The cruel new law in North Carolina that bans transgender people from using appropriate restrooms has prompted widespread condemnation and catapulted the issue front and center in the national discourse.
When I heard that Curt Schilling had weighed in on the topic with a transphobic Facebook post and subsequent dehumanizing anti-transgender diatribe, I was livid. I took to social media to voice my outrage. I was later pleased to learn that ESPN had fired the former Red Sox star pitcher turned TV baseball analyst. As an ally to the transgender community who promotes transgender equality in my communications work, I have a responsibility to call out vile rhetoric put forth by the likes of Schilling against a community I care so deeply about.
After posting my thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, I felt satisfied that I had made my point in support of my trans siblings. Schilling was fired; case closed. Then it dawned on me. Hadn’t I seen Schilling on TV spearheading a huge campaign against cyber-bullying on behalf of his teenage daughter who had been a victim of vicious online harassment? One quick internet search confirmed my recollection. Schilling had indeed launched a major effort last year against online attacks after his daughter was cyber-bullied.
At the time of the incidents, Schilling stood up for his daughter publicly and took on her cyber attackers while conveying his unwavering support for her in a blog post. “I love you more than life itself and there is NOTHING I would not do to protect you,” he said. He went on to do several high-profile national media interviews denouncing cyber-bullying.
Schilling should be commended for coming to his daughter’s defense and confronting digital harassment. He and his family found out firsthand how painful it is to be so maliciously targeted. Yet he thought nothing of reposting a meme that severely denigrated transgender people. Then he doubled down on his praise for anti-transgender laws and disdain for transgender people saying, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much… Pathetic.”
For someone who purports not to be transphobic, and champions initiatives to thwart online harassment, Schilling needs to take a serious look at his actions. Calling transgender women “men” and posting grotesque memes that assault their humanity is, in fact, cyberbullying. Has Schilling’s own experience of witnessing the vulgar and threatening virtual attacks against his daughter taught him nothing about the harms of such abuse? His conduct is atrocious and hypocritical.
Schilling needs to own up to his cyberbullying against transgender people, and realize that his online anti-transgender vitriol contributes to a climate that puts transgender people — who already face monumental discrimination in our society — at further risk for harassment, abuse and violence. Last year, at least 21 transgender women were murdered in the United States. At least nine trans people have already been killed in 2016.
It’s time for Schilling to recognize his mistake, sincerely apologize to the transgender community, and start practicing what he so adamantly preaches about the harms of cyberbullying. As he himself said to those who targeted his daughter: “The real world has consequences when you do and say things about others.”