Someone please tell Ron DeSantis that ‘trans’ is not a verb
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participate in a CNN Republican Presidential Debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 10, 2024. (Will Lanzoni/CNN)

Most Americans have compassion. DeSantis, apparently, does not.

During the first one-on-one GOP debate versus Nikki Haley, Gov. Ron DeSantis revitalized his ongoing feud with Disney, claiming the company is “transing kids.”

First of all, “trans” isn’t a verb. It’s shorthand for “transgender,” a medical term that “refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth does not align with their gender identity,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. Gender dysphoria, another scientific term for transgender, is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and provides separate specific criteria for the diagnosis of such for children, adolescents and adults.

The APA notes that “psychological attempts to force a transgender person to be cisgender (a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned at birth) are considered unethical and have been linked to adverse mental health outcomes.”

In the debate, DeSantis accused Disney of telling a kindergartner “that you can change your gender,” adding that it is also wrong to “tell a third grader that you were born in the wrong body.”

It’s not clear what action or statement DeSantis is referring to in his claim that Disney told a kindergartner that they can change their gender, but there have been a number of articles published in right-leaning outlets accusing Disney of pushing a “gay agenda,” including a Fox Business report in March outlining videos obtained by conservative activist Christopher Rufo showing executives discussing efforts to include more LGBTQ+ characters in its programming.

Fox refers to Rufo in the article as a journalist. He is not.

I understand that there are many people confounded by the concept of gender dysphoria. Many see it as a made-up thing and are confined to black-and-white biological definitions of sex based on genitalia.

But the medical community has consistently defined transgender and gender dysphoria, and, aside from rare exceptions, agrees that a person’s gender identity should be respected. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in August reaffirming its support for gender-affirming care provided under the supervision of a medical professional and opposing “laws or regulations that discriminate against transgender and gender-diverse individuals, or that interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.”

Disney has, in DeSantis’ eyes, committed the cardinal sin of attempting to ensure all of its viewers are represented in its content. In one particular critique, which stemmed from the Rufo videos, Disney officials stated that they were working to increase representation not just of transgender or gender-nonconforming characters but also of characters representing racial minorities.

What DeSantis and his followers see as indoctrination, many see as inclusive. What he might call grooming, others might call empathizing.

None of this, it’s worth noting, is surprising. DeSantis has made his “war on woke” a centerpiece of both his gubernatorial administration and his presidential campaign.

His entire beef with Disney stems from its opposition to his Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics refer to as “Don’t Say Gay” because it prohibits classroom education on sexual orientation or gender identity. Those who oppose the bill often point out, among other salient arguments, that it silences children of same-sex couples or those with a transgender family member.

But there’s so much more — from book bans, including in Escambia County where they actually removed dictionaries and encyclopedias from library shelves, to bans on gender-affirming care and mandates that transgender girls not be allowed to use girls’ bathrooms or play on girls’ sports teams (reasonable people disagree on the merits of the girls’ sports issue).

And it’s reminiscent of DeSantis’ hard-line approach to abortion care in that his preferred policy disregards patient-doctor relationships in favor of a conservative ideology that fails to consider even a shred of nuance.

DeSantis’ political rival in the Presidential Primary, Nikki Haley, aptly called him out in Wednesday night’s debate for bullying business, though it had nothing to do with patient-doctor relationships.

“I will always invite businesses to come to South Carolina,” the former Palmetto State Governor said in response to DeSantis criticizing her for inviting Disney to operate in her state. “The one thing you don’t do is, government doesn’t bully our businesses. Ron is determined; anybody that offends him, he goes after them.”

Haley isn’t exactly a poster child for LGBTQ rights, but she chose a dig that will land even among conservative voters. They may not like transgender inclusivity, but they also don’t like the government getting in the way of business.

DeSantis has wagered that the conservative base cares more about his version of “protecting children” than they do about letting Disney succeed.

With his presidential campaign fighting for its life ahead of the Iowa caucuses, it might be the only bet he has left to place. And while it’s unlikely to work given his flailing status in the polls, it’s a terrible bet for an eventual General Election.

The National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes for Health, notes that the “suicide rate and suicidal tendencies among transgender persons are considerably high compared to the general population.” Specifically, it found that “the suicide attempt rate among transgender persons ranges from 32% to 50%.”

All Joe Biden (assuming he wins the Democratic nomination, which is all but guaranteed) has to do is find a parent whose transgender child committed suicide to make DeSantis look like the bad guy at best and complacent in child deaths at worst.

Don’t believe me? Check out what happened recently in the Kentucky Governor’s race. Democrat Andy Beshear won re-election in the deep red state largely based on one political ad highlighting a young woman who, as a seventh grader, was raped and impregnated by her stepfather. The woman spoke out against abortion policies supported by Beshear’s GOP challenger, former Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron. He never recovered.

It’s a different issue, but the end result is likely the same. Most Americans have compassion. DeSantis, apparently, does not.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Dont Say FLA

    January 11, 2024 at 7:41 pm



    ‘Trans’ is not a verb.

    Thank you very much.

  • WhatNow

    January 11, 2024 at 9:49 pm

    But wait, DeSantis insists he’s more of an expert on this subject that all of the medical associations and their MD/DO members! Maybe *he* is “transing” and so knows from personal experience? Hey, who knows, stranger things have been known to happen…

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    January 11, 2024 at 10:44 pm

    Bad news America,
    “The Word In The Herd” is that Michelle is Not running so Hussain O. has decided to run Whoopi.
    Thats it America, its time to move to New Zealand and never come back. There is no way any Republican can stand up to Whoopi.
    Goodbye America its been nice knowing you,
    Earl Pitts American
    *I’m calling POTUS Whoppi to see if she needs a Sage Campaign Menager*

Comments are closed.


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