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Only amnesia can explain new Democratic support for Bush

Poll shows surging approval for anti-gay president

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AIDS policy, gay news, Washington Blade

President George W. Bush has found newfound support in the Trump administration. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

After more than a year of President Trump, the administration of George W. Bush is looking better to many Democrats in retrospect — but that might be the result of collective amnesia given the policies of the previous Republican president.

A CNN poll published late month found 61 percent of Americans now have a favorable view of Bush compared to his approval rating of 33 percent at the time he left office.

Much that support is the result of newfound favorability among Democrats. In 2009, the first year former President Obama took office, only 11 percent of Democrats approved of Bush. Now that approval rating stands at 54 percent.

The rise in support among Democrats for Bush seems to overlook that his presidency was marked by a military quagmire in Iraq, an inept response to Hurricane Katrina, a financial collapse in 2008, scheming advisers and Dick Cheney. (A recent “Saturday Night Live” spoof of Bush imitated by Will Ferrell, who impersonated the former president in the early Bush years, reminded viewers he was “like, historically bad.”)

But Bush’s administration also had an anti-gay agenda that compares, if not surpasses, the anti-LGBT policies under the Trump administration.

Forget Trump’s eight words in the State of the Union address expressing a commitment to “religious liberty,” considered code in the context of conservative politics to mean anti-LGBT discrimination. Bush, on multiple occasions, used that platform to advocate for a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have preempted the 2015 Obergefell decision and banned same-sex marriage nationwide.

“Activist judges…have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives,” Bush said in 2004. “On an issue of such great consequence, the people’s voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.”

(Those words so enraged Gavin Newsom, then a guest of Nancy Pelosi for Bush’s speech and mayor of San Francisco, that he decided to defy state law and begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The California Supreme Court would later stop his efforts until marriage equality came to California years later.)

Under campaign adviser Karl Rove, the Bush re-election campaign in 2004 was centered on both the Federal Marriage Amendment and 11 state measures seeking to bar same-sex marriage. All 11 of those amendments would pass that year. Log Cabin Republicans, which endorsed Bush in 2000, refused to do so in 2004 largely over that measure.

On two separate occasions, one in 2004 and 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress would vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment to stop efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. Both times the measure failed to obtain sufficient support for passage.

Joe Solmonese, a former president of the Human Rights Campaign who led efforts to fight the measure the second time around, said the Federal Marriage Amendment was “largely driven” by Bush and Rove.

“Regardless of what people years later have told me about what was genuinely in George Bush’s heart with regard to LGBT people, that effort to write discrimination into the Constitution in a permanent way had his fingerprints on it and had his blessing,” Solmonese said.

Although strong support for the Federal Marriage Amendment was the cornerstone of anti-gay initiatives in the Bush years, the presidency was also filled with social conservatives who worked to implement an anti-gay agenda.

As a Bush appointee in the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Scott Bloch refused to investigate claims of sexual-orientation discrimination within the federal government. Additionally, he ordered 12 OSC staffers, including the only two known gay employees, to transfer to distant cities or lose their jobs.

Monica Goodling, a Bush appointee in the Justice Department, was revealed to have violated the law for being engaged in politically motivated firings of seven U.S. attorneys in 2007. The Washington Blade later discovered under her tenure applicants for Justice Department internships and honors programs may have been rejected based on their membership in LGBT groups, such as Immigration Equality and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

In the lame duck of the Bush administration, the Department of Health & Human Services issued a rule allowing medical practitioners to opt out of performing abortion services, which at the time was also seen as allowing practitioners to refuse service to gay people. The Obama administration rescinded the rule, but the Trump administration has recently proposed putting that back in place, raising similar concerns about denial of medical treatment to LGBT people.

There was no interest in enacting pro-LGBT changes to the law under Bush. Gay service members continued to be discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” under an administration and Congress that saw no need to change the law despite majority support even at that time to allow openly gay service.

In an attempt to pass hate crimes protections, the Senate approved the Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment in 2006 to major defense policy legislation, but the provision was later removed. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy against the standalone measure, H.R. 1592, indicating Bush might veto the defense bill over the language.

“The administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin,” the statement says. “However, the administration believes that HR 1592 is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable. If HR 1592 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

To his credit, much like Trump kept an Obama-era executive order barring anti-LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors, Bush kept in place a Clinton-era executive order barring anti-gay workplace discrimination within the federal government.

