Advocate Dylan Brandt offered a message of hope for trans rights across the U.S. at the TIME100 Next Gala in New York City on Oct. 24. Here, his full remarks.

I stand before you today, humbled and honored to have the opportunity to make this toast. When I was asked to speak, I contemplated deeply on what message I wanted to convey, and I realized that it is a message of hope, resilience, and unity. As a small town kid born and raised in Greenwood, Arkansas, I couldn’t have imagined that I’d be here with you guys today.

TIME’s question about who inspires me the most has led me to reflect on my journey as an advocate and ask a question, Why do I do this? The answer is simple. In recent years, we’ve seen remarkable progress in transgender rights in the United States. From legal victories to increased public awareness, we’ve made positive strides. However, it is vital to acknowledge that the battle is far from over. Discrimination, bias, and inequality still persists in the lives of transgender individuals. In our nation there are families living in constant fear—the fear of losing their basic human rights, the fear of not being able to provide their child what they know they need.

My own family became [part of] the legal battles for transgender rights in 2021 because we refused to be silenced. In this journey, family extends beyond blood, encompassing anyone who supports me and helps me find my authentic self, defining my support system. This especially includes the incredible individuals behind the Brandt v. Griffin lawsuit, who have been by these family’s sides since the very beginning, lifting us up and creating a safe space where we can be ourselves. Their presence has given me and countless other trans kids in Arkansas a voice that was previously silenced, and their unwavering commitment has touched the deepest corners of my heart.

Read More: A Tribute to Dylan Brandt

Growing up transgender in a small town has been a daunting experience, and I know that I’m not the only one. In close-knit communities where traditions often run deep, it can be challenging to express one’s true identity. Transgender individuals and their families often grapple with isolation, discrimination, and a sense of not quite belonging.

So, with all of this in mind, I raised my non-existent glass—because I am 18 years old—to the hundreds of transgender families across the country who have been living in fear but continue to be unapologetically themselves. Their strength, resilience, and authenticity inspire us all. Let us be allies, advocates, and champions for these families, and work tirelessly to create a world where every individual, regardless of where they come from, can live authentically and with the love and acceptance they deserve.

They are my why. Cheers.

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