A Republican lawmaker in Florida called transgender people “mutants and imps” on Monday in an anti-trans rant that appeared to almost imitate vitriolic lines from X-Men movies.
Florida Rep. Webster Barnaby shared anti-trans views at the state capitol while lawmakers deliberated House Bill 1521, a piece of legislation that would criminalize trans people for using public bathrooms that don’t correspond to their sex assigned at birth.
“I’m looking at society today and it’s like I’m watching an X-Men movie,” Barnaby said at the start of his speech.
“It’s like we have mutants living among us on planet earth,” Barnaby continued. “That’s a fact: we have people that live among us today on Planet Earth that are happy to display themselves as if they were mutants from another planet.”
He went on to compare trans people to “demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world.” (Barnaby has since apologized to the “trans community,” and didn’t respond to a VICE News request for comment.)
Barnaby’s quote rings eerily similar to Senator Robert Kelly, a fictional U.S. politician in the X-Men universe who opposed a group of people that had superpowers due to genetic mutations. “Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that mutants are very real, and that they are among us,” Kelly said in the 2000 X-Men film. “We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do.” During the film, including in a senate hearing, Kelly attempts to legislate against “mutants,” as well, and advocates for the “Mutant Registration Act” that would have forced those with genetic mutations to file said mutations with a government somewhat bent on wiping them out.
Barnaby seemingly misses the point of the X-Men franchise, which seeks to remind viewers that differences aren’t inherently bad, and many different kinds of people can make the world a better place. It’s also worth noting that Kelly is an antagonist in the films, not a hero.
And unlike Kelly, Barnaby isn’t a Hollywood fantasy. GOP politicians are impacting trans people’s daily lives, with nearly 500 anti-trans bills introduced for this legislative session alone—a record-breaking year. The proposed bills, some of which have already passed, including bans on gender-affirming care for youth and even some adults, drag bans, and legislation that allows teachers to misgender trans students.
Florida, led by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, has enacted many policies targeting trans and LGBTQ people: the state has been aggressively going after gender-affirming care, has banned several queer books from schools, and announced a proposed drag ban that could restrict Pride parades. Last year, a conservative school board candidate in Santa Rosa County, Florida, called for doctors who provide gender-affirming care to children to be lynched.
All this coincides with a concerning rise in anti-trans hate, spread at an alarming rate by far-right pundits. The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles told a crowd at CPAC that “transgenderism must be eradicated,” while his colleague Matt Walsh compared drag queens to “creeps” and “degenerates.” Notoriously anti-LGBTQ Twitter personality Chaya Raichik has targeted hospitals that offer gender-affirming care to youth. Following Raichik’s rhetoric, hospitals received bomb threats.
Even before this year’s legislative session started, trans experts started asking whether the U.S. is waging a genocide against trans people.