Genderfluid TikTok creator James Rose says they “fear for the safety of our community” after Donald Trump’s latest campaign ad used footage of her alongside her friend, fellow TikToker and activist Dylan Mulvaney, to push violent rhetoric and anti-trans moral panic.
The ad, which the Trump campaign posted to social media sites May 15,
includes a brief clip of a comedic video that Mulvaney and Rose filmed together last year for Mulvaney’s video diary series “Days of Girlhood.” Over the clip and stock footage of a sign for “all gender restrooms,” a narrator describes a “war” against “the global elitists […] who tell you a woman is a man and a man is a woman.”
“I saw it, then I kind of fell apart,” Rose told their followers in a TikTok video posted Sunday, fighting back tears. The ad made her feel ashamed for being trans, Rose confessed. “I felt shame about being public about my transition, being bubbly and fun and loving life, and I thought ‘oh, maybe if I were just different, then maybe I wouldn’t have, like, failed my community in this way.”
“I know in my heart that’s not true,” Rose continued; the Trump campaign would have just chosen someone else to scapegoat. “I know that they want me and people like me […] to feel shame about our transness. That is a goal, they want to eradicate us, and if they make examples of people like me and my gorgeous friend Dylan [Mulvaney], they are one step closer to that eradication.”
Conservatives in the U.S. have increasingly become fixated on Mulvaney as an avatar for trans people over the past year, propelling a conservative boycott of Anheuser-Busch and a Ted Cruz-backed probe just months after transphobes collectively freaked out at Mulvaney for carrying tampons in her purse. As Rose noted in her own comments, the backlash feels transparently designed to crack down on those who are visibly and publicly trans, casting Rose and Mulvaney as grotesque interlopers parodying womanhood.
There’s certainly a robust conversation to be had about how trans femininities are constructed, but that’s obviously not the conversation the Trump campaign and Republicans, in general, want to have. Trump’s ad is a 100-second laundry list of conspiracy theories and fascist propaganda, fear-mongering about “the Great Reset,” outright telling the viewer that a shadowy leftist cabal has “weaponized” the U.S. government “against you,” and promising to return the country to “the true owners of this great land” against footage of stands filled with white people. It’s an unsubtle appeal to white supremacy, an agenda in which anti-trans rhetoric (and policy) plays an increasingly major role. This June, white nationalist militias including the Proud Boys are expected to further escalate violence and threats against LGBTQ+ events and businesses, as well as disrupt Juneteenth events and celebrations held by Black Americans.
A Trans Activist Is Speaking Out After Trump Used Footage of Her in a Campaign Ad.
First Public Statement from Dylan Mulvaney
Since the Right-Wing Bud Light Meltdown
Dehumanization has never, ever led to anything being corrected in history.
On TikTok, Rose’s video had amassed over 1.4 million views by Wednesday. Actors from other shows, including Hacks’ Caitlin Reilly, sent encouraging remarks for Rose, telling her to “NEVER feel ashamed. Ever.”
Rose finished their film with themes of resiliency and resistance despite being wounded and disheartened by being personally attacked in the advertisement. According to her, transgender people contribute to the social fabric that makes life worthwhile.
“The thing I feel more than shame or embarrassment […] is this intense passion in my gut that says ‘this is work is not over, and we have work to do, and by God do we have to do it,'” Rose said in their video. “We must love one another more intensely and we must hold one another in community tighter than ever.”