Watch: Arizona Lawmaker Dehumanizes Non-Binary People with Barnyard Animal Comparison

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 16, 2021

An Arizona state lawmaker who seemingly didn't know the difference between gender and species came in for criticism and an ethics complaint when he compared non-binary people to barnyard animals, NBC News reports.

Some critics also said that the lawmaker's language literally dehumanized non-cisgender people.

State Rep. John Fillmore is the sponsor of a bill that would preemptively ban any gender marker on government documents other than "male " and "female." Fillmore was speaking about the proposed legislation at a committee hearing on Feb. 10 when he asked, "What's going to happen when someday someone wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud?"

Fillmore is the same state lawmaker who created controversy last fall when he compared wearing masks against COVID to Holocaust victims being tattooed by the Nazis.

One parent who spoke against Fillmore's bill was Megan Mogan, whose child is non-binary. Mogan expressed her dismay at Twitter, where she said she was "shaking" after hearing Fillmore compare her "non-binary child to a barnyard animal."

Mogan told local news channel KPNX that she had tried to tell state lawmakers "that our children are being bullied, and then you decide it's a good idea to use bullying as your own tactic, as a lawmaker, as an adult."

Graduate student Riley Behrens was also at the hearing. He was so shocked, NBC News said, that he obtained "a notarized ethics complaint against Fillmore".

"You're not going to say this without some sort of repercussion or public statement back at you," Behrens told NBC News, explaining why he made the complaint.

Behrens also filed a second complaint against Fillmore, claiming the lawmaker had "continuously disrupted public testimony" and called Mogan's child "it."

Fillmore told NBC News that the flap over his words was "childish" and "silly," and doubled down on his message.

"When a person wants to change the meanings of words because of their 'feelings' how can a society have a reasonable discussion about anything if for instance they feel the word 'blue' is in fact 'red' to them," Fillmore emailed, "and then add the word 'green' to the color 'yellow,' now try to go have an intelligent conversation with an oil artistic painter."

Some states provide a nonspecific gender marker such as "X" on documents like drivers' licenses. Arizona does not currently offer such an option, but Fillmore's bill would harden the state's laws against such an option in the future.

The state director for the national equality organization Human Rights Campaign, Bridget Sharpe, told NBC News that the bill "is cruel, because nonbinary folks should be given a chance at some point to be able to have that X gender marker on state documents including things like their driver's licenses."

Watch the news clip from KPNX below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.