DeSantis spreads misinformation about transgender people in public appearance

‘They give *that* the national championship over these women,’ he says

By: - May 18, 2022 4:17 pm

University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas reacts after her team wins the 400 yard freestyle relay during the 2022 Ivy League Womens Swimming and Diving Championships on Feb. 19, 2022, in Cambridge, Mass. Gov. Ron DeSantis referred to her on May 18, 2022, as a “that.” Credit: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis ridiculed transgender people during a public appearance on Wednesday, referring to a champion trans woman swimmer as a “that” and mocking the possibility of pregnancy among trans men and nonbinary people.

He cited trans woman Lia Thomas’ March championship in the women’s 500-yard freestyle competition as an example of a narrative the left wing is trying to impose about gender identity. It was not the first time he’d attacked the NCAA’s policy allowing transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identification.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at a news conference in Pinellas County. May 4, 2022. Credit: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Facebook page

“You have a swimmer that swims on the men’s team for three years and then, all of a sudden, says they’re gonna identify as a woman swimmer and swim against the women,” DeSantis said.

“And then they give that [emphasis added] the national championship over these women who’ve been training for a long time. And the second place was actually from Florida, who had won a silver medal in the Olympics. So, she got robbed of a national championship because the NCAA is really trying to make us complicit in something that’s false.

“And so, that’s what you’re gonna get, and they will absolutely do whatever they can with social media to try to stifle dissent. We are absolutely going to be on guard to fight back against that. I do think that if [Elon] Musk gets Twitter — the reason they don’t want him to get it is that he is going to open it up,” DeSantis said,

“And they don’t want to have to put their ideas to scrutiny. Because, if you’re telling me things like a man can get pregnant, that’s not true,” he said, evoking chuckles from his audience.

Musk has offered $44 billion for Twitter but this week said he was placing the offer “on hold” pending a review of how many of its accounts are fake, as organizations including Business Insider have reported.

‘They want you to be muzzled’

“And we know that’s not true and we’re going to be able to say that’s not true. And they don’t want that. They want you to be muzzled.”

The remarks came during a news conference announcing a $2.3 million economic development grant for Okaloosa County. Their context was another DeSantis attack on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s plan to create a disinformation governance board to coordinate the department’s response to disinformation targeting the American public.

The internal working group’s targets would include foreign intelligence agencies, terrorist groups, and criminal gangs, according to a report by CNN. But Republicans including DeSantis have denounced the plan as Orwellian, an attempt to quash dissenting voices, possibly by leaning on social media networks.

Now the Washington Post has reported that DHS has “paused” the rollout of the program and may abandon the idea entirely.

Lakey Love, co-founder of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, saw DeSantis’ remarks as another administration attack on transgender people, including children, citing state laws limiting discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms and workplaces, plus state Department of Health guidelines denouncing accepted therapies for trans kids as putting them “in harm’s way.”

“He’s dehumanizing Lia Thomas by saying, quote unquote, “that” rather than her. Not only is he misgendering her, denying that trans women are women, but he’s also dehumanizing transgender people in general,” Love said in a telephone interview with the Phoenix.

‘Targeted attack’

“It’s a targeted attack on a single trans woman who happens to excel in her field of athletics, but it’s also a very generalized statement about his own personal beliefs and the political rhetoric he’s been spewing for 2 1/2 years, since he started to run for the presidency by attacking the most marginalized people in the state and denying that transgender people exist,” said Love, who uses they/them pronouns.

Pregnancy is a real thing among nonbinary and transgender people who haven’t undergone medical transition, they said.

“Being transgender is about how you identify; it’s not necessarily about how you present or what your internal organs are. So, men can certainly have babies and get pregnant and there’s lots of trans men who still have ovaries and a uterus who may not be on hormone therapy that would shut down their ability to have children.

“And there certainly are a ton of nonbinary people, myself included, who don’t identify as women but can get pregnant.”

Love wanted trans kids to know: “There are adults that are working for you and we will not allow the tyranny of the government to come after you.”

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.