A transgender teen from Washington captured hearts across the country following her brave and heartfelt testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of the Equality Act, a sweeping new LGBTQ-rights bill headed for a vote in the Senate after being passed in the House.
In her comments, 16-year-old Stella Keating laid bare the weighty, existential struggles faced by trans young people like her during the most vulnerable years of their lives.
And she did it all with grace and dignity well beyond her years, despite the fact her audience included Senators who have made careers out of attacking the rights and lives of trans people.
You can see her testimony here:
“Hi, I’m Stella, and I’m transgender. I’m here before you today representing the hundreds of thousands of kids just… https://t.co/gfKumQOhIv— Human Rights Campaign (@Human Rights Campaign)1615995832.0
If ratified, the Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list protected by existing federal civil rights laws.
And Keating's testimony outlined why that is so important for transgender youth like her. Keating is fortunate to not only have a family that supports her as a trans person, but to live in a community and a state where her rights are protected.
But as she nears the end of her high school years, those rights and protections immediately come into question.
As Keating explained:
"...[A]s a high school sophomore, I'm starting to look at colleges. And all I can think about is this: less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law."
Keating went on to illustrate precisely the sort of danger lack of protections would present.
"What happens if I want to attend college in a state that doesn't protect me? 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?"
Keating also outlined how this situation could impact her even farther down the road into adulthood.
"What if I'm offered a dream job in a state where I can be discriminated against? Even if my employer is supportive, I still have to live somewhere. Eat in restaurants. Have a doctor."
But it was one line of Keating's in particular for many people that got right to the heart of the matter:
"...[W]hy am I having to worry about all of this at the age of 16?"
And on Twitter, people were profoundly moved.
Truly one of the bravest acts I've ever seen. Imagine being a trans middle schooler and speaking up to the likes of… https://t.co/p3Z8nFIv3I— Grace Freud (@Grace Freud)1616027987.0
I'm proud of teens who are doing the work I was too scared to do. https://t.co/BX29ghl0ny— Appalachian Trans Man (@Appalachian Trans Man)1616010420.0
@HRC Hey Stella, nice to “meet” you! Thank you for stepping up and sharing your voice, there are many who can’t or… https://t.co/rJOdIE8M8v— Bradley Pierce @ 🏠 (@Bradley Pierce @ 🏠)1616021454.0
@TransEthics This country is broken when we have literal children being forced to beg for their lives in front of h… https://t.co/d9wFqErBeR— Granddaughter of Grief (@Granddaughter of Grief)1616008754.0
@HRC Well done Stella... I'm a transgender woman who is married and has raised a family. We're just regular people… https://t.co/Jbe0CPl04E— Billie Maupin (@Billie Maupin)1616006401.0
@HRC @JazzJennings__ Hi Stella I'm proud of you for all you do. Don't let anyone discourage or stop you from being… https://t.co/s9HPiCskPF— Lesa Shiminski (@Lesa Shiminski)1616015380.0
Stella Keating is a hero. She's doing a brave thing that will make the lives of other people better at the cost of… https://t.co/BtcJ3hUjLf— Rebecca Green (@Rebecca Green)1616012074.0
This young woman is just FANTASTIC! Thank you Stella for so bravely and beautifully representing my son. https://t.co/PijSlU2YDV— Dale 🇺🇸🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ (@Dale 🇺🇸🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️)1615997076.0
Keating's words came as legislators in states across the country are seeking to pass draconian laws targeted directly at transgender young people and children, particularly student athletes.
This is despite a recent poll finding 7 out of 10 voters support the Equality Act.