Trans teenager Stella Keating testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of a hearing regarding the Equality Act (C-SPAN)

Transgender high school student Stella Keating testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee asking that Congress pass the Equality Act to allow her to live her life with the same protections as other Americans.

The committee hearing on the landmark legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal civil rights legislation, focussed primarily on transgender issues.

Ms Keating provided a human face to the discussion and she bravely introduced herself to the assembled lawmakers via video conference on Wednesday morning.

“I am 16-years-old, and I live in the state of Washington,” she said after saying her pronouns were she/her. “I am a sophomore in high school and just got my driver’s license, which was a great day!”

After speaking about her love of politics and her role in the GenderCool Project, and advocacy group, she reintroduced herself to the assembled senators, many of whom were unlikely to have met a transgender individual.

“Hi, I’m Stella, and I’m transgender. I’m here before you today, representing the hundreds of thousands of kids, just like me who are supported and loved by their family, friends, and community across the country.”

While Ms Keating said that while she now lives in a state that provides her with equal protection under the law, she worries that when she moves on to college or pursues a career, what will happen to her in a state in which she is discriminated against.

Noting that she could be denied medical care or be evicted in many states, she asked: “How is that even right? How is that even American?”

“Even if my employer is supportive, I still have to live somewhere, eat in restaurants, have a doctor,” she said. “And why am I having to worry about all of this at the age of 16?”

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Much of the testimony and the questioning focussed on the issue of sport at the high school and college level, though others touched on issues in prisons, individuals self-identifying and exploiting laws, and alleged conflicts with religious freedoms.

Senator Ted Cruz said the legislation amounted to a “war on women” accusing the Democratic Party of getting more and more radical and turning everyone into victims.

A less combative tone was set by Senator Thom Tillis whose vote would be key in moving the bill forward: “I want to find a compromise, one that prevents discrimination against anybody in the LGBTQ community, any American, but also want to protect Americans of faith.”

“Hi, I’m Stella, and I’m transgender. I’m here before you today representing the hundreds of thousands of kids just like me who are supported and loved by their family, friends and communities across the country.”

— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) March 17, 2021

Committee chair Dick Durbin responded to Senator Tillis: “I want to just say, with the tone that you set with your question and comment, is one I hope the committee can follow up on.”

In the conclusion of her statement, Ms Keating said that she aims to become a civil rights lawyer and one day run for political office.

“For my generation to achieve all that … We just need to be able to lead our lives,” she said.

Ms Keating was commended for her testimony by Senator Durbin at the close of the hearing.

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