Ray Zaborney is the Real Republican Threat to LGBTQ People in Pennsylvania

From Billy Penn comes this (not) shocking transphobic move by Republicans

On Thursday morning, Ray Zaborney, a well-known political consultant whose GOP-leaning firm was recently retained to handle Wagner’s media operations, texted a meme of television personality Caitlyn Jenner next to a statement that seemingly mocks the celebrity’s gender transition.

Zaborney sent the meme to four people: Jason High, Wagner’s campaign manager; Jenise Harris, the campaign’s finance director; Shauna Boscaccy, policy director; and a Billy Pennreporter, who was not an intended recipient.

The meme is a nasty, awful, petty joke about Jenner’s genitalia. You can click the link to see the meme if you want as well as his attempts to backpedal with the expected non-apology.

The meme features a black-and-white photograph of Jenner, styled to imitate Nike’s new advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick. The ad campaign plays off the former NFL quarterback’s decision to continue kneeling during the national anthem, despite the ostensible consequence of losing his job. Conservatives nationwide have responded by destroying their Nike apparel and declaring a moral boycott against the company.

In the Jenner meme shared among Wagner operatives, which is marked up with the brand’s signature swoosh and the “Just Do It” slogan, imposed over the photo is a modified message:

“Believe in something. Even if it means cutting your dick off.”

Now we know that Scott Wagner is just terrible on LGBTQ issues, specifically issues impacting our transgender neighbors. He supports the Fairness Act with some twisted reasoning that if you change your gender marker on your driver’s license, you can use the bathroom that’s consistent with your identity. Obviously, he’s ridiculous and insincere and simply trying to court the Fortune 500 crowd who actively support nondiscrimination protections in the workplace.

Aside – I’ve been in a lot of bathrooms in my 47 years. I’ve been asked to wait in line, to share a square, to tip the attendant, to hold a door, to get the key, to pass a tampon under the stall, to share my soap dispenser, to fix a zipper, to hold a child while mom pees, to hurry up, and many other things. I’ve never once been asked to show my driver’s license to use a bathroom.

Scott Wagner is terrible for Pennsylvania and we all know this. But he’s not the biggest threat in this story. We know Scott Wagner is a bloviating oaf who is going to walk this back to ensure he can keep his consultant and still scream about how much he loves the white gay cisgender men. Oh yes, we know to expect that from him. He’s a known threat that will hopefully be quashed by all of you voting for Tom Wolf.

The real threat is Ray Zaborney.

Ray Zaborney Caitlyn Jenner joke
Via Twitter

Zaborney is about 42 years old. He’s from Shamokin, Pennsylvania and is now living the political consulting dream in Harrisburg. He’s college educated with over a dozen years of experience in government. He has been married for 14 years and has two kids. He’s white and cisgender and heterosexual.

Ray Zaborney is the kind of Republican who probably has gay cis white male friends and maybe a lesbian cousin or childhood friend. He isn’t fanatical, even though he’s willing to take $40k+ to help elect Scott Wagner. He’s young, affable, and a family man.

He should absolutely know that a dick joke about Caitlyn Jenner is 100% unacceptable. It isn’t funny. It isn’t funny if you just share it with your close friends. It isn’t funny if you just share it with your campaign buddies. It obviously isn’t funny if you share it accidentally with a journalist.

There’s no excuse. It isn’t a lighthearted joke. It is not a bit of wordplay. It is not well-thought out commentary on a cultural issue. It is a dick joke. It is a nasty bit of humor that reflects the content of Zaborney’s character. Every woman in this Commonwealth knows exactly what a dick joke means and what the men who make them think about us, cis and trans women alike.

And that’s the scary part. He’ll keep his gig with Wagner because Wagner wants to win and everyone wants to give Tom Wolf a run for his money, decency be damned. And while Wagner will roll into the oblivion that comes with being a failed political old white guy Republican (aka his own consulting job), Zaborney will continue.

He will raise his kids and be involved with their friends and classmates, thinking this is funny. He will work on other Republican campaigns throughout Pennsylvania, thinking this is funny, campaigns from school board to the General Assembly. He will help to shape the Republican party in Pennsylvania for the next 20-40 years, thinking this is funny.

Zaborney knows that he can literally say that he supports the LGBTQ community even with this clear evidence to the contrary. And that’s because he probably does support some of us. Guess who falls into that category and who doesn’t?

He isn’t supporting Pennsylvanians like Shantee Tucker right now. She was the 31-year-old Black trans woman who was shot in the back in Philadelphia last Wednesday. She’s the 19th trans person to be murdered this year and the 3rd Black trans woman to be murdered in a week’s time, nationwide.

The culture propping up an epidemic of fatal violence against the trans community is absolutely centered on the premis that a dick joke about Caitlyn Jenner is funny because she’s a trans woman. There is no disputing the tie between the meme and the 19 (and counting) transgender neighbors who have died violent deaths this year. There is no disputing the tie between the meme and the ugliness spewing from Lakeview, Mercer County in Western Pennsylvania over school policies affirming transgender students like Daniel. There is no disputing the tie between the meme and the experiences of real trans neighbors through Pennsylvania who have contributed to our AMPLIFY archive.

And there’s proof that Ray Zaborney knows he holds the cards here because he didn’t actually apologize. He referenced marriage equality in his official statement on the matter versus referencing a transgender issue or the transgender community. He said if we just knew him, we would not doubt him. He didn’t resign. He tried to cover his tracks and deflect the reporter from pursuing the matter.

“Anyone questioning my commitment to diversity or the LGBT community obviously doesn’t know me very well,” Zaborney responded in a statement. “I am a passionate believer in equality for all and have long been an advocate for marriage equality and ending discrimination in all forms against the LGBTQ community. I’m proud of my advocacy and proud of my efforts and will continue to stand for equality.”

He’s not the least bit repentant. A contrite person would admit that he fucked up and needs to undo the actual harm he’s done to the transgender community. He would acknowledge real issues facing trans Pennsylvanians and explain how his party and his candidates are making life safer, better, easier for them. He did none of those things because he thinks the joke is funny AND he knows it won’t hurt him in the least. He’ll keep every bit of that $40k+ consulting fee and more.

What advocacy has he done? Convincing Scott Wagner that driver’s license gender markers are relevant to using public bathrooms?

I haven’t even touched on the fact that the meme was also a slam against Nike’s campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick and the racist implications for PA Republicans.

Zaborney’s kids and their friends deserve a future that’s not shaped by a grown man who thinks this meme is suitable to share with his colleagues, private friends, or anyone. He’s not a silly immature 22 year old frat boy. He’s a grown adult who thinks a dick joke about Caitlyn Jenner is funny. He’s using David Duke tactics to wrap transphobia up in a palatable package to satisfy corporate America while not even bothering to say the name of a real trans person.

And transgender folx in Pennsylvania are the punchline.

Here’s hoping Ray Zaborney will be shamed into doing the right thing here. But it is far more important that we remember HIS name and pay attention to his actions over the coming years as he works his way up in Republican power and influence.

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