Tim Pawlenty Is a Transphobic Jackass

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, widely regarded as a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2012, recently gave an interview to Newsweek in which he talks about his regret for having voted in favor of a 1993 state bill, the first of its kind in the nation, that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
I know you are opposed to gay marriage, but what about medical benefits for same-sex couples?
I have not supported that.

Why not?
My general view on all of this is that marriage is to be defined as being a union of a man and a woman. Marriage should be elevated in our society at a special level. I don't think all domestic relationships are the equivalent of traditional marriage. Early on we decided as a country and as a state that there was value in a man and a woman being married in terms of impact on children and the like, and we want to encourage that.

To borrow a phrase, have your views evolved over time?

In 1993 I voted for a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation, housing, and employment. That was 16 years ago.

Yes, gay-rights activists regarded you as a pretty cool guy at the time.
We overbaked that statute, for a couple of reasons. If I had to do it over again I would have changed some things.

That statute is not worded the way it should be. I said I regretted the vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren't based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed and behaved. So it was overly broad. So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids. So I don't like that.

Has the law been changed?
No. It should be, though.

So you want to protect kids against cross-dressing elementary-school teachers. Do you have any in Minnesota?

Probably. We've had a few instances, not exactly like that, but similar.
Oh noes! What about the childrenz?! We might accidentally teach them empathy for trans people. Worse yet, we might accidentally communicate to the trans children sitting in those teachers' classrooms that being trans is okay! This is the worst thing to happen in the history of America! [/little_edie]

I don't guess I even need to point out the stunning ignorance (or, more likely, mendacious and deliberate misrepresentation) of what being trans actually is—one day a man and then poof! the next day a lady—nor what an utterly bullshit example he gives: I've never heard of anyone, in any professional position, just showing up to work one day smack in the middle of transitioning without having discussed it with hir employer.

Pawlenty's suggestion that such a thing happens with some frequency masks the reality that most trans people can't just show up at work in transition even if they wanted to, because they risk anything from being pushed out of their jobs to physical violence in retaliation.

And, as the daughter of schoolteachers, I find it particularly appalling that he would use imaginary schoolteachers as the example of trans professionals who show up on the job in transition willy-nilly, the implicit suggestion being that they cared enough about children to become teachers in the first place, but not enough to take care with their students' possible confusion about a publicly transitioning teacher. In Pawlenty's hypothetical, trans teachers are happy to teach their kids math, but unwilling to teach their kids about being trans. No, in his transphobic fever dreams, trans teachers just SHOW UP ONE DAY AND SHOVE THEIR CRAZY TRANS BUSINESS IN KIDS' FACES!

(It's always, always, about shoving something in somebody's face with these people.)

The irony is that I imagine most trans people would love to have a professional job with three months of straight vacation over which to begin a transition, making the idea of Mr. Johnson one day and Ms. Johnson the next even more laughably implausible.

But let's just say that a teacher did want to begin transitioning in the middle of a schoolyear. Most teachers take care with any inconsistency during the schoolyear, especially with young children. Teachers who get married and change their names will frequently prepare children well in advance, with discussions like, "When I leave before break, I'll be Miss Smith, but when I come back, I'll be Mrs. Jones." Pregnant teachers who will start maternity leave during the schoolyear similarly prepare students for upcoming changes including a new teacher. There is both precedence and every reason to believe that a trans teacher would take the same approach if zie wanted to begin transitioning during the schoolyear.

But Pawlenty isn't interested in what's real, or realistic, or even likely. He's interested in fear-mongering and inflaming prejudice. Because he's a transphobic jackass.

Or assumes that his supporters are, so is thus eminently willing to play one himself on TV. So to speak. Because it's all a big game to the GOP, and trampling on people's lives is a small price to pay for the votes of knuckle-dragging bigots.

Oops. My apologies. Pawlenty doesn't believe in evolution.

[H/T to Shaker Selasphorus, who got it from Andy.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus