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Why the Equality Act Matters For Our Family—And For Many Others Across America

4 minute read
Marie Newman, a Democrat, represents Illinois' 3rd Congressional District. Evie Newman is a sophomore at DePaul University in Chicago.

More than five years ago, before my daughter Evie Newman transitioned, she came to her parents one day upset. She had been experiencing anxiety and deep depression but was unable to identify the cause of her pain. Out of complete frustration and at just 14 years old, she thought there were only two solutions to put an end to it.

“I can either kill myself or I can run away,” she told me.

As a mother, my heart was broken. This was only an eighth-grader, barely a teenager, who felt so worthless in this world she would rather not live in it altogether.

The next day, Evie enrolled in a local day program to help her cope and better understand what she was feeling. One night after her program, the typically timid Evie perked up in her chair at the dinner table, excited to share some news.

“I think I figured it out,” she proclaimed. “I’m not a boy, Mom. I’m a girl. And my name is Evie Newman.”

In too many households, this news could drive a parent to throw their own child out of their home. This is a nation where 33% of young people experiencing homelessness are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

But for us, it was one of the happiest days of our lives. Evie had found her authentic self. She no longer had to wake up every day pretending to be someone she wasn’t. She wanted to live, and she found out who she wanted to live in this world as.

Nonetheless, both of us knew this would not be easy, and we are writing this because our experience is the experience of too many American families. Evie was going to grow up in a nation where, in more than 25 states, she could be discriminated against merely because of who she is. She was joining a community where at least two-thirds of the members experience discrimination in their personal lives. From that day on, she could be thrown out of restaurants, evicted from her apartment, and denied access to education and other public services.

This was her new reality. One where each and every day, she could face hateful, vile attacks—verbal and physical—for simply existing.

That’s why, when Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia devoted her day to arts and crafts so she could hang a transphobic sign on the wall directly across the hall from my office door, neither of us was surprised. She was no different from the bullies Evie dealt with in middle school. If anything, the only real surprise was that these childish actions were coming from a sitting member of Congress.

And yet, we’re used to it. From the religious right’s loud cries of so-called discrimination against people of faith to conservatives’ fear-mongering that female transgender student-athletes will now have a physiological advantage over cisgender women—we have heard it all. And contrary to Greene’s bigoted sign (“There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust the science!”), the reality is that the Congresswoman is not in fact “trusting the science” or even listening to the more than 100 faith-based organizations that support the legislation. Then again, a member of Congress throwing out red herrings to justify hate and discrimination is nothing new.

We know that signing the Equality Act into law won’t change Greene’s beliefs any more than putting a trans-gender flag outside her office door would. But that was never the point. This has always been about ensuring millions of Americans who have been neglected for centuries are now heard loud and clear. By passing the Equality Act we can make sure that LGBTQ+ Americans are not only recognized by their government but also afforded the same civil rights already extended to others across the nation.

We made progress on Feb. 25 when the House passed the legislation on a 224-206, near party-line vote, with only three Republicans voting for it with all Democrats. Now, in the Senate, the Act faces a bigger hurdle; where 10 Republicans would need to support it to avoid a filibuster.

Families like ours cannot afford for this legislation to fail. We cannot allow more young Americans to believe that the only two answers to the question of who they are as a person is suicide or abandonment.

We need to make the Equality Act law to show millions of Americans that their government accepts them and will protect them for who they are and who they want to be.

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