First Lady Melania Trump, a normally private figure, emerged from her cocoon of complicity this week to tell everyone to keep her son Barron’s name out of their mouths.
The trouble began when Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford Law School, made a brief reference to President Donald Trump’s youngest child during impeachment testimony this week. Karlan was making the argument that while Trump views himself as having unlimited power — akin to a medieval monarch — the U.S. Constitution does not permit him “to do anything he wants.”
“I'll just give you an example that shows you the difference between him and a king,” she said. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can't make him a baron.”
Although the joke wasn’t targeting the 13-year-old specifically and was aimed squarely at his father’s authoritarian leanings, Ms. “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” did not miss an opportunity to score cheap political points with Trump’s base. On Wednesday, she tweeted that “a minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics.”
“Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it,” she said.
The majority of backlash to Melania’s tweet focused on her husband’s family separation policy, which reportedly has led to hundreds of migrant children being torn away from their parents. Others pointed it was hypocritical for her to complain about a fairly harmless joke when the Republican Party has so often targeted young people in the public eye, including activists like Greta Thunberg, David Hogg, and Emma González.
But the First Lady’s weapons-grade hypocrisy is not unique to immigration policy. She has also been silent about the president’s persistent attacks on LGBTQ+ youth, particularly trans students.
Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration forced the Department of Education to roll back Obama-era guidelines advising schools to treat trans students according to their lived gender, even over the objections of Secretary Betsy Devos. Those practices had instructed teachers and faculty to allow transgender youth to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their sense of self.
Even as Melania launched the #BeBest campaign to address cyberbullying, she has declined to speak up as her husband’s presidency continued to target LGBTQ+ youth over and over again.
The full list is too exhaustive to detail here. However, the more grave attacks on queer and trans young people include rolling back data collection on LGBTQ+ youth in foster care and crime victimization surveys, as well as all tracking conducted by the Department of Education. As critics noted, the latter decision makes it impossible for the administration to respond to the ongoing crisis of anti-LGBTQ+ bullying in schools.
In recent months, the White House has pushed “religious freedom” policies that permit teachers to refuse to teach LGBTQ+ curricula in schools if the lessons conflict with their faith beliefs. Similar guidelines allowing adoption and foster care agencies to refuse placement to same-sex couples could also impact LGBTQ+ youth in the system.
Does Melania not feel these kids “deserve privacy?” Should they also be safe from being exploited by “obviously biased public pandering,” as in her husband’s desire to win votes from his base? The answer, I imagine, is printed on her aforementioned jacket.
To give the First Lady the benefit of a doubt, I do believe that she wants what is best for her son. All parents — or well, just about all parents— want to protect their children from harm. But instead of wringing her perfectly manicured hands, she should read the stories of parents all over the country who are struggling to provide support for their trans kids when the federal government won’t. She could learn something.