In a refreshing turn of events, in Thursday night's town hall for Joe Biden on ABC, the presidential candidate was asked not one but two LGBQ+-specific questions — the competing town hall with Trump on NBC featured none. Biden's first came from Nathan Osburn, a Philadelphia Democrat who asked about queer and trans folks who were worried for their rights in the context of Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court.
"I think there's great reason to be concerned," Biden responded before elaborating on his take on Barrett's responses to hearing inquiries. But Osburn wasn't alone in having questions about queer and trans folks. Later on in the night Mieke Haeck, a "proud mom" of a transgender girl stood up to ask a question as well.
“My youngest daughter is transgender," Haeck said, after telling Biden she has two daughters. "The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people, banning them from military service, weakening non-discrimination protections, and even removing the word transgender from some government websites. How will you as president reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under U.S. law?”
"I will flat out just change the law," Biden began in his response. "Eliminate those executive orders, number one." That answer was succinct and to the point, and needed. There is an ongoing fight against many of the Trump actions — currently the military ban is being fought in the Stockman v Trump case — but an executive order would go a ways in reversing some of the damage. And while the rest of Biden's answer was in the right place, he found himself stumbling through out.
After giving an anecdote about how as a child he saws two men kissing one another and it was explained to him by his father as simply love, Biden continued in his response.
“The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know I decided I want to be transgender,” Biden said. “That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would make my life a lot easier. There should be zero discrimination." It's unclear here whether or not Biden is speaking plainly, and saying that children decide to be transgender — like with a conversation earlier this week around Barrett's nomination where she inferred sexuality was a choice, gender is not a choice — or whether he is speaking sarcastically and attempting to draw attention to the fact that few would "choose" to be trans as the world's rampant, sometimes fatal transphobia does not make life easier.
"What’s happening is too many transgender women of color are being murdered," Biden continued. "They’re being murdered. And I think it’s up now to 17, don’t hold me to that number. But it’s — it’s higher now?” As of Sunday, 33 trans Americans had reportedly been killed violently in 2020. At least 20 of the deaths were women of color and about 17 were Black trans women.
"By the way, my son Beau, passed away; he was the attorney general in the state of Delaware," Biden said, finishing up his response. "He was the guy who got the first transgender passed in the state of Delaware and because of a young man who became a woman who worked for him in the attorney general offices.” Describing trans folks as a "young man who became a woman" is extremely outdated and frankly inaccurate. Trans folks are and always have been their stated gender, and some transition their bodies to correspond with that.
The trans woman who worked with Beau Biden on the legislation was Sarah McBride who has had a history-making career. In addition to working with Beaux, she was the first out trans person to work in the White House as a 2012 intern, before going on to become the first trans person to speak at a national political convention in 2016. Now, she is set to make history as the first trans state senator in Delaware which will make her the highest-ranking trans official in the US government.
Trump on the other hand did not field any LGBTQ+ specific questions at his town hall on NBC. GLAAD, who has been pushing for these sorts of questions, released a statement about the difference.
"Tonight ABC and George Stephanopolous made history by including two questions which let LGBTQ voters know where Vide President Biden stands on issues important to our community," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. "It is a shame and a disservice that President Trump was not asked about his abysmal record on LGBTQ issues and national media needs to end this silence moving forward. LGBTQ voters and our allies make up a powerful voting bloc and deserve to know where the candidates stand. Our rights and the Trump administration's record must continue to be part of the conversation in the most consequential election of our lifetime."