Abortion Rights

This Professor’s Response to Josh Hawley’s Transphobic Questions Is Everything

UNITED STATES MAY 3 Sen. Josh Hawley RMo. speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department...
UNITED STATES - MAY 3: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of the Air Force in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)Tom Williams/Getty Images

Not at all heroes wear capes. In a widely circulated clip, Republican senator (and proud insurrectionist) Josh Hawley was called out by U.C. Berkeley law professor Khiara M. Bridges for a transphobic line of questioning during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the legal consequences of Supreme Court’s decision to overturnRoe v. Wade—the landmark ruling that previously guaranteed the right to abortion in the U.S.

Twitter content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

The viral exchange grew out of a “gotcha” question Josh Hawley posed to Bridges about pregnancy. 

“You’ve used a phrase—I want to make sure I understand what you mean by it,” the Missouri senator said. “You referred to ‘people with a capacity for pregnancy.’ Would that be women?”

Invited to the hearing to testify on reproductive rights, Bridges responded by noting that pregnancy is an experience not limited to women. Narrowing in on the word woman is one of several tactics conservatives have employed in a campaign to mock and corner LGBTQ+ advocates on issues like abortion or the participation of trans women in women’s sports. 

“Many women—cis women—have the capacity for pregnancy,” she said. "“Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.” 

Hawley shot back: “So this isn’t really a women’s-rights issue. It’s a what issue?”

“We can recognize that this impacts women while also recognizing that it impacts other groups,” Bridges said. “Those things are not mutually exclusive, Senator Hawley.”

Feigning confusion, Hawley pushed Bridges to clarify her point. An expert on race, class, and reproductive rights, Bridges took the opportunity to point out the transphobia inherent to Hawley’s assertion. By playing dumb about the concept of gender beyond the outdated binary, Hawley was denying the existence of trans men and nonbinary people who have the capacity to become pregnant. Bridges, however, wasn’t going to let that erasure happen.

“I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them,” Bridges said. Citing recent data on the high rate of attempted suicide within the trans community, Bridges added that “denying that trans people exist and pretending not to know that they exist is dangerous.”