The so-called FreeSpeechBus, is currently spreading its hateful message through the streets of New York City. The organizers behind the bus include the notoriously anti-LGBTI groups International Organization for the Family and National Organization for Marriage. The bright orange bus is covered in the message, “It’s Biology: Boys are boys…and always will be. Girls are girls…and always will be. You can’t change sex. Respect all.”
Jessica Stern of OutRight Action International, commented,
“Free speech is a constitutional right, but language has consequences that must be considered. Trans youth already have an extremely high risk for violence, discrimination, and suicide. Broadcasting a message that erases and denies the reality that transgender and intersex children and youth exist is irresponsible, factually misleading, disrespectful, and dangerous. This vehicle is part of the reason trans youth are driven to suicide.”
A group of individuals and organizations advocating for the human rights of LGBTIQ people have banded together calling attention to the bus’s harmful message. They are asking New York City’s political and civil society leaders to join them in speaking out against the untrue and discriminatory message it promotes and the violence against trans individuals it will likely encourage.
Gillian Kane, Senior Policy Advisor at Ipas, an international women’s reproductive health and rights organization, a member of the coalition, stated,
“We call on the Mayor and New York City Council members to take a stand for diversity and respect for all people—including intersex, transgender, and gender non-conforming people—as a core New York value, and to speak out against the hate and transphobia propagated by this bus.”
New York City has some of the country’s most inclusive policies and programs for the LGBTI community and specifically for transgender and gender non-conforming people. The city’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, has advocated for the rights of New York’s LGBT residents, and was honored as the Grand Marshal of last year’s Queens Pride Parade. Last year, New York City became the first city to promote a media campaign to “reaffirm trans and gender non-conforming individuals’ right to use single sex facilities,” and New York City’s Human Rights Laws include comprehensive protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
A similarly styled bus received strong pushback in Spain earlier this year and was recently banned in Madrid on the premise that it was discriminatory and could incite hate crimes. After the bus was banned, it received high-profile attention from the likes of Chelsea Clinton who Tweeted, “Please don’t bring these buses to the U.S. (or anywhere).”
Kimberly Zieselman, JD, Executive Director of interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, commented,
“This isn’t biology—this is hatred rooted in an entirely false understanding of the human body. Being a girl or a boy isn’t about biology, it is about gender. The reality is that biological sex is on a spectrum, and no amount of argument will prove otherwise. Approximately 2% of children are born intersex, meaning they transcend typical notions of what the “FreeSpeechBus” says is “boy” and “girl.” This bus attempts to erase the lived realities of the incredibly brave young people I work with every day who do not fit into this binary. In the same way that gender is not limited to strict male and female categories, neither is our biological sex.”
Haven Herrin, Executive Director of Soulforce, an LGBTQI social justice organization that challenges Christian Supremacy through spiritual healing, radical analysis, and strategic direct action, added their perspective commenting,
“Religion that denies the sacred being of trans and intersex children is no religion at all—it’s a gross abuse of power. We nee