The Trump administration has appointed an activist who led a campaign to restrict bathroom access for transgender students to the office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in the US Agency for International Development.
Bethany Kozma's title is senior adviser for women's empowerment, according to an agency spokesperson. Kozma did not return a message seeking comment for this story.
Kozma held positions in the White House and Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, according to her LinkedIn profile, before dedicating herself full-time to raising her children. In 2016, she launched a campaign to oppose the Obama administration's guidance to public schools that said transgender students have the right to use facilities matching their gender identity; the guidance was withdrawn by the Trump administration in February.
USAID has backed programs in several countries with the goal of supporting LGBT economic empowerment, access to housing and health care, and political participation. The agency also adopted guidelines in late 2016 barring contractors overseas from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in providing services.
When asked whether Kozma's appointment signaled a change in policy, the agency spokesperson responded, "USAID has not taken any measures regarding the discrimination policy for contractors, as is the case with many other policies. USAID is committed to promoting a work environment that is free from sexual-orientation and gender-identity discrimination, in accordance with existing federal law."
Austin Ruse of the Center for Family and Human Rights, which opposes promoting LGBT and abortion rights in foreign policy, said he did not think the appointment represented a reversal from Obama administration policy. He believes the agency remains filled with LGBT rights supporters who he said "persecuted" people with views like Kozma under Obama, and argued the Trump administration hadn't clearly reversed course since taking office.
"The LGBTs are ruthless street fighters," Ruse said, citing efforts to discredit his organization as a "hate group" after it was included in a delegation to the UN's Commission on the Status of Women. "This administration is no slam dunk for people like me or Bethany Kozma. The Trump administration is filled with squishes on this issue."
"Bethany Kozma is a lovely, sweet woman who just happens to believe that girls with penises just ought not to be showering next to girls without penises," he added.
In July 2016, Kozma published a post at the Daily Signal, a publication of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, calling for a national campaign in opposition to the Obama administration's guidance saying transgender students have the right to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. She called the campaign "United We Stand," and made her case against the policy by repeating the unsubstantiated assertion that policies allowing transgender people to access the bathroom matching their gender identity leads to sexual assault.
"To put it simply, 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," she wrote. "When I learned that predators could abuse these new policies to hurt children in school lockers, shelters, pool showers, or other vulnerable public places like remote bathrooms in national parks, I realized I had to do something."
After President Donald Trump withdrew the guidance in February, Kozma wrote, "The silent majority must no longer be silent. With Trump, we now have a president who is focused on remedying the lawlessness of the prior administration."
J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211
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