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A teen claims to have been ejected from a Ted Cruz rally in Frederick, Md., on Thursday because he is transgender.
James Van Kuilenburg, a 16-year-old high school student, posted about alleged incident on his Facebook page, along with a photo of himself holding a sign that reads "Human Rights Are Up for Debate."
Van Kuilenburg, who attends Gov. Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick County, says he attended the Republican presidential candidate's rally with his mother "to gain a better understanding of [Cruz's] platform." "We went in, sitting down and waiting for the speech to begin," he writes. "We were silent and respectful. Before we even had a chance to see Cruz, I was tapped on the shoulder. When I turned, there was a Campaign Staff member, asking me to leave."
The high-schooler writes that his gender identity makes him stand out, and he does nothing to hide. "I am a visibly trans person, and I'm proud of it," he writes. He wore a National Center for Transgender Equality T-shirt to the event and was draped in a transgender pride flag.
The situation allegedly escalated from there. Van Kuilenburg claims that the staff member apprehended him and "kept holding on to me, saying the 'event staff were asking me to leave.'" He continues, "I then asked what the reason was, but he only repeated himself. When I asked for a reason again, he told us to follow him to the event staff."
Van Kuilenburg says he attempted to alert reporters attending the rally to the situation but was blocked by security. "As we were walking down the aisle, I approached the press, telling them that I was being kicked out," Van Kuilenburg writes. "The staff that were following us grabbed me again, and told me 'ma'am I need you to cooperate and not shout.' I corrected him, telling him that I'm a boy, and he briefly apologized."
According to Van Kuilenburg, the organizers claimed that he and his mother were "trespassing" on the event, despite the fact that they had purchased tickets. "I explained that we had been standing peacefully and caused no disturbance but they would not listen," he claims. "We were then pushed out of the venue."
After being ejected from the rally, Van Kuilenburg says that he attempted to explain what had happened to the Cruz volunteers outside," but the staffers laughed at him. "The level of disrespect and aggression there was outstanding," he alleges.
James Van Kuilenburg's mother, Nicola, told The Frederick News-Post that their intention was to remind Republican politicians -- and their supporters -- of the populations their policies affect. "A lot of people who sat in here have interacted with transgender people and not even known it," she told the paper. "And maybe they needed to see that there are transgender teenagers, to put a face to them."
Sen. Ted Cruz has vocally opposed allowing transgender people to use the public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
In an April town hall at the University of Buffalo, Cruz told MSNBC's Chuck Todd that he's not "terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters." "Men should not be going to the bathroom with little girls," he added. "That is a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make."
Cruz has also recently criticized Donald Trump, the front-runner in the race, for coming out against North Carolina's House Bill 2, a controversial piece of legislation that forces trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms (in government buildings) that do not correspond with their gender identity. Trump asserted during a recent town hall discussion aired NBC's Today show that after over 160 companies have spoken out to condemn the bill, HB 2 should be a lesson.
"North Carolina did something that was very strong, and they're paying a big price," Trump said. "Leave it the way it is. North Carolina, what they're going through, with all of the business and all of the strife -- and that's on both sides -- you leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble."
In a statement released following Trump's comments, Cruz claimed that his opponent's views on trans bathroom access are "no different from politically correct leftist elites." The senator continued, "Today, he joined them in calling for grown men to be allowed to use little girls' public restrooms." Trump backtracked on his comments Friday, saying the matter should be left to individual communities and states.
Watch a video of the teen explaining why he was kicked out of the event by clicking here.
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