Transgender Women Make Their Case For Inclusion at Annual CPAC Gathering

By Shane Stahl • March 8, 2018 • 5:00 pm

Every year, Republicans from across the country attend a gathering known as CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference. Over the course of several days, Republican leadership, pundits, and analysts present speeches, town halls, and debates regarding issues relevant to the party’s political platform. While the conference has hosted a number of anti-LGBTQ guests, for the past two years, a small group of transgender conservatives has attended, hoping to open the minds of their fellow Republicans and explain the reality that transgender people face everyday in an attempt to destigmatize LGBTQ issues.

“This year, it’s been more thoughtful — people coming up to hug us, whereas last year, it was more like fist bumps, that type of thing,” Jennifer Williams, a transgender woman from New Jersey, told Slate. “Questions, but also more people coming to express support — ‘I’m glad you’re here, because I’m not homophobic,’ or, ‘I’m not a transphobic person.’”

Jennifer says it is encouraging that CPAC itself has not attempted to prevent she and her group of fellow transgender attendees from attending, or speaking to conference-goers about transgender rights and equality. She is also pleased with actions by the conference that she says are a step forward in speaking to the conservative LGBTQ community.

“One great thing CPAC did last year was banning Milo Yiannopoulos from coming to speak after everything happened to him; he’s one of the most anti-transgender conservatives out there. This year they took away Mass Resistance being able to have a booth once they learned about their anti-LGBT views and particularly anti-transgender views, because right now there’s [an effort] in Massachusetts to remove public accommodations; that growth has been amazing.” Williams is referring to the November 2018 ballot initiative in Massachusetts aiming to repeal transgender non-discrimination protections in places of public accommodation.

The group as a whole believes that the work of younger generations of Republicans has contributed to this forward movement within the party, and it is largely this younger generation that take the time to speak with Jennifer and her group.

“Three out of four millennials who walk by us with [us holding] the Pride flag and these signs saying ‘Proud to Be a Conservative, Proud to Be Transgender, Proud to Be American, #sameteam.’  they immediately give us a smile, come over and say hello, and want to take pictures with us. We don’t get any grief from them.”

Jennifer and her group ultimately hope that as conservatives work to make progress on LGBTQ issues, both parties will be able to cooperate on actions to benefit and protect the LGBTQ community. She told Freedom For All Americans:

“It is very important that liberal and moderate Democrats become more open-minded towards everyone across our American political spectrum, just as more moderate and conservative Republicans need to do in the future. We will accomplish much more together as allies on key issues such as LGBTQ freedom and liberty if we start working together, in the open, whenever and wherever we can. Freedom will win as long as we remember what Ronald Reagan said: ‘My 80% friend isn’t my 20% enemy.’”

Read a full profile of Jennifer Williams here from Freedom for All Americans, and to stay up to date with all bills and resolutions regarding LGBTQ discrimination, visit our Legislative Tracker.

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