Imagine being the parent of a teenage daughter, watching a presidential candidate talk about your daughter’s needs for the first time ever. Deshanna Neal is that parent. And her daughter Trinity is the transgender teenager who knew Hillary Clinton would fight for her. Now Deshanna and Trinity are left full of wonder and dread, with the realization that all the progress made in the last eight years is now at risk under a Trump-Pence administration.
Deshanna is one of many parents filled with fear about what the future holds for their transgender children. But they are also filled with determination. This week, the Human Rights Campaign hosted Deshanna and several other families to launch HRC’s new Parents for Transgender Equality Council. These parents have a singular mission: to protect their children and other transgender people.
But like so many across the country, this diverse group of strong and passionate parents was visibly shaken and wondering what’s next for the gains we’ve made since President Obama took office.
In the last eight years, the number of people who know somebody transgender has skyrocketed — from one in 10 to one in three. Thousands of transgender people came out and started living their truths in workplaces, schools, and communities across this country, despite real risk of harassment, discrimination, and violence. That increased visibility was also coupled with legal rights and protections that the Trump-Pence ticket pledged to undo. That threat has left LGBTQ people, especially transgender people, parents and allies, searching for answers.
Our message to Trinity, to Deshanna, and to any transgender person who worries about their place in our nation is simple: We see you. We hear you. We embrace you. And we are here to fight for you and with you.
Over many decades, our community has overcome enormous challenges. From Stonewall, to the AIDS crisis, to the daily reality of bullying, harassment, and violence, our community has kept the faith. And with perseverance and determination, we’ve found the courage to move forward, to march, and to fight, and to achieve progress that once seemed impossible. And along the way, we’ve changed countless hearts and minds.
While the presidential election was no doubt a devastating setback, we can find hope in North Carolina. The defeat of Governor Pat McCrory, who spent eight months championing the vile and discriminatory HB 2, sends a signal to lawmakers across this country — attacking transgender people is not only morally reprehensible, it’s a political liability. Despite McCrory’s refusal to admit defeat, pro-equality champion Attorney General Roy Cooper won — by more than 5,000 votes — as did Attorney General-elect Josh Stein and four other pro-equality challengers in the statehouse.
We can also find hope in the hearts and minds that have been forever opened. When people know us, they support us. Regardless of what comes our way in the coming years, minds have been changed — and that trend will only continue. Our job is to increase that pace of progress.
Our progress — in North Carolina and under President Obama — hasn’t come out of thin air. It was made possible by the bravery and hard work of individuals and organizations. And working together, we can and will continue to fight with more determination than ever before. We must not only protect our progress but continue to move equality forward all across this nation. The stakes could not be higher.
This week is Transgender Week of Awareness, and it culminates with the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This week, we honor the transgender people who lost their lives in 2016. This year alone, at least 21 transgender people – most transgender women of color – were murdered. Today, HRC and our colleagues at the Trans People of Color Coalition released a report telling the stories of each of these victims of violence — people with hopes and dreams, just like everyone else. People like Maya Young, Keyonna Blakeney, Amos Beede, and Demarkis Stansberry, whose lives and tragic deaths demonstrate the urgency of this cause.
Transgender Day of Remembrance serves as a powerful and poignant reminder of the stakes of this fight. Lives literally depend on us continuing this fight forward.
Today, we need each other now more than ever. As we mark this week, let us rededicate ourselves to one another and redouble our efforts as we enter the next chapter in this long, but inalterable march toward justice and fairness for all.
CHAD GRIFFIN is the president of the Human Rights Campaign. SARAH MCBRIDE is the HRC's national press secretary and the first out transgender person to address a major party convention.