Arizona legislator compares non-binary people to chickens during public hearing for anti-trans bill

Arizona legislator compares non-binary people to chickens during public hearing for anti-trans bill

The Arizona State House held a Government and Elections Committee meeting last Wednesday, during which they reviewed H.B.2725. The bill would prevent all government entities in the state from officially recognizing non-binary folks, making “male” or “female” the only options on government forms and IDs, like driver’s licenses. Meanwhile, in some states like Oregon and Colorado, we’re seeing progress in the form of people being able to select neutral gender marker, like “X.”

Sadly, however, the measure is not the worst part. Republican state Reps. Kevin Payne and John Fillmore allegedly made comments so offensive that they’re actually both facing an ethics complaint. How bad could it get in an official meeting with a public hearing? Let’s start with the bill sponsor. Fillmore, who sponsored the bill, brought up “nuclear” families, suggested that “gender dysfunction” lets men “enter into the restrooms of the little girls,” and managed to compare gender diversity to wanting to identify as a chicken. 

First, let’s get into the farm animal comparison. “I don’t believe we, as a society, should have all of the different binaries identified,” Fillmore stated, as reported by local outlet KPNX. “I mean, what’s going to happen when, someday, someone wakes up and they want to go to the far extreme and identify as a chicken, or something, for crying out loud? Where do we draw the line?”

Because, you know, there’s nothing like a respectful dialogue of ideas and values where someone brings up that a person’s gender identity is as valid to them as saying they’re an animal. Still, he stressed that he in no way wanted to “disparage” non-binary people. Truly, the mind boggles.

Fillmore has responded to the outrage by suggesting that his remarks have been “mischaracterized.” 

Here’s a clip of Fillmore’s remarks, including the chicken example. 

Here are Rep. John Fillmore’s full remarks from earlier this pm about his bill HB2537 that requires documents issued by AZ agencies to only have a person’s gender as male or female. What Fillmore said shook this parent of a non-binary child and other lawmakers on the panel #azleg

— Laura GomezRodriguez (@bylauragomezr) February 11, 2021

For the sake of clarity—as Fillmore’s comments are not only offensive but also fundamentally confusing—some non-binary people identify as transgender, and some do not. Meaning if the transgender community was an umbrella, some folks would consider people under that umbrella to include, for example, transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary folks. However, some people may consider non-binary, agender, and genderqueer folks, for example, to be a separate umbrella beside the first one.

And Payne? While speaking to himself, he allegedly referred to a non-binary child as “it.” That disturbing gem allegedly cropped up while a mother was giving virtual public testimony about her 15-year-old non-binary child. To be clear, I did not hear this remark myself while listening to the video of the hearing and Payne has denied the remark through Andrew Wilder, a spokesperson for House Republicans, saying he does not remember saying anything to that effect.

Activist Riley Behrens, who filed the ethics complaint, however, alleged that Payne disrupted public testimony from parent Megan Morgan, and, while speaking to himself, said, “‘So it doesn’t know who it is?’ in reference to the child of one of the community members who testified virtually.” Behrens added: “Referencing any person as ‘it’, particularly a child, is discriminatory and cannot be tolerated.” 

In speaking to the Arizona Mirror, Behrens argued that the remark can’t be heard on video because it was made while the parent was speaking. Behrens claims he heard the alleged remark firsthand because of his proximity to Payne. 

A few minutes ago, I filed ethics complaints against two #azleg lawmakers after several discriminatory comments in House Gov. One called a non-binary child “it” and the other compared LGBT community members to farm animals. This is unacceptable behavior and will not be tolerated.

— Riley Behrens (@RileyBehrens) February 10, 2021

As reported by KPNX, Morgan said, “It’s dehumanizing any trans or nonbinary person in their state.”

Morgan also tweeted about her experience after testifying. 

Still shaking after an elected GOP state rep just compared my non-binary child to a barnyard animal. Thank you @AthenaSalman @hamilton4house @RaquelTeran @KelliButlerAZ and @JennJermaine for acknowledging #nonbinarypeopleexist #NoHB2725

— Megan Mogan (@MoganMegan) February 10, 2021

“I don’t think you have to be the parent of a nonbinary person, you can just be the parent of anyone, and if someone dehumanizes your child, it’s like one of the worst possible feelings you can have,” Morgan told NBC News in an interview in reference to remarks made at the hearing.

The vote advanced from committee with a 7-6 vote and will now go to the House Rules Committee. 

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