Youngkin’s meeting with Va. delegation gets heated over trans politics

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The Virginia congressional delegation’s bimonthly meeting on Monday started cordially enough, with Rep. Bob Good (R) asked special guest Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to lead the delegation in a prayer before sitting down to a Chick-fil-A lunch.

But then Youngkin’s new policy on transgender students came up — which ultimately led to a heated exchange between Good and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D), according to several aides with first- or secondhand knowledge of the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly.

Youngkin’s administration this weekend presented a new directive limiting the rights of transgender students in schools, order all 133 school districts to adopt policies that would require transgender students to use facilities and participate in activities that correspond to their gender at birth. It would also prevent students from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental permission, putting Virginia at the center of a national debate about the relationship between schools and parents when it comes to children’s gender identity.

Virginia’s Latest Attempt to Limit Transgender Student Rights

Responses to the policy — which would take effect after 30 days of public comment — have been deeply divided. Republicans and parental rights advocates have hailed it as the right thing to do for families, while Democrats and LGBTQ advocates have sharply criticized it, saying the measure will lead to the bullying of vulnerable children who are already marginalized and need support in school .

Monday’s meeting with Youngkin clearly captured these emotional divides.

In between the talk about economic development and infrastructure, Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D) raised her concerns with Youngkin about the new policy’s mental health impact on transgender students, according to aides. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that about 2 percent of high school students identify as transgender, and 35 percent of them have attempted suicide. For Wexton, whose niece is transgender, the question is personal and she had previously publicly called the policy “a vile and disgusting attack on vulnerable trans children” that Youngkin “should be ashamed of.”

How Jennifer Wexton Became the Patron Saint of the Transgender Community

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) and Don Beyer (D) built on Wexton’s concerns, ranging from the higher risk of suicide among transgender students to the constitutionality of the policy and its impact on inviting businesses to Virginia, aides said. Youngkin described the policy as a statement of parental rights in education, according to one of the people.

Youngkin’s restriction on trans students’ rights is likely illegal, experts say

When it was Good’s turn to speak, he defended the governor and his administration’s new policy as the right thing to do for children. In Good’s view, schools and teachers “groomed” children to change their gender, arguing that they are being forced to transition.

Instead of bullying trans students contributing to suicide, Good argued that “the fact that these kids are killing themselves is because of grooming,” or something along those lines, and that they were “forced” to go through gender-affirming surgeries – comments that the aides said raised the temperature in the room.

Spanberger reacted strongly, telling Good, “That’s not true.”

Good stood his ground and insisted he was the one telling the truth, according to people familiar with the exchange, before Sen. Tim Kaine (D) stepped in to calm things down by reciting a Bible verse, Matthew 25:40 : “Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”

A spokeswoman for Good did not respond to requests for comment, but Good confirmed the tense exchange took place in an interview with Punchbowl News, He said when it was his turn to speak, he tried to rebut Spanberger, accusing Democrats of supporting the “grooming” of children and the “mutilation of children” through sex-affirmation surgeries. He then said Spanberger yelled and cursed at him for calling him a liar, even though he said she was the one lying about the Democrats’ position.

A spokesman for Spanberger said in a statement that she “always appreciates the opportunity to have a candid conversation with the governor about the issues facing Virginia’s Seventh District,” noting that she discussed emergency preparedness, Chesapeake Bay watershed conservation needs — and “her perspective as a parent related to recent education policy announcements from the governor’s administration.”

“In particular, she will always stand up against conspiracy theories that harm or attack Virginia’s students, their parents and their educators — as was the case when one of her congressional colleagues did just that,” the statement added.

She had previously said after Youngkin’s policy was released, the move “will harm children, especially LGBTQ children, who already suffer from higher rates of depression and are at greater risk of suicide.”

Bob Good rises from the Liberty University bubble to fight the culture wars of Congress

Good, a self-described biblical conservative, frequently speaks out against transgender rights and has frequently traveled to school board meetings in her district to urge parents and school administrators to reject policies that accept transgender students in school. On the same day as the meeting with Youngkin, he appeared at a press conference organized by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to support her bill that would make it a crime to perform gender-affirming care — including treatment such as puberty-blocking drugs and surgery — about transgender children, which Good likened to child abuse and reiterated his belief that it led to suicide.

Medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended transgender children access to gender-affirming healthcare to reduce mental disorders.

FAQ: What you need to know about transgender children

Historically, the Virginia delegation’s private monthly meetings are opportunities for lawmakers to strengthen working relationships across the aisle and find common cause to help Virginia. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D), the dean of the Virginia delegation, said in a statement that he was “proud of the longstanding tradition of being able to work together on issues we agree on for the betterment of all Virginians,” and noted that it was a unique tradition the state legislatures maintained compared to other states.

But Scott added, “Obviously there are issues we disagree on,” without elaborating.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin declined to comment.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also text a crisis counselor by texting the crisis text line at 741741.

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