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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.Read more
HRC celebrated a vote by the Minnesota House of Representatives to include H.F. 12, legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous practice of so-called “conversion therapy,” in the HHS Omnibus finance bill. The Minnesota Senate will also consider a finance bill. If enacted, Minnesota would become the 17th state in the U.S. to protect youth from this egregious practice. Colorado recently passed a similar bill through its legislature; it is soon heading to the governor’s desk.
“All children deserve to live authentically and free from fear of this dangerous and discredited practice with potentially life-threatening consequences,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “We thank the Minnesota House of Representatives for taking action on this issue and urge the state Senate to pass this measure and join the growing number of states and municipalities that protect LGBTQ youth from abusive ‘conversion therapy.”
“Thousands of Minnesotans have worked so hard over the last few months to stop the torturous practice known as conversion “therapy” and today, during OutFront’s LGBTQ Lobby Day, the Minnesota House sent a strong message of support for LGBTQ Minnesotans by including the Mental Health Protections Act (H.F. 12) in the Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus bill,” said Monica Meyer, Executive Director of OutFront Minnesota. “We could not be more proud of every single LGBTQ and Allied person who made this possible.”
There is no credible evidence that conversion therapy can change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. To the contrary, research has clearly shown that these practices pose devastating health risks for LGBTQ young people such as depression, decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, homelessness, and even suicidal behavior. The harmful practice is condemned by every major medical and mental health organization, including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and American Medical Association.
Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia all have laws protecting youth from this abusive practice. Last month, Puerto Rico’s Governor issued an executive order protecting minors in the commonwealth from the harmful practice. A growing number of municipalities have also enacted similar protections, including at least fifty cities and counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
According to a recent report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ minors in states without protections will be subjected to conversion therapy by a licensed healthcare professional if state officials fail to act. Last year, national organizations representing millions of licensed medical and mental health care professionals, educators, and child welfare advocates declared their support for legislative protections against conversion therapy.
HRC has partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Trevor Project, MassEquality and local advocates in support of these vital protections. More information on the lies and dangers of efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity can be found here.Read more
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Post submitted by Elisabeth Rutledge, HRC state legislative team consultant
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