EXCLUSIVE: Entertainment Icon Lynda Carter Wonders Why Equality Isn’t Yet Law of the Land
For more than 40 years, Lynda Carter has entertained millions of people the world over with her numerous endeavors on stage, on screen, and in the recording studio. After first gaining attention in 1972 as a semifinalist in the Miss World pageant, she accepted the role that would endear her to fans everywhere, appearing as the “Amazing Amazon” herself on the 1975-1979 television show Wonder Woman.
Following Wonder Woman, Lynda acted in a number of television films and hosted several variety specials, as well as appearing in films and television, including Supergirl (where she’ll star again this fall), as well as Sky High, The Dukes of Hazzard, and the cult hit Super Troopers (and its sequel, released this year). She has also released 4 albums to critical acclaim and is on a concert tour across the country promoting her latest , Red, Rock n’ Blues. Last spring Lynda received the honor of having her own ‘Star’ on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, presented to her by blockbuster director Patty Jenkins (who we spoke to earlier this year — click here to read our interview). Recently, she took time out of her busy schedule to speak with Freedom for All Americans about protections for LGBTQ Americans and LGBTQ equality more broadly, an issue close to her heart since becoming an idol for millions at only 23.
Shane Stahl: Here at Freedom For All Americans, we’re working to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ people, because there are still insufficient protections from discrimination in a majority of states. In many places people are fired, evicted, or denied access to public spaces simply because of who they are. When —
Lynda Carter: Wait…that has to be against the law, right? Sex discrimination is illegal.
SS: Yes, discrimination based on sex in employment and housing is outlawed, but discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not explicitly included in most state laws.
LC: That includes sexual orientation and gender identity though, doesn’t it? It has to. Why wouldn’t it? This whole debate is just ridiculous — I don’t understand why people care so much. Why is this an issue? Transgender people are included in the category of “gender” last time I checked. [Editor’s note: Several federal appellate courts have ruled that federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on “sex” include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, a growing legal consensus.]
It’s even more frustrating to me because a lot of the people making these laws or discriminating against others are from my generation, and we experienced so much of this first hand, whether it was the civil rights movement or the women’s rights movement — we saw exactly how this affected people. How does someone being who they are have an effect on anyone else’s life? I don’t know that I’ll ever understand that.
SS: We know there are a lot of opponents out there who want to see advances the LGBTQ community has made wiped away.
LC: I just can’t believe we are still having this conversation, which has been happening for my entire life…my ENTIRE life.
SS: This November, the dignity of transgender people will be on the ballot in Massachusetts. How does it make you feel to know that there are some lawmakers who seemingly want to legislate people’s right to exist in public?
LC: You hear these arguments all the time, about how transgender people are somehow a threat to others, especially when people start talking about the issue of bathrooms. This is the truth — it is so much more dangerous to force a transgender person to use the bathroom they’re not comfortable in, not to mention traumatizing.
SS: You are someone who has a special place in the hearts of so many people, particularly in the LGBTQ community. When did you first learn you had this massive LGBTQ fanbase?
LC: I would say I really began to understand about 25 years ago, when the Internet became the new normal. I started to a see a lot of the fans talking about me and the show and the effect it had on them. I thought it was absolutely fantastic — this is a group of very special people, and to have honor among them is a thrill, and it makes me unbelievably happy to be included in the “family,” so to speak.
SS: You’ve also been an incredible ally to the community, grand marshaling a lot of Pride parades and being very vocal about your support. What led you to want to speak out?
LC: It’s something I’ve been doing for a very, very long time, and I think a lot of it comes down to one simple thing — I don’t like bullies, in any form. I can’t abide people who are judgemental and who make fun of others. So it was a real gift to have played a character like Wonder Woman who was so strong and kind and stood up for others, because that’s a huge part of who I am too.
SS: Even though Wonder Woman is a superhuman character, you’ve always spoken about how you intentionally imbued her with very human qualities like hopefulness, generosity, and wanting equality for everyone. What do you say to people in our current political climate who might feel hope is harder to find now?
LC: I think there is a lot of hope, regardless of what is happening at this moment in time. The fight will still have to go on — it will never be over, and we’ve always got to work hard to make sure we’re looking out for each other — but I think that the larger tides really are changing. Probably the most important thing we can do is keep educating each other and reaching out, letting people know how our lives are being impacted, and never being afraid to be outspoken.
I also know that this is an experience that is not my own. I’m not LGBTQ, but I can be supportive, I can be an ally, I can speak out against bigotry and small-mindedness. What is important is to have organizations like yours, to communicate exactly what is at stake, and what it feels like to be someone who could be tremendously impacted by decisions that do nothing but divide us and hurt more people than they help.
SS: What is it about the younger LGBTQ community in particular that gives you hope?
LC: Something that’s really fantastic is that I see young people coming up for whom this is not a concern in any way. Children that are my kids’ age and younger simply don’t see a problem with someone being themselves. If these young people, ‘millennials,’ whatever you’d like to call them, keep advocating, and their families keep standing behind them — that’s what gives me the most hope, and that’s what should give everyone else hope.
Lynda Carter is currently touring with her all-star Band in her concert , Red, Rock n’ Blues. Visit www.lyndacarter.com for tour dates or to purchase tickets. Our thanks to Pete Sanders for his assistance in this piece.