Virginia School Board Candidate Targets LGBTQ Teenager [UPDATED]

John Kinchen

[UPDATE – November 8, 2017 at 10AM ET]

Barbara Rypkema defeated John Kinchen for school board, Timberlake District during voting last night. It’s unknown whether this campaign ad had an effect on voting, but regardless, the voters of Campbell County have spoken.


John Kinchen, a candidate in the Campbell County School Board in Virginia, singled out a gay teenager as a part of a broader anti-LGBTQ campaign advertisement. The ad inaccurately portrays the teen as being transgender as it fear mongers on the dangers of recognizing and celebrating differences in student populations.

The News & Advance originally reported on the campaign ad:

Of the 14 posts on John Kinchen’s Campbell County School Board campaign Facebook page since Aug. 4, eight directly reference transgender people using the restroom.

 “We can have all kinds of discussions about, oh yeah, teacher pay, infrastructure of schools; we can continue to deflect the issue and point to those,” Kinchen said in an interview, but he believes the election for the Timberlake seat will be “made or broken” by his stance on bathroom accommodations for students who don’t identify with their physical sex.

“When it comes to the transgender thing, most people not only don’t understand it, they’re not supportive of this position and trying to accommodate a minority, to give special privileges and special rights to people,” he said.

If he is elected, Kinchen, an associate dean in the School of Music at Liberty University, intends to bring the issue up for discussion among the board members, open it up to the public at a meeting or open forum and create a formal policy.

He followed that up with a campaign ad targeting one gay male teenager. Though he never named the kid in the ad, the way he described him made it easy for local community members to understand who was being referenced. Because of that, the teen came forward to set the record straight (so to speak).

The Ad

In the ad, Kinchen holds up Brookville High School’s 2017 year book as he explains that it’s essentially an homage to LGBTQ people with its title (“It Takes All Kinds”) and its multi-colored cover. Thereafter Kinchen singled out one student (even giving his viewers the page number to view) where he went on to malign a minor for “wearing makeup and dressing in feminine clothing.”

Referencing the student’s call for acceptance and tolerance, Kinchen argued, “Acceptance has become a code word for what is sought by liberal activists.” He added, “It begins with persuasion, then acceptance. Moves to approval where leaders and influencers condone the behavior and the way of thinking.”

He takes the gay teen’s call for acceptance and tolerance to the extreme by arguing the administration “tacitly condoned this way of thinking and this lifestyle.”

(Note the use of the pejorative ‘lifestyle’ frequently used by anti-LGBTQ activists to implicitly argue sexual orientation is a choice made on a whim.)

By the end of the campaign ad, Kinchen concludes that a gay teenager’s blurb calling for acceptance of difference and individuality represents the normalization of anti-Christian values and (somehow) the slippery slope toward “transgender education” (which would be great if that were really an actual thing).

After the campaign ad was released and the community began putting together who the alleged transgender student was Kinchen targeted, Mikel Jenkins came forward.

The Student

Pictured: Mikel Jenkins (L) with his mother (R)

Speaking with WSET-TV, Mikel Jenkins – the student whose blurb and yearbook page Kinchen based his campaign advertisement around – sought to not only correct Kinchen’s inaccuracies but to explain why the advertisement is dangerous for LGBTQ teens who need allies – not enemies – in a school board member.

“I like to wear makeup. I identify myself as a male,” Jenkins said. He added, “I’m glad it was me, because I’m accepting of myself and I’m strong.”

Jenkins’ mother added to that asking what would have happened if it had been another student that committed suicide over the targeting and attention from a public figure.

And she’s right – suicide is a major issue for LGBTQ teens.

Several studies conducted over the last decade have shown that LGBTQ teens – particularly those in rural areas without adequate access to LGBTQ support systems like LGBTQ centers, literature, etc. – are more prone to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers. One study conducted by psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D., of Columbia University demonstrated:

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts, controlling for sociodemographic variables and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts, including depressive symptoms, binge drinking, peer victimization, and physical abuse by an adult (odds ratio: 0.97 [95% confidence interval: 0.96–0.99]).

The study concluded:

This study documents an association between an objective measure of the social environment and suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. The social environment appears to confer risk for suicide attempts over and above individual-level risk factors. These results have important implications for the development of policies and interventions to reduce sexual orientation–related disparities in suicide attempts.

The CDC backs this study with raw data. The Trevor Project combed through CDC data and reported:

  • LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.
  • LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
  • Of all the suicide attempts made by youth, LGB youth suicide attempts were almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.
  • Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers.
  • In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.

For their part, the students at Brookville High School aren’t remaining silent.

In a video posted to Facebook, Madison Sims – current editor-in-chief of the Brookville High School yearbook – defended both Jenkins as well as the publication of the yearbook. “Our yearbook is allowed freedom of speech, and I will allow no one to take that away,” she said “Along with that, I will not tolerate anyone putting down a person that they do not know, simply for their beliefs.”

Emily Johnson, another member of the yearbook staff, also spoke out. “The school loved his story! We got such positive feedback on the book, because we showed that ‘it takes all kinds’ which really meant for us that these ‘kinds’ all work together to make a unique and diverse school environment – which is what people should strive for in the first place,” she said.

Reaction to Kinchen’s video has become predominantly negative. You can view it it here:

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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