KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — LGBTQ+ groups in East Tennessee were asking for an apology after a transphobic tweet by Congressman Tim Burchett on July 16, and many said they hope he takes the post down.
The tweet was in response to a news article about a transgender woman in a New Jersey jail who police say impregnated two other inmates. He mocked her, and in a release, Knox Pride said it was "pointless" for him to weigh in.
Story VanNess, program director for transgender/non-binary support at Knox Pride, said these comments have a huge impact when they come from someone who is supposed to represent all of their constituents.
"People look to our political leaders to see what is okay and what is not," she said. "And he is saying it is open season on transgender people. This may not seem like a big deal to some to some cisgender people, but misgendering transgender people is an act of violence. It is harmful to us."
Josie Russell, a board member at Appalachian OUTreach, said misgendering trans people could have mental health consequences.
"It could cause them to have suicidal ideation, it could cause them to have depression," she said.
Congressman Burchett said he was not available for interviews on Wednesday, but his office did a provide a statement to 10News. It is below.
“Women cannot impregnate women. It appears Mr. Minor is exploiting a loophole in New Jersey’s woke legal system, and the only apology owed is to his crime victims.”
Knox Pride also posted a statement in response to the tweet on social media. In it, they also condemned him for not voting for the Respect of Marriage Act, which could codify marriage rights for LGBTQ+ couples and prevent them from being overturned in the same way rights to access abortion treatment were removed across the U.S. following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision.
"Enough is enough," they said in the post.
Both Russell and VanNess said they hope Congressman Burchett will take this as an opportunity for growth.
"We would love to welcome the opportunity for Congressman Burchett to engage in education and dialogue with our community to better understand who we are and what our issues and concerns are," Russell said.
VanNess said she would like the congressman to visit Knox Pride and learn about their work.
"Come talk to me about what I do," she said. "Come talk to me about the experiences that trans folks in the Knoxville area and in the East Tennessee area are going through."