in Analysis and Commentary

It’s election time, folks. And good ol’ Gov. Pat McCrory — struggling for positive poll numbers and running neck-and-neck with 2016 Democratic challenger Roy Cooper — is looking for all the electoral support he can muster.

On Saturday, and seemingly out of nowhere, McCrory unleashed a transphobic political attack, aimed squarely at Cooper and using the lives of our transgender siblings to do the dirty work of riling his rabidly anti-LGBT GOP base.


The attack is plainly transparent, and it has all the makings of your usual rightwing political campaign attack. Obama, check. ACLU, check. Democratic opponent, check. Federal “overreach,” check. Scary boogeyman, check.

And it’s all done on the backs of transgender people, who have faced an increasingly hostile and violent atmosphere this year.

McCrory’s timing is also transparent, his statement coming one day after the Transgender Day of Remembrance and on the same day as Equality NC’s statewide fundraising gala in Raleigh. It’s McCrory’s and his campaign folks’ opportunity to latch onto any positive LGBT-related news coverage stemming from either of those events and attempt to spin it with their bigotry.

Back in March, many hailed McCrory’s apparent “move to the middle,” when he came out against an anti-LGBT so-called “religious freedom” law. There was never, it seems, an actual move anywhere. Even as he opposed the magistrates bill and vetoed it, McCrory was speaking out against Charlotte’s proposed non-discrimination ordinances. McCrory’s the same old, anti-LGBT leader he’s always been, always reflected when push comes to shove whether he was on Charlotte city council, in the mayor’s office or in the governor’s mansion.

After the election this year, I wrote a lengthy commentary detailing our movement’s need for a redirection and refocus on the transgender community and transgender inclusion. I wrote then:

The future of this movement is now, clearly more than ever, dependent upon and centered on the success of transgender rights. This is our new playing field. Our opponents have placed transgender people and their rights squarely at the center of their campaigns. We have to do the same, uplifting the stories, leadership, visibility and voices of our transgender siblings.

Day after day, week after week, our opponents — be they far-right anti-LGBT hate groups or elected leaders like McCrory — are continuing to ramp up their anti-trans rhetoric and hysteria. They’ve got a game plan and a winning message for a scared, ignorant and violently transphobic public.

We need an equally powerful game plan focused on the real lives and stories of our transgender siblings. These lines of anti-trans attacks will keep coming — in political attack ads, in campaigns to stop local non-discrimination ordinances, from rightwing hate groups and in the state legislature. We can’t ignore it, and real time, effort, energy, money and other resources need to be immediately redirected at finding, building, supporting and identifying new trans-inclusion strategies, spokespeople and leadership.

As I wrote this month: “If we continue to ignore or downplay the importance of intentional transgender inclusion, leadership and visibility, we’ll do so at our own collective peril.”

Update (Nov. 23, 2015, 10:35 a.m.): 

Equality NC responded to McCrory’s statements on Monday.

“This move is transparent and political,” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement. “The Governor’s language shows a politician pandering to a small minority of primary voters, and not a statesman leading the Old North State.”

Sgro continued, “Equality NC and our friends at ACLU will continue to stand up for trans students and applauds the White House’s clear direction that trans students should be able to use the restroom that matches their identity. With youth bullying and suicide rates being a crisis in this nation, picking on kids as a way to win political points is never acceptable. We ask Governor McCrory to reconsider his position and do what is right for students and kids, not what he thinks is right to score rhetorical points.”

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