Before Barack Obama had a Mitt Romney, or George W. Bush had an Al Gore, or even a Bill Clinton had a Bob Dole, presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle had to win their party’s nomination in a series of state-by-state primaries and caucuses.
The presidential primary season is a time when the media shamelessly speculates about what will happen in states that no one usually cares about–like Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada–because they hold their contests first. My home state of South Carolina has even steadily crept forward into the action, now holding their Republican primary 4th and their Democratic primary 6th in the country. And despite being a solid Republican state, in 2008, South Carolina’s Democratic primary was incredibly crucial for Obama’s grabbing the party nomination that year.
But remember 2007? We were all buzzing about how Hillary Clinton was a shoe in for President. The subtext of every political Saturday Night Live sketch that fall was, why even have a primary? But then on February 2, 2008, just as the primaries began, Will.IAM released the “Yes, We Can” Obama song on Youtube. And we all went from feeling warm and fuzzy about voting for the first female president, to feeling even warmer and even fuzzier about voting for the first African American president.
Point being, primaries are huge, even if you live in a state that might not seem important in the grand scheme of things. It was in South Carolina that Obama finally toppled Hillary, who had been beating him up to that point, and his campaign went on to dominate the rest of the primaries, and clenched the nomination.
What’s especially exciting about this year’s race is that the candidates are actually taking a stand on transgender issues! So even if you already feel comatose from all the presidential primary coverage, that’s reason enough to wake up! Now that you’re up, please dive into this “Transgentlemen’s Guide to Voting: Part II.”
1. Hillary “Loves Us So Much” Clinton
Last summer transgender rights activist Jennicet Gutierrez ‘interrupted’ President Obama at the White House, drawing attention to the transgender women being detained in men’s jails. Before that, in May 2015, Hillary Clinton, while in Nevada, said she would review the policies that put transgender women at risk for assault. She went on to say, “I think we have to do more to provide safe environments for vulnerable populations. I don’t think we should, you know, put children and vulnerable people into big detention facilities because I think they are at risk. I think their physical and mental health are at risk.”
And as Secretary of State, Clinton made it possible for transgender Americans to update their passport gender markers. As she told Terry Gross on Fresh Air in June of 2014, “It was part of the overall efforts to try to treat people with dignity and equality. And certainly the Obama Administration made some of its own moves at the same time with respect to the larger federal employee pool. And when I had the responsibility for the well-being of the 70,000 people or so employees around the world who worked for the State Department and USAID, I had the opportunity through executive action to recognize that there were barriers and vestiges to discrimination that had no place in a modern American workplace, and so I acted.”
Not only does Hillary share the same initials of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), she and Joe Biden both have recently pandered to the group at their annual gala dinner. Funny enough, this pandering now involves supporting transgender rights to serve openly in the military. She explained, “Meanwhile, you know, transgender people are still barred from serving. That is an outdated rule, especially since you and I know that there are transgender people in uniform, right now, they’re just keeping this core part of their identities under wraps, because they are so committed to defending our nation. They shouldn’t have to do that. T hat’s why I support the policy review that Defense Secretary Carter recently announced at the Pentagon. And it’s why I hope the United States joins many other countries that let transgender people serve openly. Now, we pride ourselves on having the world’s best military, but being the best doesn’t just mean having the best-trained forces or the biggest arsenal. It also means being on a leader on issues like this; on who we respect enough to let serve with dignity as themselves.”
At the same HRC event, Clinton also spoke out about the violence against transgender people, particularly trans women of color. She said, “We’ve got to address the crisis of transphobic violence. 2015 has seen the murder of at least 19 transgender women, primarily women of color. And nobody knows how much violence goes unreported or ignored. And we need to say, with one voice, that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, they desire to be treated fairly and equally.”
Not to be out down by Bernie Sanders when it comes to social media, Clinton also took to Twitter to support an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, “the bathroom bill,” writing, “No one should face discrimination for who they are or who they love–I support efforts for equality in Houston & beyond. #HERO #YesOnProp1 -H” on Ocboter 29, 2015. So, if you’re not already, follow Clinton on twitter so you can at least tweet “H” that you voted for her in your state’s primary.
2. Bernie “Equal Rights” Sanders
Bernie Sanders is a candidate who has openly supported LGBT rights for the long haul. Sanders voted against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act as a member of the U.S. House. His home state of Vermont was the first to legalize same-sex unions (2000) and gay marriage (2009) through legislative action. In 2011, he endorsed same-sex marriage ahead of the 2012 election, becoming the highest official at the time to support the issue, and even encouraged Obama to do the same. He’s also cosponsoring a bill that repeal what’s left of the Defense of Marriage Act.
