What the transgender Easter uproar means

WHAT THE TRANSGENDER EASTER UPROAR MEANS. It’s an election year, and a political issue can explode into something huge at any moment. That is what we saw with the confluence of Easter Sunday, which was March 31, and a presidential proclamation declaring that same day, March 31, to be International Transgender Day of Visibility. 

Some Republicans expressed outrage. “President Biden has declared that Easter Sunday is now Transgender Day,” Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) posted on X. “This is an intentional attempt to insult and mock Christians across America. Shocking — but not surprising. In Mississippi, we will proudly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sinners.”

“The Biden White House has betrayed the central tenet of Easter — which is the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) wrote on X. “Banning sacred truth and tradition — while at the same time proclaiming Easter Sunday as ‘Transgender Day’ — is outrageous and abhorrent. The American people are taking note.”

Biden defenders responded that International Transgender Day of Visibility is always observed on March 31, while Easter moves around on the calendar. “The date of Easter moves each year … while Trans Day of Visibility is always recognized on March 31,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, head of the gay and transgender activist group GLAAD. It was just a coincidence, nothing more. The Republicans who complained about it, they said, were trying to divide people. “As a Christian who celebrates Easter with family, President Biden stands for bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Sadly, it’s unsurprising politicians are seeking to divide and weaken our country with cruel, hateful, and dishonest rhetoric. President Biden will never abuse his faith for political purposes or for profit.”

What to make of it? First, some people might ask: What is the International Transgender Day of Visibility? It was apparently the idea of a Michigan transgender activist, who in 2009 wanted to designate a day, March 31, to go along with Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is observed in the fall. The move spread across Michigan and was eventually picked up by national activists.

But not by everyone. Barack Obama was president for the first eight International Transgender Days of Visibility, and the Obama White House never issued a proclamation noting the occasion. Donald Trump was president for the next four International Transgender Days of Visibility, and his White House also did not make any proclamations noting the event. Only in 2021, when Biden took office, did the White House issue a proclamation for the day. So to suggest that the International Transgender Day of Visibility has “always” been observed on March 31 is a bit of an exaggeration, unless by “always” one means the last three years. 

Easter fell on March 31 in 2013, and the Obama White House recognized Easter but not the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Then, after interest in transgender issues grew among the Democratic base, Biden recognized not one, not two, but three days specifically highlighting transgender people. In each year of his presidency, Biden has issued a proclamation honoring the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a presidential statement marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, and a proclamation honoring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Pride Month. (It’s June.)

This year, with Easter falling on March 31, the idea of moving the observation of the relatively new International Transgender Day of Visibility a day or two to one side, a common practice, apparently did not occur to the Biden White House. 

Why did this episode stir emotions? Because it was the latest act in the cultural conflict over transgenderism. The bottom line is that a lot of conservatives and Republicans feel that elite cultural institutions are pressuring people to believe something they simply do not accept: that a man can become a woman, that a woman can become a man, and that whether a person is male or female is somehow “assigned” to them at birth rather than recognized as a natural fact.

A 2022 Pew Research Center poll asked people if they believe that whether a person is a man or a woman is determined by sex at birth or whether a person is a man or a woman can be different from sex at birth. The survey found that 75% of Protestants overall, 87% of white evangelicals, 70% of black Protestants, and 62% of Catholics all believe that whether a person is a man or woman is determined by sex at birth. Those percentages have actually grown in the last five years as the transgender movement has become higher profile and more aggressive. And large numbers of the poll respondents said their views are shaped and influenced at least somewhat by their religious beliefs. 

These fundamental views have been deepened by controversies over public bathrooms, about competitive athletics, about education, and, perhaps most importantly, about the Biden administration’s and the medical establishment’s support for “gender-affirming care” for minors. Many Republicans believe the administration has pursued terribly harmful policies on these issues. So when the White House issued a proclamation honoring a recently invented International Transgender Day of Visibility that just happens to be Easter Sunday after two other transgender-related White House declarations in the last 10 months, all of a sudden it seemed like…too much.

Yes, the feelings involved were probably more intense because we are in a presidential campaign. But this is not a minor or a transitory matter. It is a real issue for society and government to address. And it won’t be resolved by presidential proclamation.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on Radio America and the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found.

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