Three hours into Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing about the Equality Act, a bill that would add LGBTQ people to federal nondiscrimination laws, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., shared a tearful story about her child coming out of the closet.
“My beautiful, now 22-year-old child told me last year that they were gender nonconforming,” she said. “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.”
Before Jayapal’s heartfelt comments, several GOP lawmakers and Republican-invited witnesses shared concerns about the Equality Act. One witness, Julia Beck, a self-described radical feminist and vocal opponent of transgender rights, testified that women’s sports could be irrevocably changed by the bill because men might pretend to be transgender women in order to win competitions.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., even posed an outlandish hypothetical, asking what would happen if President Donald Trump were to declare himself “the first female president.” He then asked, “Who would celebrate that?”
“As I listened to some of you today, I was struck by this push to presume that these provisions would somehow be manipulated or used by people in ways that would hurt existing sex protections,” Jayapal said at the beginning of her almost four-minute speech. “It occurred to me that we are talking about fear versus love; we are talking about fear versus freedom.”
She then continued to discuss the “heavy burden of conflict” her child had carried before coming out as nonbinary and how, by bracing their gender identity, has allowed them to flourish.
“My child is finally free to be who they are,” Jayapal tweeted after the hearing. “With that freedom comes a responsibility, for us as legislators, to legislate with love and not fear.”
Vedant Patel, a spokesperson for Jayapal, confirmed that Tuesday’s hearing was the first time the lawmaker shared this personal family story.