Social Conservatism: GOP Rallies Christian Conservatives with Anti-Transgender Messaging

Social Conservatism
GOP Rallies Christian Conservatives with Anti-Transgender Messaging


Within the domain of social conservatism, GOP candidates are turning to anti-transgender messaging as a rallying call to Christian conservatives. This calculated approach blends political language with deeply held social beliefs, bringing to the forefront concerns about transgender rights and identity among conservative communities. As election season progresses, this messaging gains prominence, highlighting how political strategy intersects with social concerns, influencing discussions on LGBTQ+ rights and social conservatism.

Trump’s Anti-Trans Promise Sparks Rally

In one of South Carolina’s most conservative counties, thousands rallied when Donald Trump promised federal funding cuts to schools pushing “transgender insanity” onto children during his “Day 1” promise. “And I hate to say it, but I have to say it,” Trump told the crowd this month. “I’ll protect men’s sports. I’ll protect women’s sports.” The former president has repeatedly mocked transgender individuals during his campaigns, using language around gender identity that LGBTQ+ advocates deem derogatory and harmful. Other GOP figures have attacked transgender participation in athletics and proposed statewide bans on transgender youth healthcare.

Christian Concerns: Transgender Issues in Social Conservatism

Issues like abortion rights or same-sex marriage might pale in comparison for conservative Christians to concerns about transgender individuals, especially within the realm of social conservatism. This shift worries advocates who note transgender people already face disproportionate levels of discrimination, depression, and suicide when forced to conform to assigned genders at birth. The Republicans are using this as a political tactic.  As a moral issue, I think it’s flawed,” said Tim Miller, a former Republican operative who worked as communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Alliance for Full Acceptance Executive Director Chase Glenn, a transgender man, labeled efforts to politicize his existence as “inhumane.” “It’s abhorrent that these politicians think they can use transgender people, and especially transgender youth, as political pawns to score points,” he said.

Republican Concern: Gender Discourse

GOP Rallies
Republican Concern: Gender Discourse

Many Republicans are displeased with how sometimes gender becomes a contentious issue, seeing it as part of a wider backlash against liberal trends in classrooms, particularly within the realm of social conservatism. Several people interviewed at Trump’s recent rally cited concerns about children facing inappropriate discussions on gender identity. “We shouldn’t even be thinking about this,” said Cheryl Savage, 59, of Conway. “We need to prioritize our children’s well-being, both at school and beyond.” GOP-led states are imposing stricter regulations affecting transgender individuals. 22 ban gender-affirming care for minors and restrict bathroom and sports access.

Transgender Health Bill Debate

In South Carolina, one of the few Southern states without health restrictions, a Republican-led Senate committee is considering a bill passed by the House to restrict medical oversight of transgender minors, reflecting the influence of social conservatism. Opponents have protested by hanging light pink, blue, and white transgender flags in every stage of the State House this year. Trump and Nikki Haley, both former rivals, are both leaning into anti-transgender rhetoric as they head into this week’s South Carolina Republican primary, a sign of the issue’s potency within conservative politics.

Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, often emphasizes the role of “girls’ fathers” amidst crowds in her home state, suggesting they can’t raise “strong women” if they’re letting “vital boys play in girls’ sports.” She has labeled the idea of “boys playing in girls’ sports” as “our women’s issue of today.”

Trump on Transgender Athletes

Trump, speaking at an event in Iowa in October, claimed transgender athletes are “very unfair to women,” highlighting concerns within social conservatism. He has actively campaigned against a young weightlifter, likening the struggle to lift heavy barbells to his competitors. He sometimes suggests that his wife, former First Lady Melania Trump, tells him his influence is not presidential. There’s a lack of fair investigation into transgender inclusion competitions, with practically no evidence determining whether transgender athletes bring clear advantages over cisgender counterparts.

Trump has promised that if he wins the White House again, he’ll crack down on several other anti-transgender policies. Suggestions include federal funding cuts for any hospital providing gender-affirming care to minors, directing federal agencies to terminate any program promoting gender or sex transitioning, and pressuring Congress to impose restrictions on chemical or surgical interventions for minors.

