When you think of trans rights, "Republican" is probably not the first association you make. Throughout 2016, a number of GOP lawmakers across the country have proposed, and in some circumstances passed, legislation which outright prohibits transgender individuals from using public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. This adds to the problem of a lack of federal nondiscrimination legislation for trans individuals in employment, housing, and education. Hence, it's surprising that Fox News will air a transgender rights ad during the Republican National Convention on July 21, according to a press release on Monday by Fairness USA, the ad's backer.
The ad provides a candid look into a situation in which many transgender individuals find themselves daily. Alaina Kupec, a North Carolina trans woman, attempts to use a woman's restroom in what appears to be a restaurant, when she is stopped by a man, presumably the business owner, who tells her she must use the men's room. "I have lived as a woman for many years," Kupec's voiceover tells the audience. "Most people, when they stop to think about it, they realize that when businesses can legally force me to use the men's room, it puts me at risk for harassment and violence." The reality of that risk is captured by the scene, which shows the business owner opening the men's room door for Kupec, revealing two men inside who glare at her. One man enters the doorway and appears to yell something at her.
The ad will re-air during the Democratic National Convention, but its place on the Fox News lineup during the Republican Convention is particularly noteworthy. Republicans are not a monolith regarding trans rights. As Fairness USA noted in its press release, a number of GOP lawmakers, including Gov. Charlie Baker, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Sen. Rob Portman, have been supportive of anti-discrimination legislation. But they're a minority. Bustle has reached out to Fox for comment on the ad.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, after some flip-flopping, stated that legislation like North Carolina's House Bill 2, which restricts trans people's access to bathrooms, should be left up to states to decide on. Sen. Ted Cruz was emphatic in his support of such legislation. Republicans in the House and Senate have been responsible for the failure of various iterations of the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas based on either sexual orientation or gender identity on the federal level, despite the fact that a majority of their constituents support such legislation.
Concerning bathroom bills, though, Republican voters appear to be split, according to a CNN/ORC poll from May, whereas solid majorities of independents and Democrats oppose them. That makes the fact that the ad will air during the Republican Convention more significant. Rather than preaching to the choir, it will reach voters who are more likely in a position to learn something from it and think differently about the issue at its prompting.