A transgender teen was ejected from a Ted Cruz rally in Maryland on Thursday because of his gender identity, according to his account of events.
James Van Kuilenburg, a 16-year-old student at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, said on his Facebook page he wanted to attend the rally in Frederick, Md., to learn about Cruz and obtained tickets in advance, but after entering the event, campaign staff escorted him outside.
“Before we even had a chance to see Cruz, I was tapped on the shoulder,” Van Kuilenburg wrote. “When I turned, there was a Campaign Staff member, asking me to leave. I am a visibly trans person, and I’m proud of it, so I wore my trans pride flag around my shoulders and a National Center for Transgender Equality shirt. The campaign staff member kept holding on to me, saying the ‘event staff were asking me to leave.’ I then asked what the reason was, but he only repeated himself.”
Van Kuilenburg claims that as he was being escorted out, he tried to inform the media that he was being removed from the event, but campaign staff deterred him.
“The staff that were following us grabbed me again, and told me ‘ma’am I need you to cooperate and not shout,'” Van Kuilenburg said. “I corrected him, telling him that I’m a boy, and he briefly apologized.”
According to Van Kuilenburg, staffers told him that because the Cruz rally was a private event, they could kick him out on the basis of trespassing even through they reserved tickets. The response from Cruz volunteers outside was similarly dismissive, Van Kuilenburg writes.
“When trying to explain what had happened to the Cruz volunteers outside, they laughed at us,” Van Kuilenburg said. “The level of disrespect and aggression there was outstanding.”
An account of the rally in the Frederick News-Post corroborates Van Kuilenburg was in attendance and quotes his mother, Nicola Kuilenburg, as saying she and her son were asked to leave even though they acquired tickets for the event.
“The fact that I’m thrown out based on my identity is ridiculous,” Van Kuilenberg is quoted as saying in the report.
According to the Frederick News-Post, Van Kuilenberg said he attended to show Cruz supporters anti-LGBT speech hurts real people like him.
The Cruz campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on whether it disputes Kuilenburg’s account of being ejected from the candidate’s rally for being transgender.
But the account of events is consistent with Cruz’s opposition to LGBT rights and his inflammatory remarks that equate transgender people’s access to bathroom facilities to men using women’s bathrooms.
Also on Thursday, Cruz slammed his rival Donald Trump for coming out against North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law. On Glenn Beck’s radio show, Cruz conflated being transgender with being a sexual predator.
Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the Van Kuilenbergs’ account of events is consistent with the anti-trans views Cruz has expressed.
“We can certainly vouch that he is wearing an NCTE shirt,” Keisling said. “And with Sen. Cruz’s unnecessary attacks on transgender people this morning as well as his supporting the hateful nonsense spouted by Curt Schilling, we are not surprised to hear that the senator is afraid to have transgender people at his events. Unfortunately it is very sad that, in the current political climate, a student earnestly trying to hear different viewpoints can be turned away by ignorance.”