Trans woman and congressional candidate Danielle Pellett was among those lobbying against SB 6 in Austin this week
When Danielle Pellett went to Austin on Monday, March 6, to lobby against Senate Bill 6 — the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” introduced by Sen. Lois Kolhurst and pushed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — she went in armed with what she described as logical arguments she believed would get through to conservative Republicans.
Pellette is a transgender woman, a chemist by profession, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, in the 2018 midterm elections. She describes herself as “ex-conservative” turned “New Deal Democrats,” and said she knows how true conservatives think.
“As an ex-conservative myself, I didn’t try to use the business angle,” Pellett said, even though business leaders warn that passing the bathroom bill could cost the state millions in lost business. While that seems like a logical argument to use in approaching GOP lawmakers who claim to be fiscally conservative, Pellett said it is more likely to backfire.
“The argument supporters of the bill use is that they are protecting the privacy and safety of women and children. When you tell them that passing this bill is going to cost the state millions of dollars, what you’re doing is asking them to put a price tag on their children’s safety,” Pellett explained. “And you can’t put a monetary value on a child’s safety.”
Instead, Pellett said, approach your argument from a perspective the conservatives can understand and identify with. “Ask them, how are we going to enforce this. Are people going to have to carry around their birth certificates?”
And, she added, you have to work on making the lawmakers understand “that trans people aren’t a risk to their children.” In earlier decades, Pellett said, anti-LGBT forces preyed on people’s fear by warning that if gays and lesbians were allowed to be teachers, the children would be harmed. It was “a dog whistle back then, and it is just as dangerous a dog whistle now to paint transgender as being a danger to children.
“We have to tell them, show them that trans people aren’t the boogeyman,” Pellett said. “If you want to convince the conservatives, you have to convince them of that. Point out to them that in other countries, sexual predators — the kind of people they think this bill will protect children from — in other countries those people are chemically castrated. The chemicals they use to do that are the same ones that we [transgender women] take willingly as part of our transition process.
“We have to convince them, ‘We [transgender people] are not the sexual predators you want us to be,” she said.
Pellet said that she visited on Monday with staffers in the offices of Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, and Rep. Linda Koop, R-Dallas. She said staffers in both offices were “very professional and very polite,” but she was not encouraged. While Koop’s staffers didn’t say for sure one way or the other, “I don’t think we made much headway with them, either.”
Pellet said she felt as if the state senators and representatives “knew we were going to be there lobbying, so they were deliberately not there,” leaving staff members to talk to SB 6 opponents.
And while it bordered on discouraging to be lobbying in the GOP-controlled Legislature, she was lucky to find “a nice, comfortable blue dot in that great swathe of red,” in the form of the office Dallas’s freshman Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave.
Neave’s staffers, Pellett said, “invited me to come in and sit down and rest, offered me water. They greeted me with a smile and a wave. Victoria Neave’s office was so warm and welcoming, and that was really nice to find.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 10, 2017.