Congresswoman Puts Anti-Trans Activist on the Spot: ‘Do You Really Believe That Garbage?’

"Every single hearing that I am in...witnesses find a way to bring in trans children into whatever conversation we’re trying to have," Rep. Becca Balint said.

Congresswoman Puts Anti-Trans Activist on the Spot: ‘Do You Really Believe That Garbage?’
Photo:Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call (AP)

During what sounded like it could have been an extremely dry hearing on corporate governance strategy on Tuesday, Vermont Rep. Becca Balint (D), the state’s first-ever openly gay representative, excoriated a former Trump administration official who was trying to make the hearing about Republicans’ favorite scapegoat cause du jour: gender affirming healthcare for trans kids.

The House Oversight Committee was holding a hearing on the effects of environmental, social and governance (ESG), a corporate strategy intended to lessen the negative effects of business. But of course, conservative activists want to make it part of the culture war, which is exactly what Mandy Gunasekara, director of the Independent Women’s Forum’s Center on Energy and Conservation, testified to at the hearing, submitting a statement that said, “ESG is a tool to advance the Left’s broader cultural agenda” like “efforts to promote ‘gender transitions’ for children.” Remember, this is a corporate strategy we are talking about.

By the time Balint was called on for questioning, she’d had it.

“One of the things that you said in [the information] you provided is that the dangers of ESG include promoting gender transitions in children,” she said. “And I want to know, do you really believe that garbage?”

“It’s not about believing, it’s a matter of fact,” Gunasekara replied.

“So you believe that investing strategies are actually…weaponized to support and promote gender transition for children?” Balint said. “Is, essentially, is that what you’re saying, or do you just use it as another opportunity to beat up on children?”

Balint went on, explaining why she was so amped about this particular issue (though, in her defense, the way Republicans now demonize trans and queer communities at any and every available moment is reason enough):

I stepped out to sit down with parents of trans kids from states that have come after their kids and now their kids can’t get the level of care that they deserve and need. And they literally said, “When you leave this room, could you please, the next time you’re in a room with someone bringing up, yet again, our children and our families as some kind of bogeyman, that you will actually stand up for us?”

Balint then went on to her next scheduled appearance, the hearing where Gunasekara was testifying: “I didn’t think it would take less than a half hour; I left that hearing, here I am.”

She continued, emphasizing how cruel and ridiculous Republicans’ ubiquitous attacks on trans kids have become: “It feels like every single hearing that I am in, whether it is in Oversight or whether it is in Budget or whether it is in a subcommittee, the witnesses find a way to bring in trans children into whatever conversation we’re trying to have here.”

Balint is correct. Trans people—adults and children, but especially minors—are being used as a bogeyman by conservative activists. Their hateful efforts have resulted in more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills being introduced in state legislatures across the country this year. In 2018, there were 42. Eighteen states now restrict trans children’s healthcare.

There is no reason that the health of children (trans or otherwise) should be brought during a congressional hearing on ESG efficacy—unless it’s about businesses making amends for knowingly polluting water ways and air or leaving harmful additives in food and toys.

It’s gratifying to see at least one lawmaker call bullshit on this Republican distraction.

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