Why a Trans Person Would Vote for Cruz

03/05/2016 01:55 pm ET Updated Mar 06, 2017
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5:  Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz makes a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wic
WICHITA, KS - MARCH 5: Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz makes a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016 in Wichita, Kansas. Cruz said he has a list of government programs that he will eliminate if elected. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

In a recent interview with transgender journalist Dawn Ennis, Caitlyn Jenner came out supporting presidential candidate Ted Cruz. This came as a shock to most transgender people; Ted Cruz is one of the most virulently anti-transgender politicians in the nation. He regularly appears with, and takes endorsements from, kill-the-gays pastors. He is in lock step with the Family Research Council (FRC) and has been endorsed by them. Cruz has publicly endorsed most of the positions in the FRC's five point plan to morally legislate transgender people out of existence.

Cruz is also a Southern Baptist; an organization that has a stated position that accepting a transgender person's identity is a sin which endangers your salvation. The Southern Baptist Convention has also endorsed legislating transgender identities out of existence.

Jenner's near-endorsement of Cruz for President was (rightly) met with howls of protest by the transgender community. The vast majority of the transgender people responded with anger, frustration, and bewilderment; how on Earth could a transgender person support a candidate who literally wants transgender people to have no legal rights?

A few voices strongly dissented, however. There are indeed, some transgender people who are Republican. Many of them would never vote for Cruz, and prefer pro-LGBT Republicans like Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, or Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. They (also rightly) point that not all Republicans are monsters like Cruz.

We also need to have discussions with Republicans, especially when they control 75% of all state legislatures. Republicans who are motivated more by the Chamber of Commerce's recommendations than religious dictates are crucial to moving the ball forward on pro-LGBT legislation. They recognize the benefits of a diverse workforce, and the productivity of happy, secure workers. They can be convinced that LGBT people will pick up and leave, taking their skills and money with them, when their environment is hostile.

Conversations were crucial to convincing South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard to veto HB1008, which would have banned transgender students from school facilities. So were the policies and case laws protecting transgender people, which helped emphasize the legal and economic consequences of discrimination. While most of the people who are extremely hostile to transgender people are Republicans, not all Republicans are hostile. Some of them can even be convinced.

Ted Cruz is not one of those people who can be convinced. He depends on anti-LGBT hate groups for money and political support. Changing his stance on transgender people would literally require him to renounce his religion. Voting for Ted Cruz, and hoping he can be convinced not to legislate us out of existence is a fool's errand.

Still, a few agreed with Jenner in her support of Cruz and desire to engage him on transgender issues. Thus, the question remains, how could a transgender person support Ted Cruz? As I scrolled through their comments, I realized almost all of the transgender individuals supporting Cruz had a common set of demographic traits.

They were universally female identified. Almost all of them were late transitioners over the age of 50, had spent most of their careers in male dominated fields, and had continued to have a career post transition. Most (but not nearly all) lived in relatively benign blue or purple states.

This is a lot to think about, but when taken together, it paints a very clear picture: the transgender people supporting Cruz don't have skin in the game. They were ultra-conservative before transition, and remained so after transition because a Cruz presidency doesn't endanger them personally. They live in safe places, with a safe income.

These conservative transgender people escape cognitive dissonance in a lot of ways. They don't believe that Ted Cruz would do all the horrible things he and the FRC have promised to do. They believe that the most important thing to transgender people is "a good economy" that gives us more job opportunities. They claim to be "looking at the bigger picture," or say that "I'm not a single issue voter," with an implication of moral and intellectual superiority.

Never mind the fact that Ted Cruz has promised to force the world's largest employer of transgender people (the DoD) to hunt down and fire all of its transgender employees. Never mind that if the FRC's plan is implemented, transgender people would not have access to correct government ID. Nor would they have legal recourse when discriminated against in employment. Nor when refused service, nor when tormented by religiously motivated co-workers, nor when school administrators can legally refuse to provide an education to transgender students.

It's hard to see how a good economy would be sufficient to overcome living somewhere where it's nearly impossible to get an education, ID, or job.

Yet these transgender supporters of Cruz think that the situation described above is still better than the presumed economic havoc caused by a Democratic administration. They envision a nation that devolves under a Clinton administration into a North Korea-like hellscape, where everyone's prospects look worse than a transgender person's under a Cruz administration.

This Democratic-induced doomsday scenario defies any sort of rational thought. After 8 years of an a Democratic President and 6 years of congressional gridlock, U3 unemployment stands at 4.9 percent, and the U6 unemployment rate at 9.7 percent. Both are the lowest in nearly 10 years. Presidents have only moderate influence on the economy, and external factors (like, say, the sub-prime mortgage crisis) play a much larger role than a President's budget (which gets largely ignored anyway). This overly pessimistic view also ignores the reality that the House of Representatives is likely to remain in Republican control until the 2030's, thus severely limiting what a Democratic President could accomplish.

Most gains by transgender people over the last 7 years at the federal level could be reversed under a Republican administration, however. Indeed, we could even move backward to something pre-Reagan.

This belief that Clinton or Sanders would destroy America so completely that transgender people would be better off under a Cruz administration stretches credulity past the breaking point. One does not have to look very hard at history to find examples of a party rising to power using fear mongering against minorities, then seeing the economy improve while passing legislation depriving the minorities of basic legal recognition.

(Hint: it doesn't work out so well for the minorities.)

All of this paints a picture of individuals who buy into Fox News-style paranoia and hyperbole that if a Democrat is elected, the economy will utterly collapse, the government will confiscate everyone's guns, and Christianity will be outlawed. This fear motivates some individuals, who are largely immune to the effects of anti-transgender policy and legislation, to vote for what they believe is best for everyone.

The reason that the vast majority of transgender people DON'T vote for Republicans is they instinctively realize the assumptions required to conclude that living as a transgender person in an America run by Cruz and the FRC is better than living in one run by a Democratic President are completely unrealistic. The odds of a Democratic President personally destroying America that utterly with their policies is roughly the same as your grandmother becoming a roadie for Nine Inch Nails.

The odds of Ted Cruz following through with the FRC's plan for transgender people in America are nearly 100%, however.

Most transgender people live in the 32 states where there are no legal protections. Most can't afford health care, and are subject to health care exclusions targeting them. Most have been denied work when employers realize they are transgender. Most have been subjected to humiliation and harassment at work. Most gender non-conforming youth have been subjected to bullying and harassment. Most of us need correct government ID, and employment, to survive. Transgender people in the military will universally become unemployed if Ted Cruz becomes President.

The FRCs plan will be implemented at a federal level by Cruz and his appointees. There are plenty more horrible things a Cruz administration could legally do that the FRC hasn't even enumerated yet. (I won't list them here; there's no point in giving them ideas). For the vast majority of the transgender community, it would be a catastrophe. For a few, it wouldn't really affect them.

In short, what sort of transgender person votes for Ted Cruz? Ones who have misjudged the relative risks to the community at large, and have very little skin in the game.