The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a veritable who’s who of anti-LGBTQ conservatives. This year’s conference included U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, French far-right homophobe Marion Le Pen and transphobic author Ben Shapiro. So what the hell were a group of CPAC transgender attendees doing at this year’s conference?
Political writer Osita Nwanevu caught up with Jennifer Williams, one of a group of four openly trans white women who attended this year’s CPAC. And while he didn’t question her about her feelings on the issues of reproductive justice, Trump’s pointedly anti-transgender politics, racial issues or firearms regulations, Nwanevu did ask what they were doing there.
Williams (who is from Trenton, New Jersey) explained, “We had four people here who are openly transgender, trying to advocate for the greater LGBTQ community.” They’ve been carrying small hand-held signs that say “Proud to Be a Conservative, Proud to Be Transgender, Proud to Be American, #sameteam.”
“What we’re trying to do is start a conversation with people and dispel the myths,” Williams said.
Williams said that some of CPAC’s older attendees have given her group dirty looks — one English lawyer tried to convince her that trans people don’t face medical discrimination (“which is bogus,” Williams adds). But she says that three out of four younger millennials have smiled, said hello and come over to take pictures with the group. One veteran in a wheelchair came over and told them, “I may not understand y’all, but I’m so glad you’re doing this.”
When Nwanevu asked them how they felt about CPAC hosting anti-LGBTQ speakers, Williams responded, “Ben Shapiro is going to say what he says in his speech… But if we’re not out here doing this, we can’t refute what he’s saying with the truth — our authenticity and existence.”
She also said that CPAC has become less anti-LGBTQ over time, pointing to the fact that many of the speakers no longer talk about “traditional marriage” (same-sex marriage) and that CPAC’s organizers banned transphobic folks like Milo Yiannopoulos and the anti-LGBTQ group Mass Resistance. However, the anti-LGBTQ hate group the Family Research Council still has a place in CPAC’s expo hall.