President Trump continued his attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights this week through yet another terrible appointment. According to news reports, Bethany Kozma, a former White House staffer who spent the waning months of the Obama Administration leading a campaign to restrict bathroom access for transgender students, has been tapped as a Senior Adviser for Women’s Empowerment in the office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the US Agency for International Development.
Instead of hiring a policy expert or development professional, the Trump Administration has turned yet again, to an entrenched ideologue committed to rolling back progress toward equality and full protection of human rights for all. Kozma has no history of leadership on women’s rights, no record of advocating for gender equality and empowerment, and no international development experience. These would appear to be basic requirements to advise one of the world’s leading foreign development aid agencies on issues that affect more than half the world’s population.
In 2016, Kozma became a leading organizer against the Obama Administration’s guidance recognizing transgender students’ right to use the bathroom matching their gender identity. She wrote “a boy claiming gender confusion must now be allowed in the same shower, bathroom, or locker room with my daughter under the president’s transgender policies,” and built a campaign based on propagating unwarranted fears of sexual assault, making claims that “predators could abuse these new policies to hurt children.”
Despite her record of working to oppose trans rights and inclusivity, Kozma has been tapped by an agency responsible for a substantial amount of LGBT human rights and development programming, including economic support, education, and health. USAID maintains a rule that ensures overseas contractors cannot discriminate in providing services on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This critical policy seeks to ensure that U.S. dollars cannot be used to further entrench discrimination and violence against LGBTQ individuals. Kozma’s history of activism runs sharply counter to those goals.
Kozma’s history suggests that her vision of “women’s empowerment’ will leave some women – namely, transgender women – out. Her hate-filled views have no place in any government office, but particularly not in one dedicated to gender equality.
IWHC strongly condemns the appointment of Bethany Kozma to the post of Senior Adviser for Women’s Empowerment in the office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the US Agency for International Development. Gender equality must include the promotion of full opportunities, and the protection of fundamental human rights for people of all gender identities. We strongly urge the Trump Administration to appoint senior advisers committed to upholding equality for all women.
Photo: Bethany Kozma reads a statement to the Fairfax County Public School Board in October 2016