Politics

GLAAD Gives Bloomberg a Pass on Calling Trans Woman ‘It’

Mike Bloomberg
Mike Bloomberg / Getty Images

GLAAD, a leading watchdog for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that regularly singles out public figures for displaying a lack of sensitivity towards the LGBTQ community, continues to remain silent about the offensive remarks of one of its longtime corporate partners: former New York City mayor turned Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg.

Even as other advocacy organizations to which Bloomberg has donated over the years have come forward to criticize him for referring to a transgender individual as "it" as recently as last year, GLAAD has not issued any public comment on the matter.

Previously known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GLAAD has been a leading watchdog for the LGBTQ community for decades. Last December alone, GLAAD set its sights on Politico for its use of the term "pillow fight," which a spokesman for the organization said was "sexist and homophobic," on the Hallmark Channel for its refusal to air an ad featuring a same-sex kiss, and on Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling for stating that gender was a real thing. Rowling had aligned herself "with an anti-science ideology that denies the basic humanity of people who are transgender," the group said.

The group is silent, however, in the wake of reports that Bloomberg multiple times referred to transgender women as "some guy wearing a dress," and used the pronoun "it" to reference such individuals. Bloomberg received widespread condemnation for the remarks, including from similar groups like the Human Rights Campaign, which demanded an apology and said Bloomberg used "language that demoralizes and dehumanizes" trans people.

GLAAD did not respond to repeated inquiries on the comments from Bloomberg, whose company, Bloomberg L.P., has been listed as a "corporate partner" of the group for several years. It remains unclear what the partnership between the two entities entails.

GLAAD annual reports reveal Bloomberg L.P. became a corporate partner of the organization as early as 2014, which is the oldest annual report the group has available online. The company was identically listed in each of the three available annual reports that followed, but was not listed as a corporate partner in the most recent annual report covering 2019.

Bloomberg, who has already spent more than $400 million on his presidential bid, has given more than $10 billion since 2013 through philanthropy and political giving to liberal groups around the country, building himself a massive network of allies. A New York Times examination of Bloomberg's "national infrastructure of influence" found that many groups, including liberal giants such as the Center for American Progress and EMILY's List, have been reluctant to criticize the billionaire due to his financial support.

"It is not simply good will that Mr. Bloomberg has built," the Times wrote. "His political and philanthropic spending has also secured the allegiance or cooperation of powerful institutions and leaders within the Democratic Party who might take issue with parts of his record were they not so reliant on his largess."

The Human Rights Campaign also has ties to the former New York City mayor, who received its 2011 Ally for Equality Award and was featured at its national gala dinner. He also made the maximum allowed contribution to the Human Rights Campaign PAC in 2010.

But the Human Rights Campaign did not let the resurfaced remarks from Bloomberg slide.

"Transgender women aren’t ‘he-she or it,' they’re women," said the group's president Alphonso David shortly after Bloomberg's comments were reported. "LGBTQ people are human and deserve to be treated with respect."

 "Words matter and Mayor Bloomberg should apologize for using language that demoralizes and dehumanizes members of our community," David said.

The comments were resurfaced in a BuzzFeed report that came just as Bloomberg's presidential campaign unveiled a new video promoting his support in the LGBTQ community with famed fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi praising Bloomberg as "so incredibly sensitive" to the issue of inclusivity.

The Buzzfeed report highlighted comments Bloomberg made during a March 2019 speech in New York, in which he argued that discussions of transgender rights weren't going to help Democratic candidates win in 2020.

"If your conversation during a presidential election is about some guy wearing a dress and whether he, she, or it can go to the locker room with their daughter, that’s not a winning formula for most people," he said.

The comment mirrored remarks Bloomberg made in December 2016, when he argued that the "vast bulk of people" don't want to hear that "some man wearing a dress should be in a locker room with their daughter" during an overseas speech at Oxford University, where he referenced the debate over whether transgender women should be able to use the bathroom of their choice.

"I don't know how many of you are familiar with the bathroom issue in the United States," Bloomberg said. "If you want to know if somebody's a good salesman, give them the job of going to the midwest, picking a town, and selling to the town that some man wearing a dress should be in the locker room with their daughter."

"We the intelligentsia," Bloomberg said. "We believe in a lot of things in terms of equality and protecting individual rights that make no sense to the vast bulk of people."

The Bloomberg campaign has not addressed his previous remarks. It did not respond to a request for comment on whether it has been in communication with GLAAD.