President Joe Biden delivered his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last night, and he used the occasion to reaffirm his support for transgender Americans and specifically praise trans youth for their courage. Left unsaid in the speech, though, was how his administration intends to fight Republican efforts in state legislatures to pass bills targeting trans youth as a means to cater to their conservative base following losses in the 2020 general elections.
"To all transgender Americans watching at home, especially young people who are so brave, I want you to know your President has your back," President Biden told the Congress.
Young actor and trans activist Kai Shappley also thanked Biden, but asked if his words would prevent Shappley's mother from going to jail under a new transphobic law proposed in her home state of Texas.
\u201cI\u2019m very thankful for this. But, what does having my back mean? Like, if the bills pass in Texas will you keep them from putting my mom in jail?\u201d
— Kai Shappley HER/SHE \ud83c\udf6b (@Kai Shappley HER/SHE \ud83c\udf6b)
Shappley famously schooled legislators earlier this month in a speech before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs as they considered two transphobic pieces of legislation that would criminalize many trans-affirming medical treatment for trans youth and provides criminal penalties to anyone, parents and medical providers included, who violate the law.
"Bullying is bad," she said. "Please stop."
\u201cWatch the amazing @KaiShappley a huge fan of @DollyParton, 4th grader and a transgender girl, school the Texas Senate and especially @SenBryanHughes once again on how bad their anti-trans bills will be for #TransYouth if passed. Of course those #txlege will ignore her plea!\u201d
While expressing concern about the future, others chose to focus on the fight ahead.
"Especially in this moment, when LGBTQ rights are under attack in several states across the country, it was important to see President Biden make it clear tonight that his priority would be continuing our shared fight to ensure that every American has access to the fullness of opportunity our country affords," Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement following Biden's speech. "To that point, we were especially heartened to hear the president specifically uplift his support for transgender people and particularly affirm transgender kids."