Members of the transgender community are saying a new advertisement against Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak is transphobic and stokes fear.
“Ads like this are vile and hate-mongering,” says Brooke Maylath with Transgender Allies Group, which is based in Reno. “It’s despicable and serves no other purpose other than to demonize transgender people.”
In a social media ad, Nevada Parents for Safe Schools says: “Sisolak thinks high school boys should be allowed to shower with your daughter.”
“I’ve seen ads like this time and time again,” says Jane Heenan, the executive director of the Las Vegas-based Gender Justice Nevada. “People are using this to provoke anger and fear.”
One member of the Nevada Parents for Safe Schools Facebook group wrote: “Now, just because we do not want boys and girls showering together, then we are transphobic.”
Heenan adds a similar logic was once used to exclude people of color from accessing certain rights. “They say, I don’t hate you, I just don’t want you around me,” they add.
Heenan says this type of fear-mongering hasn’t played out well in Nevada, pointing to a 2015 “bathroom bill” proposal to prevent trans students from using facilities that match their gender identity.
“It was defeated in a Republican-controlled legislature,” Heenan says. “I think it’s because we know who we are in Nevada, and we value diversity here.”
Other LGBT groups, such as the Nevada chapter of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), say attacks on transgender people in other states have also hurt campaigns.
Last November, Danica Roem, an openly transgender candidate, won Virginia’s House of Delegates against a 13-term incumbent, who was openly transphobic and authored a bathroom bill to prevent trans people from using the bathroom of their gender identity.
“Time and time again, in races across the country, we’ve seen that hate is a losing political strategy, yet far right, sham organizations continue to latch on to LGBTQ discrimination and demonize the transgender community to stir up votes,” said HRC Nevada State Director Briana Escamilla, in a statement. “It won’t work,”
Maylath says Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running against Sisolak, should denounce the ad. “The silence is overwhelming,” Maylath adds. “Is Laxalt running for governor for all people or just the people who are spiteful and hateful?”
Sisolak’s campaign has also called for him to respond.
“If Adam Laxalt doesn’t denounce this hateful ad — and he’s refusing to, for a full day now — then he is condoning it,” Grigsby Crawford, Sisolak’s press secretary said in a statement to Nevada Current. “Campaign tactics like this should be beneath someone running for our state’s highest office, and Adam Laxalt stooping this low says a lot about his character and the type of public servant he would be.”
Gender Justice Nevada invited both candidates to meet with and hear from the gender-diverse community. Sisolak attended a meeting, but Heenan says the Laxalt campaign was unable attend because of “scheduling.”
Laxalt’s campaign didn’t respond to a request to comment.