A single billboard off the I-385 highway in South Carolina has become the latest battleground over trans youth. A pro-trans group paid for a billboard display telling trans kids that they are loved by God. A religious right group responded with their own vision of God’s love: a billboard telling trans kids they will be punished.
The Alliance for Full Acceptance paid for advertising space on eight billboards around the state, all bearing the simple message, “Rejoice! God Loves Trans Kids,” in bright yellow.
The billboard is part of the larger God Loves LGBTQ+ People campaign to support queer South Carolinians. “Religion has long been used as a weapon against the LGBTQ+ community,” the campaign’s website reads. “Politicians and advocacy groups using religion as a scapegoat for bigotry and political discrimination must stop.
“Everyone has the right to live a life free from persecution regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
AFFA executive director Chase Glenn explained to local NBC affiliate WYFF that the sign was about finding common ground. “I think we can all believe and agree that God loves all people,” Glenn said. “So why not rejoice, and you know God loves trans kids, too.”
As soon as the lease for the billboard ran out, Laurens County Republican Party Chair Luke Rankin crowdfunded a replacement message for the billboard. Within 24 hours, the sign read, “God made them male and female. Mark 10:6,” in sobering dark blue.
“God does love trans people,” Rankin told WYFF, “but if you look at God’s word, and what the Bible has to say about it, God, while he does love people like that, God punishes sin.” In fact, what the Bible has to say about it is not a whole lot—unless you twist around passages that never directly refer to trans people.
Rankin went on to accuse the former billboard of “targeting our children.” Technically, both billboards are targeting kids—one with a message of love and the other with a message of damnation.
“There have been so many stories of trans kids who have unfortunately … committed suicide, and have struggled with depression and anxiety,” said Glenn. “And we want them to know that they are loved and supported, and they are seen and celebrated.”
For their part, AFFA is not fazed in the least by this latest attempt to bully trans youth. The nonprofit is seeking donations for even more billboards to spread the message of love and acceptance for trans kids everywhere.