Hillary Clinton has responded to allegations that she is anti-transgender — in light of comments that she made about her generation’s difficulty understanding trans identity — with an unequivocal statement in support of trans equality.
With Transgender Awareness Week coming to a close, and trans Americans still facing an epidemic of violence as well as anti-trans policies coming from Donald Trump’s White House, “This is a moment for every single one of us to affirm that transgender people deserve equality, safety, and opportunity,” Clinton wrote on Facebook Tuesday.
A meme accompanying the post, stating “Trans rights are human rights,” echoes what Clinton, as secretary of State, told the United Nations in 2011: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
Recent criticism of Clinton stems from interviews she did this fall with The Sunday Times and the BBC in the U.K. while promoting The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, which she wrote with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton. The former U.S. senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate noted that people of her generation (she is 72) may struggle with the concept of trans identity.
When a Times reporter asked her about some cisgender women’s discomfort with sharing locker rooms with trans women, Hillary Clinton said there is “a very big generational discussion” about being transgender, adding that she didn’t grow up with any awareness of the matter. “It’s going to take a lot more time and effort to understand what it means to be defining yourself differently,” she said.
To the BBC, she said, “I do think there is a legitimate concern about women’s lived experience and the importance of recognizing that, and also the importance of recognizing the self-identification. This is all relatively new. People are still trying to find the language for it. … I think in the right mind-set this can be understood, but it’s going to take some time.”
Both liberal and conservative media outlets have latched on to the comments and interpreted them as a call for tolerance of transphobia, with some left-wing voices being critical and some right-wingers taking them as an affirmation of their anti-trans views. Another possible interpretation, however, is that Clinton was not endorsing transphobia but merely stating that some people in her generation are still learning about trans issues and identity and will take a while to get to that “right mind-set.”
Clinton has publicly supported trans equality for years, saying in a Human Rights Campaign speech in 2015, “We need to say, with one voice, that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us.” She has endorsed the Equality Act, currently pending in Congress, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in employment, housing, and other aspects of life nationwide. The Book of Gutsy Women includes a profile of Danica Roem, the first out transgender person to serve in a state legislature.