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Sorry, there’s no evidence transgender rights pushed the country to Trump

Two protesters march in Madison, Wisconsin, demonstrating against President-elect Donald Trump.Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal/AP

When elections go wrong, “blame the queers.’’

So quips veteran LGBT activist Arline Isaacson, when asked whether the push for transgender rights also pushed the country to Donald Trump. To Isaacson, such reasoning is “a facile and inaccurate excuse for what happened.”

Hillary Clinton lost, she said, because of turnout: “Progressives failed to get out enough votes.” To those who believe a so-called bathroom bill made the difference, “Go delude yourself,” said Isaacson.

Delusional or not, it’s out there. “Democrats betrayed women in favor of transsexuals,” asserts M. Hudson in the The Federalist, above a tagline that states the writer “has two X chromosomes.” As Hudson sees it, “Though many were afraid of being called ‘transphobic’ if they object to intact males colonizing all remaining female space . . . there were signs that this was a bridge too far. Way too far. Even for self-identified liberals.”


I support the new Massachusetts law, signed last July by Republican Governor Charlie Baker, that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public buildings. Yet even here, the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute swiftly gathered enough signatures to challenge the measure via statewide referendum. It will be on the ballot in 2018, when Baker is up for reelection.

Transgender rights became a hot national topic after North Carolina passed a bill — known as HB2 — requiring people to use bathrooms that matched the gender specified on their birth certificate. Shortly after that, the Obama administration issued transgender bathroom guidelines that would cut off federal aid to school districts that denied access to bathrooms and locker rooms based on gender choice. Nearly two dozen states filed a lawsuit challenging that directive, and a federal judge blocked it.

Ironically, the issue may drive North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, out of office. With provisional ballots still to be counted, Democrat Roy Cooper declared victory over McCrory, whose support for HB2 is considered key to the outcome.


Trump swung back and forth on the issue. In April, he said Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in Trump Tower. By July, he backed the North Carolina law. Today, his election is causing panic in the LGBT community, given the GOP platform, which opposes gay marriage and supports state laws limiting which public bathrooms transgender people can use.

In his recent “60 Minutes’’ interview, Trump said gay marriage was settled as a matter of law by the Supreme Court. However, his running mate, Mike Pence, opposes gay marriage and, as governor of Indiana, signed a law that made it legal for a business to cite religious freedom when refusing to serve gay or transgender people.

Questioning whether cultural issues move enough votes to the GOP to swing an election is a recurring theme for Democrats. In 2004, John Kerry’s loss to George W. Bush was quickly linked to constitutional bans on same-sex marriage that were on the ballot that same year in 11 states.

Right after the election, The New York Times reported those proposed same-sex marriage bans “appear to have acted as magnets for thousands of socially conservative voters in rural and suburban communities who might not otherwise have voted.” By August 2005, however, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman called that out as mythology.


After studying the data, he said “there is almost no evidence to support the proposition” that initiatives banning gay marriage cost Kerry the White House. In Ohio, which tipped the election to Bush, “four times as many voted for president while skipping” the marriage ballot initiative entirely. In the end, voters trusted Bush over Kerry on the economy. That, plus Republican party identification, made the difference, he concluded.

The ultimate conclusion about Trump’s victory may be similar.

In the meantime, “People love to point at us and say, ‘that’s the reason we lost,’ ” said Isaacson.

There’s no evidence beyond anecdotal that it is. But if it is, then the supporters of transgender rights are on what’s called the right side of history.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.