The newfound support among Democrats for Bush, Solmonese said, is more the result of fatigue under the Trump administration as opposed to respect for the 43rd president.

“I think that the way people are feeling about George W. Bush right now has a lot more to do with Donald Trump than it does with George Bush,” Solmonese said. “It just shows you that everything is relative. You think you have it bad until you have it worse.”

As Solmonese noted, Bush has never made an effort to correct his anti-gay policies. To the surprise of many, a report emerged in the Boston Globe that he planned to officiate a same-sex marriage for a lesbian couple he knew in Maine, but his office denied that.

“If all these years later, George Bush stepped forward and said that he felt differently or he regretted or he apologized for the actions he took back then, I might feel differently,” Solmonese said.

Instead, Bush seems to have gone the opposite way. In 2016, Bush spoke by video to the World Congress of Families, which was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for supporting anti-gay crackdowns overseas.

But unlike Trump, who is largely silent on HIV/AIDS and has yet to appoint a White House adviser on the issue, Bush has been given credit on both sides of the aisle for an aggressive approach to the epidemic — both domestic and international.

Among the initiatives created by Bush was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, which seeks to provide HIV medications to countries with limited resources. (Trump sought to reduce funding for that by $1 billion, although that proposal was rejected by Congress.)

Bush also sought to repeal the travel ban that prevented foreign nationals with HIV from entering the United States. Congress repealed the ban during the Bush administration, and the policy was completely changed after a rule change in the Obama years.

In 2003, the Bush administration announced approval for widespread use of rapid HIV testing, which was new technology at the time. Previously, testing was only allowed in clinics, but the change permitted testing in mobile sites.

Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said Bush “was a leader” in many respects on HIV/AIDS, but there were challenges in his White House.

“In the beginning, they wouldn’t mention the word ‘condom’ in anything, they wouldn’t mention ‘gay men,’ they stressed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, and this was at a time when same-sex couples couldn’t get married, so it really didn’t make sense to the populations that are most impacted by HIV,” Schmid said.

The restrictions on language, Schmid said, is comparable to the Trump administration, which has declined to explicitly identify LGBT people as high-risk groups in statements on HIV/AIDS.

The various policies on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues in the Bush and Trump administrations have lent themselves to considerable debate on which presidency is worse for LGBT people.

Solmonese said Trump is “unquestionably” worse on LGBT issues than his Republican predecessor, citing the transgender military ban and appointment of officials like Betsy DeVos.

“Everything he says is grounded in the language of division, of us versus them,” Solmonese added. “If someone else is getting something it means that it’s being taken from you. He has consistently used dog whistle politics to send coded messages to extremists and white supremacists. That behavior doesn’t just set us back, it puts us in real danger.”

Michelangelo Signorile, a New York-based gay progressive activist and radio host on SiriusXM, declared in an essay in September that Trump as a result of his anti-LGBT policy is “the most anti-LGBTQ president in U.S. history.”

“It’s clear, both by his actions and the outcomes of them which will only increase exponentially, that Trump is already the most anti-LGBTQ president in U.S. history,” Signorile said. “That is something we must demand that political reporters, many of whom were duped in 2016 and then duped millions more, begin to focus on. It’s a fact that must be stated emphatically beginning right now.”

Given the similarities in anti-LGBT policy, could the Bush presidency afford any lessons learned to LGBT advocates in the Trump administration?

After all, gay rights supporters were able to defeat the Federal Marriage Amendment on two occasions despite strong Republican majorities in Congress. The passage of state marriage amendments could also serve as guides even though their victories, and by large margins, devastated gay couples.

Solmonese said a primary lesson should be solidarity of the LGBT movement with other groups facing oppression under the Trump administration, recalling support in the Bush years from the labor, reproductive choice and broader civil rights movement.

“When we think about our position towards the Trump administration and how we engage with the Trump administration, it isn’t just on behalf of LGBT people and our issues, but on behalf of the broader progressive coalition in which we stand and with whom we stood when attacks were being lobbed against us,” Solmonese said.

Schmid said being willing to work with all partners is a key lesson from the Bush years — not just media, allies and Capitol Hill, but the White House itself.

“There’s not a lot of people in the AIDS community who are comfortable working with the administration,” Schmid said. “I’m not one of those people. I work with them, but there’s not that many people that do. That’s more of a criticism of the AIDS community that they need to reach out, but there’s a need for the people to be on the outside as well and speak forcibly as well, so you need both.”

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s civil rights division at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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