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Ro Khanna: Democratic Lawmakers Must Take a Stand for Transgender Rights

Ro Khanna: Democratic Lawmakers Must Take a Stand for Transgender Rights

Rep. Ro Khanna

The Democrat from California says he won’t be quiet about the rights of transgender Americans.

Democrats continue to raise the alarm about the battle being fought in the House of Representatives as Republicans make their mark on bills relating to LGBTQ+ people as part of the 2024 budget process. Although the Democratic Party is largely supportive of LGBTQ+ rights, some members of the party in Congress have been hesitant to speak out about transgender rights or gender-affirming care as the country enters an election cycle.

But, in the opinion of California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna, attacks on the trans community must be called out, and the needs of the trans community supported and vociferously defended.

“The attacks on the trans community that we’re seeing today have a historical parallel to the ugly attacks we saw on gay and lesbian Americans in the 1970s,” Khanna told The Advocate. “You’re now seeing the same vitriol directed at the trans community, and instead of addressing people’s real-life concerns about how to improve their lives — how to improve their families and community, and their kids’ lives — you have some politicians who are scapegoating the trans community to channel hate and anger.”

Khanna echoed a sentiment Vice President Kamala Harris repeated throughout Pride Month events in June and recently explained to The Advocate: People should be concerned anytime marginalized groups have their rights taken away.

“When the trans community is attacked, it’s not just an attack on trans youth or trans individuals. It’s not just an attack on the LGBTQ community,” Khanna said. “It’s an attack on any person who does not fit the definition of what people consider ‘mainstream.’ It is an attack on anyone who isn’t like them.”

Politicians should rely on something other than flash polls to inform their thinking, he explained.

“If John Lewis had looked at flash polling, he would never have been bitten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. If people had looked at flash polling on gay marriage when I first came out for it, and many others did in my first campaign in 2003, if I looked at flash polling, I wouldn’t have come out in support of it,” he said.

Khanna added, “Usually, people who don’t look at flash polling are vindicated.”

As an example of someone who followed their convictions, he said to consider Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.

“People also told Nanci Pelosi ‘Don’t talk about AIDS, don’t talk about gay marriage’ in the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “She still became Speaker of the House, which didn’t hurt her career. So we need to stand for conviction, and that means speaking out clearly against a ban on trans kids playing sports and other attacks on the community.”

As a result of his advocacy for transgender kids, he says he got some pushback from fellow Democrats when Republicans tried to ban them from sports recently.

“What you had in the Capitol was people saying, ‘You can vote on it, but do you really have to go give a floor speech? Why are you bringing it up in a key session or a speech in New Hampshire at the Shanheen McIntyre Dinner?”’ Khanna said.

“I brought it up because we’ve got to push back,” he added. “If one side is making an argument and the other side is silent, the side making the argument is going to win.”

There has been an entire panic about transgender children playing sports in school, which politicians manufacture, he said.

“The vast majority of kids who are trans are probably athletically more challenged in K through 12 than somehow have a competitive advantage,” he explained. “This is bullying and just further pushing people into social isolation.”

Considering Republicans’ continued attacks on the rights of LGBTQ+ communities nationwide, he said his colleagues should remember what Democrats stand for.

“The fundamental value of the Democratic Party is to stand up for those who are most vulnerable,” he said. “It is to stand up for the principle that ‘might doesn’t make right’ and that people have intrinsic dignity in this society, even if they are different or without power. We have to focus on trans issues from the lens of justice and the principle of what the Democratic Party believes in. This is not just about gender or identity. This is about whether the party is going to stand up for those who are being bullied. Is it going to stand up for those who have the least power?”

Khanna added, “There cannot be a compromise on that core value. That’s what makes us Democrats. And I would say if you put this in the context of stopping bullying, stopping cruelty, and standing up for the justice and dignity of everyone, we will win the argument.”

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