Romney Nixed Anti-Bullying Manual For Using Scary Words Like “Bisexual” and “Transgender”

When Mitt Romney was “accused” of being a bully and actually violently attacking someone based on their presumed homosexuality and alternative lifestyle haircut, he brushed it off as just one of those silly “adolescent hijinks” for which an adult human cannot possibly be judged.

But when Mitt Romney, Adult and then-governor of Massachusetts, was presented with the 120-page “Guide to Bullying Prevention” in 2006, a statewide manual designed for distribution in public schools, his administration effectively blocked its publication, allegedly due to their opposition of the words “bisexual” and “transgender” being employed in the manual. I feel like it’s safe to judge him about this, don’t you?

from the daily beast

Initially, the publication of the manual—which contained two pages about the specific needs of LGBT students—was simply “delayed,” which Romney blamed on the fact that it was super-long and they’d not had a chance yet to fully “review” it. E-mails uncovered by the Boston Globe prove that his office had actually decided to stall the manual shortly after it was received.

In fact, Romney refused to even consider the manual:

While the 120-page report was supposedly under “review” by the governor’s office, it had actually been spiked. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom (who is still Romney’s right-hand man) told Bay Windows in 2006 that “it is undergoing the normal review that a document of that length would go through.” Meanwhile, emails told a different story.

There was no equivocation: ““Because this is using the terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgendered,’ DPH’s name may not be used in this publication,” wrote an official from the Department of Public Health, the Globe found.

It’s an interesting tactic, to be sure, for his administration to attribute their opposition not to their anti-LGBT sentiments but to the specific inclusion of those two words. Did that seem like a safer position to take? Is he honestly okay with mentioning lesbian and gay teens, but not those who identify as bi or trans? After all, many cisgender straight people who can kinda handle the concept of homosexuality are still uncomfortable about/doubtful of the existence of bisexual and transgender people. Trans and bi folks often find themselves simultaneously excluded from both the het/cis universe and the LGBT community, too, and therefore make an easy target for conservative politicians.

So I’m sure I’m not the only one here interested in what it was about those terms specifically Romney apparently couldn’t tolerate, especially considering the fact that 87% of transgender students have been verbally harassed at school, 53% have been physically assaulted and nearly half report regularly skipping school because of safety concerns. Furthermore, many studies have shown that bisexual people show higher rates of negative health outcomes and substance abuse than their LG peers.

I think it’s safe to say that this opposition to “bisexual” and “transgender” wasn’t prompted by, perhaps, Romney’s excessive immersion in certain online flame wars, but rather by Romney’s excessive immersion in his own bigotry and conservative pandering. His anti-LGBT positions have been great fodder for base-building, after all.

In the past, Romney has financially supported a trans-hate group who attempted to convince everybody that transgender people are sexual predators with their “Who’s gonna be waiting for your wife and daughter [in the bathroom]?” campaign, which aimed to defeat an anti-discrimination bill that would protect transgender people.

Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family institute, agreed with Romney’s choices and has expressed support for the then-governor’s attempts to push back against a program “trying to indoctrinate people on the issue of sexual preference.” His support falls in line with that of most organizations that believe protecting LGBT youth from committing suicide is akin to forcing their classmates to make out with them regardless of their own sexual orientation.

The manual wasn’t published until 2008, when Democrat Deval Patrick took Romney’s seat as Governor and 10,000 copies were printed and distributed.

Romney’s decision to stall the manual coincided with his attempt to shut down the Gay and Lesbian Commission that existed out of his office and is part of a larger effort that took place during Romney’s closing years as Massachusetts governor during which he had begun considering his failed 2008 effort for the presidency. Don Gorton, author of the guide, said “Romney put his own political interests ahead of the safety of vulnerable youth.” He is one hundred percent correct:

Gorton, a longtime gay rights advocate, began work on the antibullying project while he was cochairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes. For Gorton, the guide was a personal mission. As a gay teen from Mississippi, he attempted suicide because of his isolation and social ostracism. “You don’t have any allies,’’ he said. “Nobody to take your side. Nobody to understand.’’

When Romney cut funding for the hate crimes task force early in his term, Gorton sought sponsorship and support for the unfinished guide from the governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. Henry, who was then the commission’s chairwoman, said in an interview last week that the administration’s objection to use of the terms bisexual and transgender smacked of “censorship, and stigmatization, and prejudice.’’

Make no mistake: there is a bully running for President. It’s disturbing, in light of Romney’s behavior at Cranbrook, to think that when he writes about bullying against LGBT students he’s not only validating the positions of conservative lawmakers but also his own perception of himself as a “prankster” rather than what he really is: a bully.

Mitt Romney has demonstrated throughout this election that he has no interest in protecting the rights or lives of LGBT people and that he doesn’t consider bullying or LGBT suicide a legitimate issue.

In the January 2012 Republican debate, when asked about his declaration in 1994 that he’d be “a voice in the Republican Party to foster anti-discrimination efforts [for the gay community],” Romney claimed that he “doesn’t discriminate,” doesn’t support same-sex marriage and never has, and pointed out that a member of his Cabinet was gay. Furthermore:

Q: When’s the last time you stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights?

ROMNEY: Right now.

Yeah, if this is what you call “standing up and speaking out for increasing gay rights,” then we’ll take the other guy.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

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9 Comments

  1. And if there weren’t a thousand other reasons to “take the other guy,” this one’s about as solid as it gets.

    “Make no mistake: there is a bully running for President.” Mike dropped, stage walked off. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. OK – I was just talking about bisexual invisibility, and why it still matters (since people not believing in me doesn’t make me disappear, or become magically monosexual), and THIS – this is absolutely why it’s still a big deal. Romney and other people had no excuse for holding up anti-bullying material in the first place, but the fact that he was extra-scared by things outside of the binary (or believed that they were ‘weird’ enough to justify his position) just shows how far we have to go.

  3. Just so Kris Mineau doesn’t feel left out of this:
    1. Why do LGBT have magical indoctrination powers that straight people are blind to?
    2. If indoctrination worked like that, wouldn’t I be straight or lesbian considering bisexuality is so terrifying and nobody ever talks about it?

    And for Romney:
    What the ABSOLUTE fuck? If anyone tried that shit with straight kids, they would have beaten to the ground by now. Proverbially of course.

    Or maybe not.

  4. I’m pretty late hearing about this, but it really pissed me off.

    I’m bisexual because I don’t feel like I need to pick a side. I meet someone, they’re really great, and I love them. Period. I don’t care about gender or race or anything of that sort.
    I cried when I first came out because my gay friends said ” It’s just a phase, you’ll pick a side eventually.” and so did my straight friends. I call that bullshit. I have no control in the person I fall in love with, or am attracted to. I meet someone and I look and see them for who they are and from that I decide whether or not I’d want to be with them. Easy as that.

    Romney is a HUGE bully and I really hope he doesn’t win.
    Everyone deserves protection from bullying; I certainly did when I was in school. And people are ignorant to things they don’t understand. If they were educated and understood then bullying wouldn’t be that much of a problem. Leaving bisexuals and transgender people out is a huge mistake and isn’t right.

    Pheww. I’m done ranting.
    So. Pissed.

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