Pride Month: A Time to Keep Moving Forward by Kasey SuffrediniBy Kasey Suffredini • June 3, 2021 • 2:30 pm
As we begin the annual celebration of LGBTQ Pride this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about community. What exactly is it that brings people together? There are any number of factors, to be sure: Geography, shared interests, a want to improve the quality of life for oneself and others, and so on. As we’ve continued to weather the pandemic and the world slowly begins to open back up, it is these communities to which we return to seek comfort and find strength.
This leads me to reflect on one of the defining moments in our shared LGBTQ community, the Stonewall uprising in 1969. There, a collective group of people from all walks of life decided that enough was enough; no longer would they accept the discrimination, the harassment, the violence perpetrated against them just because of who they are and who they love. In that moment, many say the modern LGBTQ movement was born that continues to this day, 52 years later—a testament to the power of unity.
But even as we celebrate Pride and progress, I’m thinking of the challenges we’ve faced. In particular, I’m thinking of the trauma and harm that this year’s state legislative sessions inflicted on our nation’s transgender youth.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We’ve got to keep fighting against any effort to discriminate against transgender kids.
While so many Americans were already suffering because of a global pandemic, many state lawmakers chose to single out transgender kids for further harm with an unprecedented campaign of discrimination concentrated in two major areas: healthcare and sports. This year, 2 states passed bills preventing transgender kids from being able to access best-practice medical care, and 9 states banned young transgender students from playing school sports simply because of who they are.
The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and dozens of other expert groups have stated unequivocally that providing best-practice and compassionate medical care to transgender kids is not only necessary but in fact lifesaving. Doctors, not politicians, are the experts on important medical decisions. Medical care bans that make it outright impossible for transgender youth to access basic care runs counter to our values as Americans, including the right to live freely and be treated with dignity and respect.
As a kid, I was a very good athlete, and playing baseball, soccer, basketball and kickball in our neighborhood cul-de-sac every night until dark was an important part of my social life and my identity. But because I wasn’t allowed to play on the boys’ teams in our town’s leagues, I never got the chance to join my friends in formal sports programs. I’m still regretful about missing out on those experiences.
But I was lucky. I also had a talent for music, and I poured myself into that. I learned many of the same lessons about hard work, teamwork, leadership and how it feels to be part of a group that supports and affirms me and my contributions to the team. I developed lifelong friendships from those experiences. Belonging is important to everyone, and it’s especially critical for young people as they are developing their sense of their place in the world.
Americans are ready to see their friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers and fellow worshippers treated with dignity and respect.
Not all young people are as lucky as I was. This year’s onslaught of anti-transgender sports and medical bans has crushed trans youth, forbidding everyone in their support networks – their friends, coaches, doctors, parents – from including them and caring for them. And for no good reason. For example, federal and state laws already afford states the ability to develop policies that balance fairness and inclusion in sports. Half of U.S. state high school athletic associations already have policies in place that allow transgender students to play, and those policies are working. In fact, when pressed for examples of harm during hearings this legislative session, lawmakers couldn’t provide them.
Anti-transgender bills are ill-informed, unnecessary, and dangerous. That’s why we at Freedom for All Americans, alongside many other national and state partners, have worked hard to push back against this discriminatory legislation.
At the same time, the legislative sessions have had some bright spots. Governors on both sides of the aisle in Kansas and North Dakota vetoed anti-transgender sports bans that arrived at their desks. Dozens of anti-transgender bills failed to advance and died in states like Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Polls show that a majority of people believe it is wrong to discriminate against transgender kids; this number includes majorities from all political affiliations and faith traditions. In voicing his support against anti-transgender medical care bans, the governor of Arkansas cited the transgender youth and families he had met and the conversations he had with medical experts. The Governor of Utah spoke about how meeting with transgender youth and touched his heart. People are speaking out, and hearts and minds are changing. One lesson I learned in team activities growing up that I’m applying now: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. We’ve got to keep fighting against any effort to discriminate against transgender kids.
One way we can work to end discrimination against not only transgender youth, but all LGBTQ Americans, is by passing the Equality Act. The Equality Act would update federal law to include strong and comprehensive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. Right now, there are still 29 states where LGBTQ people aren’t fully protected from discrimination. This confusing patchwork leaves millions of LGBTQ people vulnerable to discrimination and makes it difficult for all LGBTQ people to figure out when and where we and our families are protected.
The Equality Act is common-sense legislation with strong bipartisan support—76% of all Americans agree it’s time to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. This includes majorities in every political party and religion. Groups from faith leaders to big business to veterans also show strong support for the Equality Act. The bill passed in the House earlier this year in a bipartisan victory and the Senate held a historic hearing on it in March. Senate Majority Leader Schumer has indicated his commitment to working across the aisle to getting it passed and sent to President Biden, who has expressed his eagerness to sign it into law. As this year’s legislative sessions have shown us, discrimination is real and pervasive. The need for protections is urgent. And poll after poll shows the American people are ready. So, let’s get this done. Let’s ramp up our efforts to bring people together from all walks of life and tell Congress that finally, after five decades, they must act. Americans are ready to see their friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers and fellow worshippers treated with dignity and respect.
Community, that rich tradition in the history of the LGBTQ experience, is alive and well. Together we can continue to build it, to strengthen it, to continue making our voices heard. I’m more committed than ever to finishing the work of generations and finally getting comprehensive federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections across the finish line. This Pride Month let’s take the time to reflect on our history and celebrate how far we’ve come, but also recognize that we’ve got more to do. As our community has proven time and time again, together we can accomplish greatness.