Vivek Ramaswamy at the second Republican debate on Sept.27 / Screengrab/Fox Business
Republican Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy angered the LGBTQ community Sept. 27 evening when he characterized transgenderism as a mental health disorder during the second debate.
“We have to acknowledge the truth of that for what it is. It is not compassionate to affirm a kid's confusion. That is not compassion. That is cruelty,” said the biotech billionaire, who has poured more than $15 million of his own money to run for President, without holding any prior elected office.
Seven candidates faced off at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, often shouting over each other during the rambunctious event, as moderators tried to take back control. The candidates glossed over several key issues, instead delivering canned soundbites on immigration policy, the US-China relationship, and the floundering economy.
Notably absent for a second time was former President Donald Trump. In the latest NBC News poll, released Sept. 24, Trump led the Republican pack with 59 percent, 43 percentage points higher than his closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley comes in 3rd, at 5.6 percent, slightly besting Ramaswamy who has slipped to 4th place with 5.2 percent. Surprisingly, in a faceoff between President Joe Biden and Haley, a Real Clear Politics poll shows Haley leading by 4 percentage points.
Ahead of the debate, pundits predicted Haley would gain ground at the debate stage. And the only woman onstage did just that, fending off jabs from Sen. Tim Scott, and going for the jugular as she attacked Ramaswamy for doing business with China and appearing on the social media app TikTok.
“TikTok is one of the most dangerous apps out there and you want children to get on it,” said Haley. “You did business with companies in China who gave money to Hunter Biden. We can’t trust you.”
In one of the most-quoted lines of the evening, Haley said to Ramaswamy: “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber.”
Twitterati flooded X as Ramaswamy made his controversial remarks on transgender youth. The candidate stated that parents should be informed if a child changes their gender identity at school. He further characterized sex change operations as “genital mutilations.”
Several Indian American LGBTQ activists spoke to New India Abroad (NIA) after the debate to express their dismay over the candidate’s remarks.
“The people of the United States have made incredible progress in understanding our LGBTQ+ communities,” Parag Mehta, managing director and president of the Policy Center at JP Morgan Chase, told NIA. “We are certainly not going to be dragged back to the dark ages by someone who is so clearly willing to fuel his rise to power on the backs of the most vulnerable members of our society: transgender children. This population has enough bullies to deal with and should never have to worry about their president being one too.”
Mehta quoted US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who said, “Being transgender is not a malady that requires a cure.”
Mehta’s husband Vaibhav Jain, chief of staff at the AAPI Victory Fund, told NIA, “Vivek Ramaswamy’s comments are shameful and will only fuel the hatred targeted at our transgender siblings.”
“Their experiences are not ‘confusion,’ they are a reality. We don’t need more hatred in an already divided nation,” Jain added.
LGBTQ activist Snehal Shastri, a marriage and family therapist told NIA the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the Bible of mental health professionals — no longer uses the term “gender identity disorder,” and has substituted in “gender dysphoria,” so that there is no association with mental illness.
“Ramaswamy claims to have taken his remarks from the DSM, but he is incorrect,” said Shastri. “I am frustrated and disappointed beyond belief that a presidential candidate would say something on the national stage which could inflict more harm onto an already-marginalized community.”
Shastri also condemned Ramaswamy’s insistence on parents’ right to know if their child has changed their gender at school. “If a child feels like they want to tell their parent, that’s great, but if not, children also have a right to body autonomy.”