Transgender Population Statistics

According to a June 2022 report by the UCLA Williams Institute, which researches public policy on sexual orientation and gender identity, transgender individuals are 5 out of every 1,000 adults and 14 out of every 1,000 youths aged 13 to 17 in the United States. In contrast, the Biden administration has repeatedly delayed a new Title IX regulation that would prevent federally funded colleges from adopting “one-size-fits-all” policies that explicitly ban transgender student-athletes from playing on teams according to their gender identity. Such policies are already in place in nearly 20 states. This year’s Republican primaries and interviews with Republican voters indicate that this issue resonates with many within the GOP, reflecting concerns about social conservatism.

Evangelical Concerns on Gender Care

Chad Connelly, a former director of the Republican National Committee who now leads an organization mobilizing politically active evangelical pastors, said many congregations are concerned about issues such as gender-affirming care for minors. “Most of the pastors I know… they’re strongly against,” he said. “They don’t see that it’s health care to let 8 and 10-year-olds make decisions about permanently altering things that shouldn’t be changed.”

Guidelines regarding medical care related to gender affirmation urge surgery to generally be reserved for adults, as well as for older teenagers who meet specific criteria. Puberty blockers and other treatments are viewed as reversible options.

Siding with Trump: Transgender Sports Ban

Anti-Transgender Messaging
Siding with Trump: Transgender Sports Ban

Tom Carter, 55, who identifies as Christian and runs a sobriety business, attended Trump’s recent rally. He and others said they agree with Trump on banning transgender women from women’s sports—a stance that aligns with their beliefs. Carter said, “We love everybody,” but “there are just some things you can’t do.” “When you start bringing it into our schools for our kids,” he said, “you’ve crossed a line.” “We need to raise our kids, not somebody else’s.”

Evangelicals’ New Concerns: Bathroom Access

According to Jamie Tillotson, a professor of political science at the University of Toledo who researches LGTBQ+ rights policies, the approval of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court has turned access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and healthcare into a new key religious issue for evangelicals, highlighting the impact of social conservatism. Two years ago, the High Court also ended federally guaranteed abortion rights, a long-desired victory for conservatives, but since then, Democrats have been focusing on successful initiatives. Republicans are divided on whether to push for national restrictions on abortion, with Trump publicly denying interest in reaffirming national restrictions.

Partisanship & Religion

According to research by Tillotson and his colleagues, between 2015 and 2020, partisan identification and religious attendance were much better predictors of attitudes on transgender issues than of access to restrooms, underscoring the influence of social conservatism. “If you’re a Republican, you don’t want to talk about abortion right now,” Tillotson said. “But you might be okay with transgender (issues), and you’re throwing those folks a bone.”

Max Conway, a 60-year-old political agnostic, said Republican messaging on transgender issues doesn’t resonate with him at all. In the presidential race, he leans towards Biden hesitantly but stays open to supporting Haley, whom he recently attended a rally for in Daniel Island, South Carolina. Conway is most concerned about the economy, national security, and democracy. While Republicans in his state are moving to restrict access to healthcare for transgender youth, he sees the issue as a “distraction” that “sells bumper stickers.” “You could also say, ‘Ban calculus in kindergarten,'” Conway said.


In wrapping up, the GOP’s push against transgender issues becomes a powerful rallying cry for Christian conservatives, deeply entwining politics with social values. This alignment highlights how important social beliefs are in political conversations, especially regarding transgender rights in conservative circles. As discussions continue, this messaging’s ripple effects extend far. They shape viewpoints on LGBTQ+ rights and the broader realm of social conservatism.


  1. How much does the GOP support transgender issues?

Ans:    GOP candidates are using anti-transgender messaging. They aim to appeal to Christian conservatives and uphold social conservative values.

  1. Why are GOP candidates targeting Christian conservatives with anti-transgender messaging?

Ans:    They view it as a rallying call to mobilize support, aligning with social conservatism’s principles and beliefs.

  1. How does this messaging affect political discourse, especially regarding social conservatism?

Ans:    It amplifies concerns about transgender rights within conservative circles and shapes the intersection of politics and social conservatism.

  1. What are the implications of this strategy for social conservatism?

Ans:    It influences perspectives on LGBTQ+ rights and underscores the significance of social values in political conversations.

  1. What broader impact does it have on social conservatism and society?

Ans:    It extends beyond the political landscape, shaping viewpoints on social issues and reaffirming the role of conservatism in society’s moral and cultural fabric.

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