In Campbell County in Virginia, a religious, conservative candidate for the local schoolboard, John Kinchen, has received heavy backlash after releasing a lengthy campaign video about 'transgender education' in schools.
In the video, titled 'The Truth about Transgender issues in schools', Kinchen opens a copy of the local Campbell County high school year book, and points to a current student and identifies them as transgender.
Kinchen explains that the sudent "was highlighted for staying true to himself" - and implies this is a negative thing.
“This means wearing makeup and dressing in feminine clothing,” Kinchen explains.
“Acceptance has become a code word for what is sought by liberal activists,” Kinchen continues, before chastising school leaders and teachers for not giving more guidance. He says that the inclusion of the student in the yearbook means that the school has "tacitly condoned this way of thinking and this lifestyle."
Insisting "the transgender thing" is an important issue in local schools, Kinchen's implication throughout the video is that LGBTQIA+ people (particularly trans people) are attempting to get "special privileges and rights".
The school board candidate told The News and Advance, “When it comes to the transgender thing, most people not only don’t understand it, they’re not supportive of this position and trying to accommodate a minority, to give special privileges and special rights to people.”
In the video, he warns that LGBTQIA+ activists have ulterior motives by seeking approval. "Today it is seeking approval, tomorrow it is transgender education." Kinchen does not attempt to explain what he means by 'transgender education'.
"Liberal activists are also seeking for greater visibility and a broadening of definitions for identity, homosexual marriage equality, and gay rights," he continues.
However, Republican-backed Kinchen has now received backlash to his video due to the fact that the student, Mikel Jenkins, isn't transgender. The sophomore student is openly gay and simply enjoys wearing makeup, telling WSET-TV that he is cisgender, and so identifies as a man.
“I like to wear makeup, I identify myself as a male,” said Jenkins. “I’m glad it was me [that Kinchen singled out], because I’m accepting of myself and I’m strong.”
Many have spoken out on social media to condemn Kinchen's actions - not only due to his insensitive misgendering of Jenkins, but also for employing the practice of singling out a teenage student, without their consent or knowledge, for the sake of making a political point.
Editors of the high school year book that Kinchen used in his video have also spoken out, saying they were "heartbroken" that their profile on Jenkins caused him to become a target for the conservative candidate.
"Our yearbook is allowed freedom of speech, and I will allow no one to take that away,” editor Madison Sims, told Raw Story. “Along with that, I will not tolerate anyone putting down a person that they do not know, simply for their beliefs.”
“The school loved his story,” said student Emily Johnson. “We got such positive feedback on the book, because we showed that ‘it takes all kinds,’ which really meant for us that these ‘kinds’ all work together to make a unique and diverse school environment — which is what people should strive for in the first place.”