Lawmaker issues grovelling apology after being booed for anti-trans graduation speech

Senator Cynthia Lummis wears a dark outfit as she stares off camera with a brick wall in the background

Wyoming senator Cynthia Lummis has apologised after she was booed for commenting about the “existence of two sexes” during a graduation speech.

Lummis came under fire for comments she made at the University of Wyoming commencement speech on Saturday (14 May). During the speech, the Republican lawmaker claimed that there are “those in government who believe not the creator endowed us with inalienable rights” but that “government created those rights”. 

She then alleged that constitutional rights were under attack and “even fundamental scientific truths such as the existence of two sexes, male and female, are subject to challenge these days.”

Lummis was immediately met with boos and heckles from the crowd, and she continued to smile as the jeers increased. She eventually interjected: “I’m not making a comment on the fact that there are people who transition between sexes.”

One person could be heard shouting back: “Yes, you are.”

Cynthia Lummis later issued an apology, not for her statements, but for the impact her comments might have had on those attending the graduation ceremony. She said in a statement that it wasn’t her “intention to make anyone feel un-welcomed or disrespected”, Oil City News reported. 

“My reference to the existence of two sexes was intended to highlight the times in which we find ourselves, times in which the metric of biological sex is under debate with potential implications for the shared Wyoming value of equality,” she said. 

She said that she believes that “women and men are equal” but thought “there are biological differences and circumstances in which these differences need to be recognised”. 

University of Wyoming president Ed Seidel said in a statement that the university is “unequivocally” an institution that “supports and celebrates its diverse communities”. 

“One of our speakers made remarks regarding biological sex that many on campus take issue with,” Seidel wrote, referencing Cynthia Lummis’ commencement address. 

“While we respect the right of all to express their views, from students to elected officials, we unequivocally state that UW is an institution that supports and celebrates its diverse communities that collectively make us the wonderful place that we are.”

Leaders of the university’s council on diversity, equity and inclusion condemned Lummis’ statements at the graduation ceremony. They declared that intersex people, who have “diverse chromosomal makeup”, should be “seen and recognised”, the Associated Press reported. 

“We deeply regret the harmful impact these words at our graduation ceremony may have had on those graduating as well as their families and friends,” they added. 

Cynthia Lummis’ remarks come as Republican lawmakers across the US have continued to push and have implemented anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

In March, the Wyoming Senate passed a measure that would ban trans athletes from playing on girls’ or women’s sports teams in the state. 

Antonio Serrano, advocacy director for the ACLU of Wyoming, declared the legislation wasn’t about “levelling the playing field for student athletes” as Republicans claimed, Buckrail reported. Instead, Serrano said it was “about erasing and excluding trans people from participation in all aspects of public life”. 

“Extreme policies such as Senate File 51 are out of step with prevailing international and national norms of athletic competition,” ​​Serrano added. “Inclusive teams that support all athletes and encourage participation should be the standard for all school sports.”

Other Republican-led states have implemented a range of anti-trans measures. This includes Texas governor Greg Abbott’s directive in February that called on the state’s child protective services to investigate parents of kids receiving gender-affirming medical care for “child abuse”.

Several states have passed measures restricting trans healthcare, including ArizonaTennessee and Arkansas. In April, Alabama became the first state to enforce felony-level punishments for providing gender-affirming treatments to trans youth.