Act with "forcing" medical care on transgender youth

Former drag performer and “ex-trans” person Kevin Whitt – Photo: American Principles Project, via YouTube

A series of three political ads that are currently airing in Michigan attack Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters for their support for the transgender community.

The ads, from the conservative advocacy group American Principles Project, argue that children can be “confused” or take a while to grow into a gender identity that matches their assigned sex at birth.

Two of the ads feature former drag performer and “ex-trans” person Kevin Whitt, who has previously claimed that he was able to overcome his gender dysphoria by embracing God.

Specifically, the ads frame the issue as one of Biden and Peters supporting gender confirmation surgery and puberty blockers for transgender and nonbinary children.

While this is an exaggeration — most transgender children under 18 do not undergo gender confirmation surgery, and in fact, some trans adults never undergo it — the ad seeks to cast support for trans-affirming health care as a threat to children, even characterizing it as a form of “child abuse.”

It also falsely alleges that the Democrats’ stated support for nondiscrimination bills, like the Equality Act, would somehow “force” certain medical treatments on transgender or gender-nonconforming youth.

In one of the ads, Whitt says children “need time” to develop a sense of gender, saying: “As a young teen, I thought I should be a woman. And 17 years later, I felt I should be a man again.”

In a third ad — which recycles an attack used against Gov. Andy Beshear (D) during his gubernatorial run — APP utilizes the attack that the Equality Act “would destroy girls’ sports,” showing a cisgender male athlete racing against a group of girls, repeating the well-worn right-wing trope that transgender females are “boys.”

“That’s not fair. Not fair at all. Vote against Gary Peters and Joe Biden. They are too extreme for Michigan,” the ad’s narrator states.

Terry Schilling, the head of the American Principles Project, previously told Politico of his intention to air the ads, arguing that the anti-trans attacks significantly reduced the margin by which Beshear won so significantly that he almost lost.

He has also publicly urged President Trump to embrace the use of transgender medical care for minors and transgender athletes’ participation in sports as election-year wedge issues — an approach that a few of Trump’s closest advisors have also endorsed.

Similar digital ads were also run in Virginia against Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), the first out transgender official to be elected to a state legislature in the country in 2017. Yet despite the attacks against her, Roem doubled her margin of victory in the 2019 state legislative elections.

Related: Trump advisors urging him to use transgender rights as an election wedge issue

In 2015, former Del. Tim Hugo (R-Clifton) previously claimed that passing a nondiscrimination policy in Fairfax County would enable children — particularly males — to lie about their gender identity to gain access to restrooms and locker rooms.

Yet in 2019, his opponent, Dan Helmer, fully embraced the idea of passing a statewide law prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and defeated Hugo in that November’s elections.

The Human Rights Campaign denounced the ads in a statement, and urged social media platforms to remove them because they spread misinformation about the transgender community and the Equality Act.

“APP tried this in 2019 in Kentucky and their bigoted gambit wildly failed. Now they are doubling down on their outdated playbook spending millions on a misleading ad, in a state where not even the Trump campaign is on the airwaves,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.

“The ads blatantly lie about what the Equality Act does and misrepresent the transgender community. Facebook and all social media platforms must take down these deceitful ads or label them for the misinformation they are. The Human Rights Campaign has already contacted Twitter to remove the tweet that contains the ads, and is reaching out to additional social media platforms with the same message,” David added.

“APP wants a future where LGBTQ people can be fired, denied housing, refused business services or health care solely because of who they are. But they know full well that they’re on the wrong side of this issue and the wrong side of our future.”

The LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD also denounced the ads.

“In America, equality is for everyone,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “These ads perpetuate dangerous stereotypes, traffic in misinformation, and put the lives of transgender people at risk. Sites and social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook should decline to run them and send a message loud and clear that those who would use their platforms to peddle hate and lies will not be tolerated or validated.”

See one of the ads below:

Read more:

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

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