Creep of the Week: Ramaswamy and Pence

Headshots of Vivek Ramaswamy and Mike Pence with a red swoosh below them
Vivek Ramaswamy photo by Gage Skidmore. Mike Pence photo by D. Myles Cullen. Final image by Ed Hahn

Facts are not something Republicans are interested in

I care about my well-being. And so I did not watch the second GOP presidential debate (or the first one). But because I only care about my well-being so much, I did read about it. And wow, what a horrifying parade of ineptitude, fascist aspirations, and hatred.

Two candidates in particular — disgraced former Vice President Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy — seemed to be in a competition to see who could hate transgender people more.

Asked a question about parental rights in education, Ramaswamy said, “I have to be very clear about this: Transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder. Parents have the right to know.”

When right-wing conservatives use the term “parental rights” regarding education, they specifically mean fighting against transgender student protections and banning the teaching of LGBTQ+ and Black history. When Ramaswamy says that parents have “the right to know,” what he means is that trans or gender non-conforming kids should be outed to their parents, regardless of what kind of rejection or even violence at home they may face as a result.

Ramaswamy went on to say, “It is not compassionate to affirm a kid’s confusion. That is not compassion, that is cruelty.”

I don’t know if Ramaswamy knows this, but kids are confused about a LOT of things as they grow up. Being human is full of contradictions and mysteries and things kids have little to no control over. It is absolutely compassionate to affirm a kid’s identity as they’re figuring out who they are.

Ramaswamy also vowed to “ban genital mutilation or chemical castration,” something right-wing extremists want everyone to think is happening to kids on the regular. It isn’t.

When Pence is asked about violence against LGBTQ+ people, he responds, “I’ll stand up for the safety and civil liberties of every American of every background.” Which is chillingly unspecific, considering he was just asked a very specific question about violence against a very specific group of people.

Perhaps wanting to outdo Ramaswamy, Pence says, “We’re going to pass a federal ban on transgender chemical or surgical surgery anywhere in the country,” adding, “We’ve got to protect our kids from this radical gender ideology agenda.”

As Pence says the word “radical,” he raises his hand in a surfer “hang loose” gesture and opens his suit to reveal a vintage neon-orange Ocean Pacific t-shirt.

At least, that’s what I wish he did. Truly would have been the most epic he’d ever been in his life.

“Instead of addressing the critical issue of the safety and rights of all Americans, GOP primary candidates ignored the rise in violence and hateful rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ community and our allies,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement that I learned of via The Advocate. “Several chose to continue making false claims about transgender people and their basic human rights to safety, health care, and access to education.”

Thankfully, the other five candidates sharing the stage with Pence and Ramaswamy jumped in to defend transgender kids and transgender adults, calling Pence and Ramaswamy “uncompassionate conservatives.”

Haha. Just kidding. There was no one on that stage who gives a shit about transgender people except to use them as cannon fodder in the culture wars.

National Center for Transgender Equality spokesperson Ash Orr really boiled the issue down to its essence. “No one should have their very right to exist debated on a national stage.”

And yet, that’s just what Republicans were doing and are doing at every level of government. And they have, by and large, decided that transgender people do not have the right to exist.

Orr said in a statement, “What we saw last night was a group of extremist politicians repeating the same tired rhetoric about transgender people, unsupported by actual facts.”

Facts, of course, are not something Republicans are interested in. Nor is basic human decency. Neither polls well with the base.

With the 2024 election looming, things are only going to get worse for transgender people. Rhetoric will get more nasty, and threats and acts of violence will rise. Now is a good time to support a transgender rights and advocacy organization like the National Center for Transgender Equality or a local organization near you. Support now will help these orgs mobilize for the election and also ensure they have the resources to help the many transgender people who are going to need more and more support as this hate parade plays out. Visit