Three different youth have testified before elected officials recently, giving some much-needed lessons to transphobic lawmakers at both the state and federal level. Last week, 16-year-old Stella Keating became the first transgender teen to testify before the U.S. Senate when she spoke in favor of the historic Equality Act. Meanwhile, a middle schooler from Florida and his younger elementary school brother spoke out against anti-trans bills under consideration there, gave state legislators a quick constitutional lesson, and directly challenged them to stop bullying trans kids.
Liam and Evan Oliver spoke out against parallel bills under consideration in the Florida house and senate this week. The Florida senate’s “Promoting Equality of Athletic Opportunity Act” and the house’s “Youth Gender and Sexual Identity” bill would essentially ban trans girls from playing on girl’s school sports teams, and punish doctors who provide gender-affirming medical services and treatments to trans minors.
“First of all, this bill is unconstitutional,” Liam politely explained to the lawmakers. “The 14th Amendment gives every person equal right protection under the law, regardless of gender identity.”
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1968, in response to southern states refusing to respect the constitutional rights of former slaves following the Civil War. The landmark amendment provided that all citizens receive “equal protection under the laws” and authorized the federal government to punish those states that continued to abridge the rights of its citizens.
Liam also shared a personal story about his trans friend named Sam “who’s already bullied enough for being who he is.”
The older brother concluded his presentation by admonishing lawmakers to “stop being bullies and vote not to this bill.”
Younger brother Evan stepped up to the podium next. Although smaller in stature, he stood just as tall in his words to lawmakers. While Liam provided a much-needed constitutional primer, Evan reminded lawmakers of some even more basic rules.
“I was taught growing up that you should stop hurting people if you already are,” Evan said. “Don’t hurt trans girls. Vote no.”
Last week, Stella Keating, a 16-year-old transgender girl from the state of Washington, became the first transgender teen to testify before the U.S. Senate when she spoke in favor of passing the Equality Act. Keating, who is a founder of the GenderCool Project, asked senators to consider the consequence of not passing the landmark civil rights legislation that would amend existing law to ensure civil rights protections for LGBTQ+ people.
“What happens if I want to attend college in a state that doesn’t protect me?” Keating asked. “Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states. How is that even right? How is that even American?”
The sudden surge in anti-transphobic legislation both at the state and federal levels is seen by some experts as an attempt by desperate Republicans to fire up their base following the recent loss of the senate and the presidency. Banning trans youth from playing sports according to their identity and criminalizing doctors providing science-based, medically appropriate care to trans youth remain highly popular with key Republican constituencies.