“And I didn't intend to say this today, but — excuse me,” a tearful Jayapal said.
“My beautiful now 22-year-old child told me last year that they are gender-nonconforming. And over the last year I have come to understand from a deeply personal mother's perspective — I've always been a civil rights activist. I've always fought for my constituents and communities to have equal rights,” she added.
Jayapal, a representative from Washington State, was arguing in favor of the Equality Act, introduced in Congress last month, which would amend federal law to provide a wide range of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also ban discrimination not only in employment, but in housing, credit, public accommodations, education, federal financial assistance, and federal jury service.
The congresswoman spoke eloquently about watching her child open up and come into their own when they began identifying as they felt.
“From a mother's perspective I came to understand what their newfound freedom — it is the only way I can describe what happened to my beautiful child — what their newfound freedom to wear a dress, to rid themselves of some conformist stereotype of who they are, to be able to express who they are at their real core.”
“And since this deeply impactful moment last year, my child, who has always done well in school, but has carried what a mother can only describe as a heavy burden of conflict in their own being, that I could not fully identify or help to express.
Since this deeply impactful moment last year, my child's embracing of their non-conforming gender identity and all that it has allowed, all that it allows in terms of their creativity, their brilliance, their self-expression.”
“The only thought I wake up with every day is, 'My child is free. My child is free to be who they are.' And in that freedom comes a responsibility for us as legislators to protect that freedom to be who they are and to legislate... our behavior towards all people in our society,” Jayapal concluded.
During @HouseJudiciary today, I shared why the #EqualityAct is so personal to me and my family. My child is finally free to be who they are. With that freedom comes a responsibility, for us as legislators, to legislate with love and not fear. pic.twitter.com/VfpiD9aDyY
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) April 2, 2019
The speech in favor of the Equality Act was widely lauded, including by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted support for Jayapal.
People often think strength is holding back tears, or that bravery is checking your life at the door for another day.
To me, bravery is the courage to be vulnerable in front of the world. &Strength can be finding the power in your tears.@RepJayapal, you were all power today.https://t.co/WiZ0FBPCWF
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 3, 2019