In 2013, Sanders supported the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it passed the Senate. Currently, he’s cosponsoring the federal LGBT-inclusive Student Non-Discrimination Act. According to Sanders, “All I can say is I think I have one of the strongest, if not the strongest record, in the United States Congress on LGBT issues,” in a May 2015, interview with the Washington Blade. He went on to say, “My record speaks for itself, and I will compare it to any candidate who is out there. I spent 25 years fighting for equal rights. What makes it a good idea that black people can drink water at a fountain? We are trying to create a non-discriminatory society where we judge people based on their character, on their abilities, not on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their gender. Clearly, as a nation we’ve made good progress; we have a lot further to go.”
Bernie has also openly supports transgender rights. Dawn Ennis from the Advocate reported on October 1, 2015, “A single tweet from the senator’s campaign reflects the biggest effort by any candidate to appeal to transgender voters and allies.” And that tweet, sent out on September 28, 2015, stated, “In many states, it is legal to deny someone housing fro being transgender. That is wrong and must end.” Therefore, the Senator supports amending the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Finally, Bernie has spoken out about the ongoing crisis of violence against trans women. He suggested in the Washington Blade one of best ways to address the high rates of violence against transgender women, especially transgender women of color, is by re-educating police officers. He compared the way police treated cases of domestic violence in the 1980s to how police treat cases of violence against transgender people now. He explained, “The point is we need to make sure that police departments are sensitive to the fact that every person in this country–man, woman, transgender, whatever you may be–is entitled to equal protection under the law, and abusing people is not acceptable.”
3. Donald “The Douche” Trump
Donald Trump has avoided making any political statements about transgender rights, and he has even asked Caitlyn Jenner to judge his Miss USA pageant! However, in 2012, Jenna Talackova was banned from competing in Miss Universe Canada Pageant when the organization found out she was transgender. But they reversed their decision after Gloria Allred took her on as a client. In his 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters, Trump recalled, “I looked at her name, and somebody brought this up to me: ‘Jennatal.’ Those are the first letters of her name. And it’s ‘genital.’ And I’m saying to myself, ‘Hmm, that’s strange, could there be an ulterior motive?’”
4. John “Let Them Eat Cake” Kasich
In 2011, as Governor of Ohio, John Kasich let his predecessor’s executive order protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, only to sign a new executive order adding sexual orientation back to a list of protected classes for state employees, but leaving out private LGB employees, as well as transgender workers altogether. According to his campaign, “We extended those protections in the way we thought most appropriate,” and they didn’t feel a need to protect all LGBT Ohioans from being fired, evicted, or denied service because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Kasich told the Columbus Dispatch in April 2015, “I think we’re doing fine in Ohio. Everybody’s opinion has to be respected in all of this and we have to strike a balance. I think we have a good balance in Ohio and I don’t see a reason to do any more.’
5. Ted Cruz”-ing for a Bruising”
In October 2015, at a campaign stop in Sac City, Iowa, Ted Cruz said, “I think military policy should follow what is necessary for good order and discipline, that we shouldn’t view the military as a cauldron for social experiments.” He suggested the Obama administration is “trying to pursue sexual identity politics” by lifting the transgender ban in the military. Then, he asked, “How about having a military focusing on hunting down and killing bad guys. I think that should be the focus of the military instead of treating it as this, like, crucible for social justice innovations. We’ve lost sight of what their job is, and that’s what we need to get back to.”
Marco “Bathroom Pass” Rubio
In a December 2015 interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Marco Rubio promised to reverse Obama’s executive actions protecting LGBT people “on things like gender equality in restrooms.” He was speaking about the action Obama signed in July of that year, prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT people, forcing them to allow transgender people to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity.
7. Ben “Prison Makes You Gay” Carson
During town hall hosted by Concerned Veterans for America in Waterloo, Iowa, in December 2015, he said he would prefer to bar transgender people from serving openly. In fact, he liked the idea of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly. He explained, “I do not appreciate using our military as a laboratory for social experimentation. We have too many important things to do when our men and women are out there fighting the enemy. The last thing that we need to be doing is saying what would it be like if we introduced several transgender people into the platoon. Give me a break. Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else. I liked the old ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ philosophy. Why do you have to go around flaunting your sexuality? It’s not necessary. You don’t need to talk about that. We need to talk about how we eliminate the enemy.”
In November 2015, when Jorge Ramos from Fusion asked Carson about transgender accommodations, he suggested that trans people have their own restrooms. He argued, “It’s not fair for them to make everyone else uncomfortable. It’s one of the things that I don’t particularly like about the movement. I think everybody has equal rights, but I’m not sure that anybody should have extra rights–extra rights when it comes to redefining everything for everybody else and imposing your view on everybody else. The way that this country was designed, it was ‘live and let live,’ and that’s the way I feel.”