OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WFRV) – Local Five News filed an open records request to find out exactly what supervisor Tim Hermes had said to spark a protest at a county board meeting earlier this week.
Following a presentation from the county’s chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer Major Cooper on May 9, supervisors had an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.
According to the audio recording of the meeting, Hermes said that to him “a man putting on a dress and putting on a women’s face is the same as black face in the 1920s.”
He also described men who identify as women using women’s restrooms as “disgusting” and said that he would seek counseling if one of his family members decided to transition.
At the last board meeting on Tuesday evening, a Local Five News reporter approached Hermes to ask about these comments. He would not do an on-camera interview, but said he feels like he did nothing wrong and that he has a right to free speech.
An at times chaotic county board meeting on Tuesday, featured a group of about sixty people angry about Hermes comments as well as a group of about ten people who said they supported his right to free speech.
“He’s spreading a lot of harmful rhetoric that isn’t accurate about trans people or being trans and that’s just more damaging to society to spread false information,” said Jonnie Urban.
“What he’s (Hermes) trying to say is there are two genders, the science XX and XY we got it all in biology,” said Edward Perkins. “(Hermes) is being maligned.”
Supervisors can bring forward a resolution to verbally censure Hermes, but can’t remove him from his position.
Below is the full exchange between Hermes and Cooper.
HERMES: “I know women had to fight for their own sports and their own bathrooms and the way that I look at things is you have any man that can decide he wants to be a women. It’s kind of reverting a woman like a feeling like any grandmother, a mother, sister, daughter, any man can just be that. To me a man putting on a dress and putting on a woman’s face is the same as blackface in the 1920s. How do you justify that? Reverting women to a feeling that any man can be a woman. I just totally disagree with that.“
COOPER: “I think it’s really about showing everybody dignity and respect. So how a person identifies we have to respect that and acknowledge it and make sure that they’re operating in a safe space. So I can definitely understand for some people it may seem, I’m not going to even acknowledge it as odd, but it may be a new idea. And a new way of thinking and approaching people. I think if you operate with an identity lens first and foremost see that person as an actual person, no matter what they identify as their gender there’s certain rights they deserve.”
HERMES: “But don’t you think a woman has the right to their own bathrooms and not a man pretending to be a woman going into the bathroom. That presents a lot of concerns for fathers, you have a man in a dress with a woman’s face on going into the bathroom by a little girl or trying to change in their dressing rooms I find that disgusting.”
COOPER: “I think this is all about changing the culture, I think what we’re looking at now as we provide a safe space for all that we have these places and spaces where we a family restroom. Where if there’s a situation where a father, like you said, has a young daughter and feels uncomfortable in the space of sending their young daughter into a woman only restroom or female-identifying restroom they can take them into that single stall family restroom and then lock the door and it’s just them two without any type of disruption. So I think that’s where we’re moving to make sure we are showing respect to all. I understand where you may have a fear of that or you have feelings of disgust. I acknowledge that but I also want to push back at you and say what happens when it’s your daughter who grows older and says you know what father I may feel like I need to transition because of how I feel and I want to identify as a male. You will want that same safe space for them as they travel and really try to just exist. I think that’s where we really got to start to recognize that there are people who are different from us but then also put ourselves in their shoes and what if it was our family member? We would want the same rights for them as well.
HERMES: “I would have to go get counseling, is what I would do.”
COOPER: “I understand that, I recognize that and we will have more conversations around this because I think you have value but I also want you to garner that respect. Not to say you’re losing that respect but these are the people who are in our county and we want to make sure we’re respecting all.”
One of the county supervisors told Local Five News via a text message that he’s beginning the process of writing a resolution that would censure Hermes for his comments.