Conservatives truly cannot get enough when it comes to demonizing trans people, especially trans youth. Trans youth are particularly vulnerable when it comes to harassment, bullying, and both physical and verbal abuse while at school, and are also more likely to become homeless and leave high school without a diploma. Trans youth report higher rates of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation. And yet Republicans can’t get enough of trying to isolate and disparage them even more.
A recent example comes to us from Shelley Luther out of Texas. Luther, you might remember, is the hair salon owner (and former teacher) who went to jail after defying pandemic orders to shut down her salon in Dallas in May 2020. Since then she’s gained some notoriety, fired off some racist tweets, and is running for a seat in the Texas House. As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Luther participated in a candidate forum on Saturday and used her time to let folks know she isn’t “comfortable with transgenders” and wishes kids were able to laugh at their transgender classmates. Yes, really.
As some background, Luther is running against fellow Republican Reggie Smith in the Republican primary for a state House seat in the 62nd District. That seat is in a heavily conservative district outside of Dallas. The primary is on March 1. After refusing to obey COVID-19 lockdown orders she served just a few days in jail, but she has become a favorite of Republicans since.
“The kids that they brought in my classroom,” Luther recalled at Saturday’s candidate forum, according to the outlet. “When they said that this kid is transgendering into a different sex, that I couldn’t have kids laugh at them … like, the other kids got in trouble for having transgender kids in my class.”
Here’s that video.
It’s mean! It’s weird! Honestly, it’s disturbing—adults shouldn’t want to see literal children made fun of or laughed at for any reason, and especially not when there’s loads of research and personal anecdotes available affirming how marginalized these particular youth already are. Luther should be ashamed of herself.
But in an email to the outlet, Luther claimed she “respected and supported all students” in her classroom. She went on to say it was hard for her to teach because “the topic of gender transition became the top discussion” in her classroom on a daily basis, and the “center of focus” was on the student and not the lesson.
“We should focus more on learning instead of arguing about which bathroom someone should use,” she told the outlet. “Bullying is never acceptable, and did not occur.”
It would be lovely if people were learning instead of arguing about bathroom use! That’s why trans youth should have fair, safe, and equal access to bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity. No need to argue about someone’s basic human rights and ability to perform an essential bodily function.
And if a teacher doesn’t feel able to balance discussions of real-world issues with prepared lesson plans, perhaps the students deserve better and the teacher in question can look into a different career path? Research shows teachers feel uniquely ill-equipped to handle anti-LGBTQ+ bullying in schools, but that’s a sign that more outreach, training, and education are needed—not that it should be free rein to make fun of vulnerable kids.
Between Luther’s comments and the TikTok video from an Oklahoma school board member fantasizing about trans-inclusive parents dying by suicide, it’s been an especially rough few days of news. Whether or not all anti-trans bills are actually signed into law, it’s obvious conservatives are jumping all over transphobia to get votes and push an already structurally vulnerable population into the shadows. It’s up to all of us to speak up and speak out in favor of trans inclusions, protections, and real equality.
In an effort to educate folks about what we’re up against in this Texas primary, here’s Luther’s campaign announcement video from a few months ago.
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