The Duggar family has always been controversial, but recently Derick Dillard, husband to Jill Duggar and one of the stars of TLC's Counting On, has been tweeting about transgender people and his seemingly disbelief in their gender identity. Now, the rest of the family is chiming in on his behalf. This week, cousin Amy Duggar has asked people to be "compassionate" after Dillard's transphobic tweets, though it's not clear exactly who she wants people to be compassionate to.
Was she chiding her cousin for his remarks or asking people who disagree with Dillard to leave him alone on Twitter? Romper's request for comment from Amy Duggar was not immediately returned.
Dillard wrote last week, "I pity Jazz 4 those who take advantage of him in order 2 promote their agenda, including the parents who allow these kinds of decisions 2 be made by a child. It’s sad that ppl would use a juvenile this way. Again, nothing about him, just unfortunate what’s on tv these days.”
He was reportedly referencing fellow TV star, 17-year-old Jazz Jennings, whose show I Am Jazz also airs on TLC. In the wake of his most recent tweets, the network cut all ties with Dillard, saying in a statement on Twitter:
This was the second time Dillard had tweeted transphobic statements. The first was in August, when again he used the wrong pronoun to mention her and wrote that transgender people are a "myth." He wrote at the time, "What an oxymoron… a 'reality' show which follows a non-reality. 'Transgender' is a myth. Gender is not fluid; it’s ordained by God.”
In the wake of the network leaving him, many have taken to social media to defend either Dillard or the network for their position. Dillard's wife even got involved by asking fans to donate to his GoFundMe account.
On Wednesday, Duggar wrote on Twitter, "You might not agree with someone or their lifestyle but you SHOULD be compassionate and show God's love regardless to everyone."
One fan seemed to think that she was scolding Dillard for his transphobic tweets. Duggar responded to the fan, "I have friends that are gay and I still love them as a person. Thank you for following." But her call for compassion is a little misguided.
While compassion is always something to strive for, it's hard sympathize for Dillard's hate towards transgender people. Jennings, not Dillard, is the victim in this case. Spewing hate on Twitter only adds to the problematic discourse around transgender rights. And they are constantly battling for the most basic civil rights — like an accurate birth certificate — so the transgender community could use all the compassion, and political action, they can get.
The situation is dire for transgender people. Just last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back an Obama-era position that protected transgender people from discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, according to The New York Times.
With the new opinion, the Justice Department will interpret the word "sex" to mean only “biologically male or female,” meaning that the Civil Rights Act, in Sessions' interpretation, does not ban “discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status," according to the New York Times. In essence, the Justice Department and Dillard are seemingly on the same page when it comes to transgender issues.
So little people have "compassion" for transgender people that LGBTQ youth are five times as likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to The Trevor Project. That's how isolated our society, whether it's federal transgender bathroom laws or hateful tweets, makes them feel.
According to the same data, 40 percent of transgender adults report a suicide attempt and 92 percent of them report having tried it before the age of 25 years old. How anyone, especially someone as religious and "pro-life" as Dillard, can continue to tweet harmful things at a teenage girl in the face of those numbers is pretty shocking.
In 2016, a study published in Pediatrics found that children who are supported by their communities while they transition (or come out as LGBTQ) have normal or slightly elevated anxiety and depression — no more than their heterosexual peers. The Guardian reported on the study at the time:
So when a national television figure mocks someone's gender identity and the federal government refuses to accept it, real lives are at stake. There aren't "many sides" to this issue, especially since discriminating against transgender kids and adults leads to suicide or substance abuse and other mental health issues that plague them for the rest of their lives.
Dillard's tweets perpetuate discrimination and hate against the transgender community. Of course, it's wrong to bully anyone, even bigots, so Duggar has a point about showing compassion. But hopefully, this push for compassion for "everyone" reaches others in her family.