Florida state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R) is appropriately catching heat for an almost incomprehensible—but very clearly transphobic—rant on Monday before the House Commerce Committee, in which he likened trans people to X-Men “mutants” and “demons.” Even more ghoulish, Barnaby directly addressed trans people who came to give public comment before the committee as it considered the Safety in Private Spaces Act, which would make it a misdemeanor for trans people to use the public restrooms or changing rooms consistent with their gender.
“It’s like I’m watching an X-Men movie. It’s like we have mutants living among us on planet Earth. Some people don’t like that, but that’s a fact,” Barnaby said. “This is the planet Earth, where God created men, male and women, female.”
The lawmaker then appeared to pray in the presence of the trans people giving public comment: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps will come parade before us. That’s right—I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world!”
Overlooking, for a second, how evil and deranged Barnaby’s comments are, he also seems to have entirely missed the point of the X-Men franchise, which, from the perspective of mutants, showed how they were unjustly and violently oppressed by those in power. If he actually watched the movies, I imagine they’d hold up a mirror to his own bigoted behaviors and might awaken some shame in him.
Barnaby’s horrific appraisal of trans life almost feels like vindication for Magneto, the X-Men franchise’s main antagonist who believes those in power have proven they can’t be reasoned with and that mutants should wield their power to violently resist. Mayhaps he made a point!
Funnily enough, Barnaby’s rant was too much even for some of his colleagues from his own party. One Republican on the committee, state Rep. Chase Tramont, told the individuals who had come to give comment, “You’re not an evil being. I believe that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made, and I want you to live your life well.” Mike Chitwood, Volusia County Sheriff in Barnaby’s district, claimed Barnaby’s comments put “another target on [trans people’s] backs.” He tweeted, “While we have Neo Nazis and other hate groups invading our area and targeting people for their faith, their ethnicity and their sexuality, our own state representative @websterbarnaby wants to put another target on their backs.”
Later on Monday, Barnaby gave something of a half-assed apology: “I would like to apologize to the trans community for referring to you as demons,” he said. Welp!
Barnaby, you’ll note, did not withdraw his support for the Safety in Private Spaces Act, barring trans individuals from using the appropriate bathroom or changing room and requiring state prisons to bar incarcerated people from being kept in the prison consistent with their gender identity. This, of course, is in violation of federal guidelines.
The entire premise of the bill is that trans people are somehow a threat to public safety merely by existing. In reality, the public poses a far greater threat to trans people, who face alarming rates of homicide and assault, with minimal institutional support. And of course, they’re even further endangered by the dehumanizing politics and disgusting comments of people like Barnaby. I can think of nothing more effective at galvanizing violence against trans people than literally calling them “demons.”