Oregon is seeing a dangerous wave of anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ politics sweep across our state. As the state’s leading LGBTQ2SIA+ advocacy organization, Basic Rights Oregon is sounding the alarm about this troubling trend and reaffirming our support for all trans and queer people, particularly our youth. 

Across the nation, we’re seeing anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ bills introduced by state legislatures–and, too often, passed and signed into law. Some of these bills target gender-affirming health care for trans kids; some seek to isolate and humiliate young trans athletes; some aim to outlaw all mention of LGBTQ2SIA+ folks and issues in public schools; and some are taking on marriage equality. 

Here in Oregon, we aren’t seeing any of these hateful and unnecessary bills come to pass–yet. But we are witnessing the humanity of trans and queer people once again become a political football for politicians eager to gain attention and inspire the worst instincts of potential voters. This assault on LGBTQ2SIA+ Oregonians’ dignity is directly tied to the Oregon governor’s race.

Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam, a Republican candidate for governor, seems to be using old-fashioned culture war tactics to distinguish himself from a crowded field. Pulliam is doing this by driving transphobic vitriol toward trans youth–a population uniquely vulnerable to suicide, self-harm, houselessness, and abuse. Pulliam is attacking a set of policies that standardizes the Salem-Keizer School District’s longstanding work to affirm the gender identity of trans and nonbinary students.

“Trans youth are like all youth–they want to be able to participate in school and be accepted as themselves,” said Mikki Gillette (she/her), Basic Rights Oregon’s major gifts officer and a trans woman. “Salem-Keizer’s policies will create an environment where they can do that.”

Unfortunately, Pulliam isn’t alone among Oregon gubernatorial candidates using trans kids as pawns in their political ambitions. Willamette Week recently asked candidates where they stood on allowing trans kids to play on teams that match their gender identities. Every Republican who answered said they favored discrimination. Independent candidate Betsy Johnson also came down on the side of exclusion, calling trans inclusion “social engineering.”

The newly written Salem-Keizer School District policies, and the general policy of allowing trans kids to play on gender-appropriate sports teams, don’t reflect a radical or novel agenda. They are policies that were first adopted by the Oregon Department of Education in 2016, when Governor Kate Brown issued guidance on creating a supportive learning environment for trans students.

“In the six years since the Oregon Department of Education issued its guidance on trans inclusion, there hasn’t been a single case of a cisgender student being harmed in our schools,” Gillette said. “Critics like Stan Pulliam are playing a cynical game by trying to discriminate against trans kids. We’re going to fight to make sure he doesn’t win.”

“Oregon politicians aren’t attacking these six-year-old policies because they are first learning about them, or because they want an honest public debate about them,” said Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director Nancy Haque (she/her). “They are attacking them because they are hoping their retrograde, anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ views earn them enough votes to be Oregon’s next governor. We can’t let that happen.”

Rep. Karin Power knows all too well that with the governor’s seat and many swing seats in the Oregon Legislature up for reelection, this year’s anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ campaign talking points could easily become next year’s winning legislation. 

“As one of five openly LGBTQSIA+ Oregon legislators, I know that we can never take our rights for granted,” said Power (she/her). “What’s happening in Florida, Texas, and other states across the country could come to Oregon, depending on how the 2022 election turns out. These harmful, discriminatory attacks on our community from gubernatorial candidates show that we can’t afford to lose our LGBTQ2SIA+ representation and allies in the governor’s seat or in the legislative majority.”

If you want to support pro-equality candidates this election season, be sure to check out our endorsements and donate to our Equality PAC if you have the resources. Together, we can ensure these anti-LGBTQ2SIA+ sentiments don’t make their way to our state’s highest seats of power.

If you are an LGBTQ2SIA+ young person experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, help is available at The Trevor Project.