The International Organization for the Family (IOF), whose formation was announced in December by National Organization for Marriage (NOM) President Brian Brown and a global collection of anti-LGBTQ culture warriors, has launched an anti-transgender bus campaign in multiple countries. The campaign’s message is an absolute denial of transgender identity.
The campaign showed up in Spain a couple of weeks ago courtesy of HazteOir, which is part of CitizenGo, an online mobilization network for social conservatives. (Brown and HazteOir President Ignacio Arsuaga both serve on CitizenGo’s board.)
An English translation of the bus ad reads:
“Boys have penises. Girls have vulvas. Don’t be fooled. If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be one.”
Then last week, Gay Guatemala tweeted a photograph of a billboard with the same imagery and language, with CitizenGo’s branding.
Now NOM, IOF and CitizenGo are launching a U.S. version, which a press release says “is meant to affirm a biological basis for gender and to criticize ‘gender ideology.’” The U.S. leg is going to be launched in New York on Thursday with appearances at the United Nations and Trump Tower followed by the bus driving around the streets of Manhattan.
Brown has toned down the language, perhaps in deference to the sensibilities of his Religious Right donors. The English-language message has no references to genitalia. It says:
Boys are boys … and always will be.
Girls are girls … and always will be.
You can’t change sex. Respect all.
A press release announcing Thursday’s launch said the tour is meant to promote “the truth of gender,” by which they mean “that it is determined by biology rather than by emotions and feelings.”
“It’s biology, not bigotry,” said Brian S. Brown, president of both NOM and IOF. “Men and women were created equally, each given a gender that is fixed, immutable and complementary. Rather than perpetuate a lie that gender can be changed based on emotions and feelings, we should encourage people to embrace and love who they were made to be.”
Brown’s denial of the existence of transgender identity parallels the refusal by socially conservative evangelicals and their Catholic allies to acknowledge sexual orientation as an identity, with some refusing to use terms like gay and lesbian, preferring formulations such as “people who struggle with same-sex attraction.”
These denials are meant to provide legitimacy for right-wing efforts to deny recognition and protection of LGBTQ people in international law. Indeed, Brown and Arsuaga are wrapping themselves in the “gender ideology” rhetoric employed by Pope Francis and other members of the church hierarchy. More from the NOM/IOF/CitizenGo press release:
The bus tour organizers echoed a sentiment repeatedly raised by Pope Francis, that “gender ideology” is “an error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion” and is a key element in why “the family is under attack.” The Pope has condemned the teaching of “gender theory” in public schools, especially in developing nations, where he says it amounts to “ideological colonization” by influential western countries such as the United States. “And this is terrible,” the Pope said last August. “We are experiencing a moment of the annihilation of man as the image of God.”
Officials in several Spanish cities told HazteOir that their bus wasn’t welcome. A Madrid official derided it as “the bus of shame.” The bus was actually impounded by officials in Barcelona, which required HazeOir to strip off its messaging in order to get their bus back. That may be why Brown is promoting the U.S. version with the hashtag #FreeSpeechBus and a website www.FreeSpeechBus.com.