HRC Sits Down with Parents for Trans Equality Council’s Chris Williams

Post submitted by Sula Malina, HRC Children, Youth and Families Program Coordinator

HRC recently sat down with Chris Williams, a member of HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, to learn more about his family’s story.

Williams and his partner Joel Sekuta live in Seattle, and they are the proud parents of two great kids, both of whom are transgender. Williams is a longtime strategic communications professional and is actively involved with HRC at both the local and national levels. He has worked with LGBTQ employee resource groups at his places of employment to build greater visibility for LGBTQ individuals in the workplace.

What inspired you to join HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council?

I became involved with the council, in part, because I am a gay parent, but also so that I could act as a bit of a bridge within the community and enlist my friends into being the fierce advocates for trans youth that our kids need. When my younger child came out as trans in 2015-16, I realized how disconnected I was from trans issues, even though I was a part of the same community. I wanted to do more than just support my kid; I wanted to work to be an advocate for trans youth within the LGBT community, as well as in the broader community. Those of us who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual may not understand what it’s like to be trans or non-binary, but we absolutely understand what it’s like to be different, to come out, to navigate a world that isn’t always supportive and understanding.

What’s been one highlight of your experience as a council member?

Getting to know the other parents and drawing from them the inspiration to be an advocate for trans youth. It’s easy to fight for your own kids, but the camaraderie that I feel with the other parents on the council makes it easy to fight for other people’s kids as well. They all inspire me — and so do their children.

What part of HRC’s work do you connect with the most?

I was an active member of HRC before I joined the council. What drew me to the organization then draws me to it now: smart strategic advocacy that places the needs of real people front and center. Harvey Milk told us that the most important thing we can do as gay people is come out. HRC has harnessed the power of the individual act of coming out and turned it into an awesome force for change, in part through powerful storytelling, and this council of parents helps HRC do it even better by bravely telling the stories of their children and their families.

What’s one message you have for other parents of transgender children?

Love your child, just as they are. Acceptance of my two trans children didn’t come easily, even though I had walked the walk of coming out and then advocating for equality. I have struggled at times to reconcile the hopes and dreams I had for my children as I thought them to be with the reality of who they are. But this, I think, is one of the most natural struggles of parenting, whether your child is straight or gay, cis or trans. We can’t help but tell ourselves stories of who we think our children are and who they will become. But they are who they are, and we should celebrate each of them for being just themselves and having the bravery to walk through the world as as they choose to be.

HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council is a coalition of some of the nation’s leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people. To learn more about HRC Foundation’s work with transgender youth and their families, visit our Children, Youth and Families Program.

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Bermuda’s Government Must Recognize That Marriage Equality is Settled, Advocates Say

Bermuda’s LGBTQ community won a crucial victory for marriage equality in November, when the island’s highest court dismissed the government’s latest appeal to strike down same-sex marriage.

Despite the high court ruling, the government of Bermuda is weighing whether to appeal this ruling to the Privy Council in the U.K. — a desperate attempt to block the path to equality for Bermuda. The deadline for the appeal is December 14.

HRC asked OUTBermuda’s directors, Chen Foley and Zakiya Johnson Lord, what this means for the LGBTQ community.

Is the court’s November 23 decision the final word for LGBTQ Bermudians, and is marriage equality the law of the land?

We hope so. However, the government again is leaving Bermuda and the world in suspense until December 14. We strenuously believe that this is a both a waste of time and an absurd taxpayer expense. The Bermuda courts consistently embrace justice and marriage equality.

If this decision is appealed, what are your chances in the Privy Council?

While we can’t predict the outcome, our attorneys believe this is likely to be our most favorable venue, with a remarkable potential for impacting the work of marriage equality advocates throughout Commonwealth nations, including the Caribbean. If that occurs, the ripples of equality might be quite powerful beyond the borders of Bermuda.

To be clear, can Bermudian same-sex couples marry today?

Yes. The Supreme Court ruled back in 2017 that Bermudians can secure marriage licenses and have their marriages recognized. We are still fighting to make that basic right permanent and lasting for all. Furthermore, two subsequent court decisions have upheld that ruling.

