A 16-year-old transgender boy from Frederick said he was asked to leave Ted Cruz’s campaign rally at the Weinberg Center for the Arts on Thursday morning.
Draped in a flag that represents the transgender community, James Van Kuilenburg made his way into the theater with the rest of the ticket holders. But he and his mother, Nicola, said they were escorted out by campaign staff who told the Van Kuilenburgs it was because they were with peaceful protesters outside earlier. Since it was a private event, they could be asked to leave, Nicola Kuilenburg said she was told.
“The fact that I’m thrown out based on my identity is ridiculous,” said James Van Kuilenburg, a student at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.
Van Kuilenburg said he wanted to show Cruz supporters that rhetoric about gay and transgender rights hurts real people like him.
Cruz made a number of statements about the transgender community Thursday, in a continued debate on “genderless bathrooms,” tied to the recent passage of a North Carolina law that bars transgender people from restrooms and locker rooms that do not match the gender on their birth certificates.
“Have we gone stark-raving nuts?” Cruz asked the crowd at the Weinberg event. “This is basic common sense ... grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls.”
On Thursday morning’s “Today” show, Republican front-runner Donald Trump said North Carolina’s bathroom law has caused unnecessary strife and transgender people should be able to choose which restroom to use.
“There have been very few complaints the way it is,” Trump said. “People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate.”
Cruz doubled down on his opposition, sending a lengthy campaign email attacking “political correctness,” Democrats and Trump.
“This is not real tolerance. The Left wants to force its belief system onto Americans across the country and silence people of faith in the public square. Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is all too eager to join them,” Cruz said in a statement.
Nicola Van Kuilenburg said she was proud of her son for making an effort Thursday to counter such “horrible” comments.
“A lot of people who sat in here have interacted with transgender people and not even known it,” she said. “And maybe they needed to see that there are transgender teenagers, to put a face to them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.