A Donovan Richards Consultant’s Insensitive Rhetoric About Trans People

The inflammatory language that political consultant Tyquana Henderson-Rivers has used about and toward transgender people could create problems for her clients, such as Queens borough president hopeful Donovan Richards, a member of the City Council.

A New York City-based political consultant who has worked on behalf of numerous local elected officials has voiced inflammatory rhetoric on social media about transgender and non-binary individuals, engaged in testy exchanges with trans political figures, and criticized gender fluidity among children.

Tyquana Henderson-Rivers, who is president of Connective Strategies and has recently been working on behalf of Queens City Councilmember Donovan Richards’ campaign for borough president, has voiced such sentiments in posts and comments on Facebook, where she has on multiple occasions engaged in contentious back-and-forth discussions about transgender individuals.

In a series of Facebook posts and comments in October, Henderson-Rivers appeared to reject transgender individuals as she veered off into tangents comparing different animal species to explain why she won’t respect trans individuals’ identities.

“I’m not going to say pregnant people. Why? Because ONLY women can get pregnant,” she wrote. “I’m not going to call a cat a dog and a dog a cat even if the cat barks and the dog meows.”

She also wrote, “And trans men can’t impregnate a woman so they are not men.”

It should be noted, contrary to Henderson-Rivers’ comments, that there are indeed non-binary individuals and transgender men who are able to get pregnant.

Henderson-Rivers continued, “If you have or have had female reproductive organs you are a woman.”

In that comment, the wording of “have had” appears to falsely imply that as long as someone has a vagina, that person cannot be a transgender men or a non-binary person.

In yet another example of Henderson-Rivers dismissing the identities of trans women, she wrote that part of the magic of a woman “is not only in our heads and our hearts but in between our legs… The gift was given to us. No matter how hard you try, you can’t change it or duplicate it, you can only imitate it.”

Months later, in January, Henderson-Rivers again aggressively resisted respecting gender identities. She disputed the use of “womxn” — a term that is used to be inclusive of non-cinsgender women — when she wrote, “Again, I’m very clear on who I am and how I identify. In fact, until folks stop trying to relabel and rebrand who we are, we will also continue to be divided.”

“The X inclusion is actually an exclusion and I don’t understand why that is a hard concept for people to embrace,” Henderson-Rivers wrote. “You can’t create a new term to be inclusive of others who don’t identify with that. It does the opposite and we feel excluded. As a black woman, who travels in older and more conservative circles, this is off putting.”

Emilia Decaudin, an out transgender member of the New York State Democratic committee and currently a candidate for both district leader and state committee in Queens’ 37th State Assembly District, opted to chime into that thread to explain the origin of the term “womxn.”

“Using the term womxn allows those non-binary people to be included in spaces that they ‘obviously’ deserve to be in without invalidating their gender or forcing them to identify as something they are not,” Decaudin wrote.

Henderson-Rivers proceeded to fire back to Decaudin in response, saying, “Emilia Decaudin you can’t possibly step in and tell ME about the struggles of being a woman. That right there is misogyny and privilege. How is woman subset of something that came after??? That makes ZERO sense when clearly ‘womxn’ was something created in the past couple of years and ‘woman’ has existed since the beginning of time.”

That inflammatory rhetoric seen on Henderson-Rivers’ Facebook page also extended to gender expression. In a Facebook post from October, Henderson-Rivers wrote, “Why is there something wrong with teaching little boys and little girls to be little boys and little girls?”

In an interview with Gay City News, Decaudin argued that Henderson-Rivers’ rhetoric falls into the same category as homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and racism because although Henderson-Rivers said she does not hate, the language was voiced in a way that could be deemed dehumanizing and invalidating of peoples’ identities.

Noting Henderson-Rivers’ role in Richards’ campaign, Decaudin said that candidates for borough president should be mindful of the inclusive policies and practices that will be expected of them should they be elected.

“I don’t see why people who are trans, like me, or otherwise allies should put their faith in someone who seems to be complacent with that kind of behavior,” said Decaudin, who stressed that although borough presidents do not wield as much power as other elected officials, they still boast large staffs and play a role in community board appointments and other influential leadership capacities in their respective boroughs.

Among her other projects, Henderson-Rivers recently worked on behalf of then-Borough President Melinda Katz during her successful run for Queens district attorney. According to Connective Strategies’ website, Henderson-Rivers also worked on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s past political campaigns.

Neither Henderson-Rivers nor the Richards campaign immediately returned requests for comment on April 28.

Editor’s note: One day after the story was published, Henderson-Rivers forwarded the following response: “My comments expressed on Facebook were hurtful and deeply offensive. I apologize. In the midst of a heated online debate last October, I responded poorly. I recognize that every person has the right to their own gender identity. As a Christian minister and a black woman, I have welcomed LGBTQAI people in my family with love; raised LGBTQAI family members in my home whom I love dearly; and, I employ LGBTQAI people and always foster an environment of inclusion. Sometimes, when someone says something hurtful to you, you look to say something hurtful in response, and that was wrong on my part because that it is not what my religion teaches me to do. I should have turned the other cheek. In the rough and tumble world of politics, I need to find a better way to respond.”

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