What message do you wish to send to your global allies and advocates?

First, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for standing by Bermudian’s LGBTQ community. We are indebted for the financial, emotional and spiritual support throughout this costly and demanding court process.  We are so close now!

All Bermudians look forward to the day that we reconcile our differences, we redeem our blessings and we reward each other with full equality under the law and within our own loving marriages.

“Another Appeal is Not In Bermuda’s Best Interests,” says #OUTBermuda and all fair-minded Bermudians. Read on: https://t.co/jaKvPZ52d5 pic.twitter.com/M9GuYKOqJH

— OUTBermuda (@OUTBermuda) December 4, 2018

For more information about the ongoing work to support LGBTQ equality in Bermuda, check out  www.OUTBermuda.org and share support on social media. For more about HRC’s work to support LGBTQ equality worldwide, go to hrc.org/Global.

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House Flips with Historic Victories for HRC-Backed, Pro-Equality Candidates Nationwide

Tonight, HRC celebrated historic victories for HRC-endorsed LGBTQ candidates and pro-equality allies in key races across the nation. Dozens of HRC-backed candidates declared victory tonight, following 18 months of unprecedented engagement and voter mobilization in more than 70 congressional races and key state-level races from governor to state legislature in 23 states from coast-to-coast.

In the summer of 2017, the Human Rights Campaign launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in the organization’s 38-year history. Since then, HRC has endorsed more than 480 pro-equality candidates nationwide, and deployed 150 staff to organize and mobilize voters in more than 70 congressional, targeted senate and key statewide races across 23 states. HRC also backed more women and people of color than in any election cycle in its history: 45 percent of HRC’s endorsees were women — including 55 percent of non-incumbent candidates — and nearly one-third were people of color.

Tonight, a record number of LGBTQ lawmakers were elected at all levels. Notably, Senator Tammy Baldwin was re-elected to the U.S. Senate. Jared Polis became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the United States. Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the first LGBTQ governor in history, was re-elected. Sharice Davids became the first gay Native American lawmaker in Congress. And a record number of out LGBTQ candidates were elected and re-elected to the U.S. Congress.

HRC helped register more than 32,000 voters and recruited more than 4,200 volunteers, who worked over 8,500 shifts and clocked more than 30,000 volunteer hours. In the critical final four days of the campaign, HRC staff and volunteers in get-out-the-vote efforts alone knocked on more than 80,000 doors, and held 36,400 conversations with voters at their doors and by phone on behalf of our endorsed candidates.

Since June, HRC President Chad Griffin has barnstormed the country campaigning for 50 pro-equality candidates at more than 70 events in 47 cities across 23 states.

“Tonight, millions of LGBTQ voters and allies across the nation rejected the politics of hate and fear and put Donald Trump and Mike Pence on notice,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The days of attacking LGBTQ people for political gain are over, and the American people will not stand for lawmakers who try to drum up votes by trafficking in hate. Thanks to millions of Americans who stood up and fought back, we have succeeded in restoring a sane, pro-equality majority to the House and placing a check on this administration’s hateful agenda. To the 3 million members of the Human Rights Campaign who have worked tirelessly for the last 18 months to out-organize and out-mobilize anti-LGBTQ extremists nationwide, thank you for making history tonight. Together we have sent a loud and clear message that if you come for us, then we will come for you on Election Day.”

HRC’s unprecedented grassroots mobilization represented an investment of approximately $26 million to  recruit volunteers, mobilize constituents, register voters and grow the organization’s grassroots army in an all-out effort to pull the emergency brake on the hateful anti-LGBTQ agenda of the Trump-Pence administration and elect a Congress that would hold them accountable.

HRC’s Equality Votes PAC spent $3.2 million to drive turnout through direct mail and digital ads in priority races including Senator Tammy Baldwin, Jacky Rosen, Kyrsten Sinema, Harley Rouda, Mike Levin, and Representatives-elect Sharice Davids and Angie Craig. HRC also invested in six-figure GOTV ads in Georgia and Florida. Through tested digital ads, HRC was able to reach a total of 4.6 million voters across priority races.

