GOP candidates and anti-LGBTQ groups have spent tens of millions of dollars on attack ads and mailed flyers targeting transgender youth ahead of the 2022 midterms, a Human Rights Campaign report has found.
According to the report, candidates and their allies have spent at least $50 million on anti-LGBTQ attack ads that primarily target trans youth, with ads —full of fearmongering and misinformation—appearing in at least 25 U.S. states, including Arizona, California, Georgia, and Florida. Many employ common themes and include harmful misinformation about critical gender-affirming healthcare.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has spent more than any other candidate on anti-trans rhetoric, according to the report, which is unsurprising considering his state has been the epicenter of anti-trans policymaking. Just last week, the state’s medical board voted to start drafting rules that would ban lifesaving gender-affirming care for minors.
“The radical left will destroy America, if we don’t stop them. They indoctrinate children and try to turn boys into girls,” Rubio said in one TV spot.
In reality, children aren’t being forced to transition. Gender-affirming care for youth is safe and effective, has been endorsed by several major governing medical bodies, and improves mental health outcomes for trans youth into adulthood.
American Principles, a conservative group that’s notoriously anti-trans and anti-abortion, has targeted Democrats in a series of anti-trans ads. One out of Arizona targeting Arizona Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly states, “Transgenderism is killing kids,” while another claims a Democratic candidate in Nevada “supports radical sexual mutilation and sterilization procedures that permanently harm kids.”
America First Legal, an organization run by Stephen Miller, the anti-immigration aide to former President Donald Trump, has also spread an onslaught of anti-trans attack ads—as well as “white grievance” ads, Vanity Fair reported.
In another example, Citizens to Support Michigan Women and Children put out a video that features ominous-sounding music while a woman’s concerned voice speaks out against puberty blockers.
“Across the country, extremist candidates are shamelessly using their final days on the campaign trail to advance grotesque and outrageous lies attacking and maligning LGBTQ people, designed to scare voters into supporting their campaigns,” said Human Rights Campaign interim president Joni Madison in a statement.
The report also found that $4 million has been spent on radio that serves Black and Spanish-language audiences in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Nevada, and Texas.
“These extremist groups are presenting themselves as fierce defenders of children, when we know that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Madison said. “Instead of using their final pitch with voters to outline policies on the issues that voters actually care about, they’re trying to create mass hysteria and fear—and doing so at the expense of LGBTQ+ people and, especially, transgender youth.”
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