With Halloween around the corner, many of us are busy putting the final touches on the old gay hello kitty costume, taking part in the time old tradition of carving out the fine outline of Bette Middler as Winnifred from “Hocus Pocus” on a few pumpkins, and investing in large bowls of halloween candy for party favors—and maybe to give out to a few children.
With the plethora of Halloween candy options on the shelves this season, I’m personally glad one company has made it easier to narrow down my choices.
Jelly Belly Chairman Herman Rowland Sr has been outed as a donor to the Privacy For All Students campaign, the noted anti-trans organization dedicated to repealing California’s landmark “School Success and Opportunity Act” which supports students’ right to participate in school activities in a way that aligns with their gender identity.
Privacy for All Students reduces trans identity by belittling a person’s right to identity with a gender that aligns with their respective experience, pitting “so-called gender identity” against “actual sex” in fliers that completely erase transgender people by privileging biology over personal rights.
“The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as ‘gender identity’ any more than there is ‘ethnic identity.’ There is only gender,” said Frank Schubert, the political strategist behind PFAS, as well as the political director for the National Organization for Marriage, in a blog post on Red State.
What Schubert is referring to, in comparing “ethnic identity” to “gender identity” is his idea that transgender people’s right to identify with a gender the corresponds with their experiences is the same as a white man identifying as an African American. “Because I claim my identity as an African American, I demand that the law recognize me as such and afford me all the rights and obligations of that ethnicity,” he writes.
What Schubert is completely erasing from his argument is the hundreds of years of racial discrimination and oppression that people of color have experienced in a country that at its very inception took lands that belonged to indigenous peoples of America, and then forcibly moved thousands of African people to that stolen land and forced them to work that land against their own will. Those same people currently experience systemic discrimination in the form of lack of access to capital, education, and ease of movement that caucasian people have benefited from for hundreds of years.
Those must be the rights and obligations that Schubert, a cisgendered heterosexual white man, must be referring to, and undoubtedly has a deep understanding of.
“You may think that my decision to claim an African American identity is ridiculous. You would be right. Ethnicity is determined by ancestry and genetic lineage, not by someone’s identified perceptions and ‘feelings,'” he continues in his incredibly flawed argument.
A cisgendered straight white man identifying as African American is ridiculous not only because such a person does not share the ancestry or “genetic lineage,” which I can only assume is a reference to skin color, but also because, as a straight white man, Schubert benefits from the most amount of privilege a person can enjoy in this political system.
Similarly, a cisgendered heterosexual person choosing to identify as transgender in order to enjoy the “rights and obligations” of a trans person, namely the right to use a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, makes the same amount of sense: which is none.
Transgender people face a myriad of legal, medical, and social issues that cisgendered people never have to think about: identity documents that are not reflective of one’s gender and that one has to go through extensive legal proceedings in order to change, if that is even an option for them, sex-segregated public restrooms and other facilities that trans people are routinely publicly shamed for using, dress codes that perpetuate traditional gender norms, and barriers to access to appropriate health care, such as transgender medical needs being labeled “cosmetic” or unnecessary.
Clearly Schubert has a profound lack of understanding around the oppression that transgender people experience on a day to day basis, and why it is absolutely ridiculous that anyone would willingly take on such oppression for the sake of using a different bathroom.
This is the voice of the organization that Jelly Belly’s Chairman has donated $5,000 to, making him, and the company he represents, one of the major donors of this anti-trans hate organization.
A petition started by the National Center for Lesbian Rights calls for Herman Rowland Sr to “stop hurting transgender students” by supporting the Privacy For All Students Campaign, which is well worth signing and supporting.
But I think we can do Jelly Belly one better, especially with Halloween right around the corner. Stop buying Jelly Belly beans until the company pulls their funding out of Privacy For All Students. Consumer boycotts are en effective way of telling a company that their policies and political stances are an important part of their relationship to their consumers, and the LGBTQ community will not give its money to anti-trans legislation, or its supporters.