We also celebrate a historic victory in Massachusetts where voters upheld non-discrimination protections for transgender people in public spaces. Question 3 – which asked voters whether to maintain a 2016 law protecting transgender people from discrimination in critical public accommodations including restaurants, hotels, hospitals, stores and public transportation – was the first time gender identity non-discrimination protections were on a statewide ballot independent of protections based on sexual orientation. HRC serves as a founding executive committee member of Freedom for All Massachusetts, a coalition of national and state equal rights organizations, which led the successful Yes on 3 Campaign.

Over the last two years, the Trump-Pence administration has relentlessly attacked the LGBTQ community, from a “license-to-discriminate” executive order to revoking protections for transgender students to unconscionably attempting to ban brave transgender troops from serving openly. Within the last two weeks, the New York Times reported that the administration was secretly planning to redefine “sex” to exclude transgender people in an intentional effort to eliminate federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. A list of the administration’s attacks over the last two years can be found here.

HRC has released a number of statements on major victories for top HRC-backed candidates. 

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Thousands of HRC Members Submit Public Comments With One Message—Trans Veterans Deserve Care

More than 2,000 LGBTQ people and allies from across the nation joined HRC in responding to a request for public comments regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs’ current discriminatory policy prohibiting the VA from providing gender affirming surgeries to veterans.  

Access to comprehensive transition related care is essential to promoting the health and well being of transgender people. The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have issued public statements over the past decade that consistently conclude transition related care is both medically necessary and the appropriate treatment for gender dysphoria.

Despite these conclusive findings, the Trump-Pence administration continues to blatantly challenge surgery as a medically-validated option to treat gender dysphoria, undermining the health of transgender veterans. HRC members and supporters have made it clear that the current prohibition conflicts directly with the best practices for transgender care and is blatantly discriminatory.

1/ Hello, this is @HRC Press Secretary Charlotte Clymer (@cmclymer). As a transgender woman and veteran, I’m doing an #HRCTwitterTakeover to urge people to take action and tell @DeptVetAffairs that trans vets deserve medically necessary care. https://t.co/eMM3t5sj59 pic.twitter.com/34lf6IWAc4

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

2/ The vast majority of Americans are in total agreement: ensuring service members and their families receive care and respect.

Yet the Trump-Pence administration continues going after trans troops and now veterans. This is simply unacceptable. — @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

3/Few things unite the country as much as the effort to provide compassionate & competent care for veterans. As a trans vet, I’m heartbroken that for as much reverence I received, my status as a trans person seems to painfully supersede that service.-@cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

4/ For decades, the @DeptVetAffairs excluded coverage of medically necessary surgical procedures for transgender troops suffering from stress and anxiety of trying to align their gender identity with their presentation. — @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

5/ This exclusion flies in the face of every major medical authority. @DeptVetAffairs acknowledged research showing that severe medical consequences can arise if transition-related surgeries and procedures are not provided. — @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover https://t.co/3xdj9BaRrR

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

6/ Under Trump-Pence, the VA has maintained the exclusion policy. It’s not the first time they attacked trans people serving. After @realDonaldTrump tweeted a ban on trans troops, a bipartisan choir spoke out against the unconstitutional policy. – @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover pic.twitter.com/UKfhOP4cWe

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

7/ Now, we are called to protect trans veterans, but the window is quickly closing on our ability to oppose this discriminatory and dangerous rule. Public comments are due �������� ������������. Take some time to submit one. – @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover https://t.co/eMM3t5sj59

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

8/ This administration is using the same discredited excuses that they have invoked to justify their ban on open service to now target medically necessary health care for trans vets. Tell @realDonaldTrump & @mike_pence that trans vets deserve care. – @cmclymer #HRCTwitterTakeover

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

9/9 Take action with @HRC NOW. Tell the @DeptVetAffairs that ALL veterans deserve medically necessary care, regardless of who they are, from a grateful nation they so honorably served. Read more about this in my latest piece for @TheAdvocateMag. https://t.co/1i1Auj3qvF

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 6, 2018

Health care decisions should be left to patients and health care providers. They should be based solely on the current standards of care and not on political convenience or partisan ideology.  

HRC stands with transgender veterans and demands that the VA put our veterans — and their health — first.

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