As we near the Iowa caucus, which will take place on Feb. 3, candidates are fighting for any endorsement or group they can get their hands on. But one endorsement, which Bernie Sanders has seemed to be very pleased with, is that of Joe Rogan. His accepting of Rogan’s endorsement, including the release of a Twitter ad featuring Rogan saying he’d probably vote for Sanders, has led to many people to feel that Sanders is betraying minority communities.
For those unaware, Joe Rogan is a “comedian” and podcast host, most famous for incredibly insulting comments about transgender people, rampant racism and Islamophobia. Rogan has repeatedly used the N-word in his “comedy” and has been vocally and horrifically anti-trans, shouting “You’re a f—— man” about Fallon Fox, a female MMA fighter who is transgender. Sanders’ supporters have often touted his record on queer rights, and so this ad with Rogan comes off as a betrayal to many.
While most of the things Rogan has done with his professional life are repugnant, there’s one particular branch of his bigotry I find most concerning. Rogan has in the past advocated strongly against allowing puberty blockers for transgender and nonbinary teenagers. A recent study confirms that this is a really bad idea. Transgender teens who have access to puberty blockers, which suppress characteristics of puberty like breast development and voice deepening, have a significant decline in their future odds of suicidal behaviors or mental health issues.
Puberty blockers are also reversible; as the CDC’s study explains, blockers “delay puberty until a trans teenager is old enough to make decisions about having gender-affirming medical treatment.” This study comes at a time when states such as South Dakota are trying to pass laws that would make it a felony to give gender-affirming treatments, such as puberty blockers, to transgender teens. That’s the ideology that Joe Rogan supports, and it’s that ideology that kills transgender people. Access to gender-affirming care is the best way to lower the statistics for suicide in transgender youth and to see Sanders wholeheartedly accept the endorsement of someone who would seek to outlaw that, an action that could potentially lead to many lives lost, is outrageous.
This decision from Sanders and his campaign staff helps to confirm what many already feared; Sanders has no qualms about selling out the vulnerable communities he claims to support in order to do something he thinks betters his own chances. Imani Gandy, a lawyer and writer for Rewire News, tweeted a few days ago: “I like how folks will kick out of the tent people who don’t support Bernie’s specific Medicare for All plan, but I’m supposed to ignore virulent racism to make room in the tent for people who are Nazis or nazi-adjacent.”
This isn’t the first time this has been a problem for Sanders. In the past, he was criticized for hiring videographer Matt Orfalea, whose videos include things like sexualizing the “I Have A Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. and repeated use of the R-word. Orfalea quit before he’d started working, but his hire still left a bad taste in the mouth of some Sanders supporters. Seeing a candidate for the highest office hire people who hurt people is a concern for many minorities, who want a president who will protect their rights.
In the end, do I think Sanders supports transgender rights? Yes. My problem is the fact that simply supporting my rights is not enough. A president needs to act on that support, needs to not abandon the minorities who are trying to get him elected in order to try to win over bigots. Those are not the people the Democratic Party should be fighting for.
If a candidate is going to run on a platform that includes the protection of minority rights, they should mean it. My rights and the rights of other queer and trans people are not up for debate. We are not a bartering chip in order to win straight, cisgender men over to a side they’re never going to vote for in the first place. Bernie Sanders needs to understand that his chances of winning come from the very people he’s hurting by these decisions. The only effect an endorsement like Rogan has is making a whole lot of people suddenly feel much less safe with the idea of a Sanders presidency.
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Thumbnail photo showing democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speak during a rally at the Ames City Auditorium in Ames, Iowa., Jan. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.