It’s not clear what Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis was expecting when she decided to go transphobic during a commencement speech at the University of Wyoming last weekend, but she was clearly taken aback by the resounding booing she got in response.
Footage taken during the commencement Saturday shows graduates booing after Lummis claimed that “even fundamental, scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days.” Lummis smiled at the booing graduates and seemed like she was going to argue with them, but then hesitated and stopped. By the end of the weekend, her office had issued a supposed apology.
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“In a statement released by her office Sunday, a spokesperson noted that Lummis was apologizing to those who felt ‘un-welcomed or disrespected’ by the comments,” Los Angeles Blade reported, claiming that she “appreciated hearing from members of the University of Wyoming community on this issue.”
Vivian Topping, director of advocacy and civic engagement at the Equality Federation, and Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights
The Blade reported that University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel had that same day issued a statement saying that “while we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.” The Blade reports that Dr. Jenni Tabler, a professor at the university, had tweeted that they’d recently lost a trans student to suicide.
Matthew Shepard, the gay man brutally beaten and left to die on a fence nearly 25 years ago, had also been a University of Wyoming student. His murder helped lead to the passage of the historic Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. James Byrd Jr. was a Black man who was horrifically murdered by a gang of white men who tied him to a truck and dragged him for miles.
Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that Lummis claimed “her intention with the reference to the ‘two sexes’ was to highlight the times residents live in, where the ‘metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality.’”
Or maybe, just maybe, Lummis made the unprompted remark because Republicans in other states are currently waging a campaign attacking the very existence of LGBTQ children. In light of the right-wing Supreme Court’s draft forced birth decision, the future of marriage equality is no longer secure. If this issue is “under debate,” it’s because Republicans have forced it (though to be clear, LGBTQ lives should never be up for debate).
Lummis replaced late Republican Senator Mike Enzi, who before retiring gave a preview of the Republican-led Don’t Say Gay bills that were to come.
“On Thursday, Enzi spoke to students at Greybull High School and Middle School and responded to a student who asked him what he was doing to support LGBTQ communities in Wyoming,” HuffPost reported at the time. “He said that ‘the guy who wears a tutu to the bar and is surprised’ when he is treated different is ‘asking for it.’”
It remains to be seen if Wyoming pushes anti-gay legislation as forcefully as states like Florida and Alabama. NBC News reported in 2020 that Dan Zwonitzer, an openly-gay GOP lawmaker in Wyoming, had helped defeat numerous anti-LGBTQ proposals. Zwonitzer recently told Axios that anti-LGBTQ bills are "just an election strategy in general to instill fear in others, whatever that 'other.’”
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