Harleigh Walker by no means anticipated the president of the United States to converse instantly to her community.
The 14-year-old from Alabama mentioned she felt acknowledged when President Joe Biden referred to as younger transgender folks “brave” as he urged Congress on Wednesday to move the Equality Act throughout his first handle to a joint session of Congress.
“Especially with recent anti-trans legislation,” Harleigh mentioned. “For the president to recognize us in that way, and tell us he was on our side, was so great. It was empowering. It gave us hope.”
Her father mentioned he felt aid when he heard Biden. “To see that at a federal level, my daughter has that support, was so heartening,” Jeff Walker mentioned.
“I just hope it trickles down and affects lawmakers on a state level,” he mentioned. “This is just the beginning of the road.”
Advocates say Biden’s acknowledgement of trans folks is an enormous step ahead for visibility and acceptance.
“To all the transgender Americans watching at home, especially the young people who are so brave, I want you to know that your president has your back,” Biden mentioned Wednesday.
In his handle, Biden mentioned he hopes Congress will move the Equality Act “to protect the rights of LGBTQ Americans.”
The landmark laws would develop federal civil rights to prohibit discrimination on the premise of intercourse, sexual orientation and gender id, protections many Americans imagine had already been enshrined into legislation, lawmakers say.
Serena Sonoma, communications coordinator of the nationwide advocacy group GLAAD, mentioned it is nonetheless legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in almost 30 states.
“The Equality Act would secure those basic core values of equal treatment into law,” she instructed USA TODAY.
Sonoma mentioned she hopes Biden’s phrases lead to higher security and acceptance for trans folks.
“I hope that transgender people, and especially trans kids, see and hear that they are welcome and they belong just as they are,” Sonoma mentioned.
The Equality Act is the following step in making “significant progress in building a more inclusive world,” mentioned Karen Graci, of chapter president of the LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit PFLAG in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Biden’s remarks might assist the nation attain that step extra rapidly, she mentioned.
Biden has fallen wanting his pledge to signal the Equality Act into legislation in his first 100 days of office, which might be Thursday. The House passed the bill in February, but it surely faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which is cut up 50-50 between Republican and Democratic members with Vice President Kamala Harris in a tiebreaking position.
The House handed an analogous model of the invoice in 2019, but it surely died within the then-Republican-controlled Senate.
Biden’s comments come at a time when states think about laws stopping transgender Americans from accessing gender-affirming well being care or participating in sports under their gender identities.
His handle additionally follows a violent yr for a lot of trans Americans with a minimum of 44 identified transgender folks killed within the U.S. in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has tracked this information since 2013.
Just 4 months into 2021, there have been a minimum of 17 transgender folks killed. Both numbers are anticipated to be undercounts as “too often these stories go unreported or misreported,” in accordance to the Human Rights Campaign.
The HRC famous that LGBTQ folks proceed to face violence in addition to discrimination in well being care, housing and schooling.
“It’s been a very hard year for trans people, especially for trans children and their parents,” Mara Keisling, government director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, instructed USA TODAY.
“State legislators are attacking and bullying trans kids for political purposes. It’s shameful, disgusting and unconscionable, and it has a psychological impact on these children,” she continued. “But you know what helps trump that? The president telling them he has their back.”
Following Wednesday’s speech, the Human Rights Campaign praised Biden’s support for the Equality Act.
“Equality and justice are not partisan goals – they are the bedrock on which our country was founded,” mentioned HRC President Alphonso David in a statement.
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LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit PFLAG mentioned Biden’s help of transgender youths means lots to their households.
“We are also moved by his vocal support of our trans kids, whose rights and very lives have been under assault with hundreds of dangerous and damaging bills,” mentioned Brian Okay. Bond, PFLAG National government director, in an announcement.
One of Biden’s earliest acts supporting the transgender community was lifting President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender troops. On his first day in workplace, he signed an government order implementing a Supreme Court ruling that declared anti-LGBTQ job discrimination to be unlawful as a type of intercourse discrimination.
Last yr, Biden nominated Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of well being, making her the primary brazenly transgender federal official confirmed by Congress.
First girl Jill Biden additionally invited Stella Keating, a 16-year-old transgender teen who testified in opposition to anti-trans payments earlier than the U.S. Senate, as a digital visitor to the handle Wednesday.
On Transgender Day of Visibility in March, Biden in a statement acknowledged “the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world.”
Keisling, of the National Center for Transgender Equality, mentioned she appreciates Biden listening to trans folks.
“I spent the last eight years saying President Obama was the best president for trans people and that no one is even in second place,” she mentioned. “And I have to say that President Biden is off to a faster start.”
But whereas the Equality Act is essential, it is from the ultimate step, she mentioned. Next, she desires to see a “comprehensive plan to end violence against Black trans women.”
Human Rights Campaign’s analysis of fatal violence against trans women in 2020 discovered “it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women.”
“There has been a long history of violence against Black trans women in this country,” Keisling mentioned. “These women deserve better protection.”
For sources for transgender folks, go to GLAAD has compiled a list here.