(WASHINGTON) — The White House is responding after several transgender guests exposed their chests at the administration’s Pride celebration this past weekend.
The incident drew backlash as inappropriate, including from conservative commentators like CJ Pearson who suggested online that it brought “shame” on the country.
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “The behavior was simply unacceptable. We’ve been very clear about that.”
“It was unfair to the hundreds of attendees who were there to celebrate their families,” she continued. “So, you know, we’re going to continue to be clear on that. … It’s not appropriate. It’s disrespectful. And let’s not — it really does not reflect the event that we hosted to celebrate the LGBTQ+ families.”
The individuals in the video won’t be invited to future events, Jean-Pierre said.
“This has not occurred before,” she said. “This was not a normal thing that has happened under this administration. But we’ve been very clear about how we saw this particular behavior.”
Rose Montoya, a transgender model and activist who posted the video to TikTok in which she and other guests posed topless, responded Friday in a 3-minute video posted to her social media platforms.
“Today I need to apologize,” Montoya said, describing how she was invited by the president to attend the Pride event and was proud to speak at the National Press Club during her trip to Washington.
“In a quick moment of fleeting and overwhelming trans joy, I decided to do something unbecoming of a guest of the president at the White House lawn celebration,” she said. “More so than ever before, I have learned how powerful and just how impactful my actions are and how impactful it is when we share our stories and experiences and how we do so with the world. I want to take this moment to apologize for the impact of my actions.”
“It was also never my intention to create a situation that would lead to harassment and harm of myself and others, nor for trans joy,” she continued, adding she feels “energized to educate and articulate to others the importance and power of trans joy in a more effective way.”
The Bidens welcomed hundreds of LGBTQ families from across the country on Saturday to mark Pride month. The administration described the event as the largest-ever Pride celebration at the White House.
Montoya posted a one-minute video to TikTok showing different aspects of the event. At one point, Montoya can be seen meeting President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
At another point, the video shows Montoya and other individuals bearing their chests while posing in front of the White House South Portico. Montoya is seen covering her bare chest with her hands.
“Are we topless at the White House?” someone can be heard saying in the video. It’s not clear who the other individuals are in the video.
Montoya first responded to criticism to the toplessness in a separate TikTok post before the White House’s statements.
“My trans masculine friends were showing off their top surgery scars and living in joy, and I wanted to join them,” she said in the video. “And because it is perfectly within the law in Washington D.C., I decided to join them and cover my nipples just to play it safe.”
At the Pride event, President Biden spoke out against anti-LGBTQ legislation being introduced and passed in various state legislatures around the country.
He also had a message for “the entire community,” but particularly for transgender youth.
“You are loved. You are heard. You are understood,” he said. “And you belong.”
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