Defending Democracy: LGBTQ Activism and Power in 2024 Panel – SXSW REPLAY

On March 9, 2024, TransLash Media founder and CEO Imara Jones moderated a panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas: Defending Democracy: LGBTQ Activism and Power in 2024 featuring Charlotte Clymer, Robin Maril, and Ricardo Martinez. Access the Instagram Live replay and transcript below:

By Daniela “Dani” Capistrano for TransLash Media

TRANSCRIPT: Defending Democracy: LGBTQ Activism and Power in 2024

IMARA JONES: [sound dropped]…Violence against our community. We don’t only mean physical violence, but we mean policy violence. We mean cultural violence. We mean political violence. And so what we do is we center the humanity of trans people as an antidote to the ignorance that is being used as a factor to attack trans people. And I think increasingly from the time that I started TransLash in 2018, and now to the team that we have, every single year that I’ve done the work, the importance of the work to me becomes clearer and clearer. And that’s because the attacks on trans people are not only being used as a vector to undermine the humanity of trans people, but it is also being used to undermine our democracy in some really key ways.

Learn more via #AntiTransHateMachine:

IMARA JONES: And that those key ways include one, having to have an issue, especially in light of the Dobbs decision that simply is to keep their core voters involved.

Right? And we’re specifically talking about white male voters who are actually super voters because they show up almost in every single election. They show up in 90% of elections, and it’s because of the way in which they are constantly fed the story about their centrality and importance.

The other thing that’s really important about these attacks is the way in which they are a test run for how you can put together a series of laws that exclude an entire group of people. And that once you see what that successful mix is in one place, you begin to apply in a series of others and expand who it applies to. This is essentially how we got Jim Crow laws in the South. There were experimentations in various states about how you were going to push African Americans out of public life. Once that kind of cocktail laws became crystallized, you then saw them replicated across the South.

And I think that it’s really hard that if you’re not trans to dismiss and to not pay attention to, or to not believe that what has happened to trans people is important or could impact to you. But if I were to blindfold you all and teleport you to a country and say, in this country, in this space, schools don’t have to be safe for children in this space. People can be denied healthcare because of who they are. And, and in this space, children can be separated from their parents solely because their parents love ’em.

If I were telling you that you would assume that we were essentially talking about either Stalin, Russia in the 1930s, or you talking about 1933, but I’m talking about the United States of America in 2024. That is the country that you are living in. And roughly 18 states have passed some combination of laws that target trans people and trans kids.

And one of the things that you’re going to hear from this incredible panel of people who have been dealing with this for years; who’ve been sounding the alarms for years; who have been kind of in their own way having a various experience with this; is to understand that this is just the beginning.

We’re just kind of on this voyage together.

And so what we want to do is to link you in ways that you can understand the connections here between what’s happening to LGBTQ people and everybody else, and why it matters, and why we matter, and why no matter where you are in this moment, why you should care deeply.

Because I’ve never read about an authoritarian movement that starts with one group of people and just stops there. That’s not how authoritarianism works, right? So responds to the societal change and meaning to systematically reconfigure power in that society so that those people who feel threatened maintain that power. It’s just true. I mean, look at Putin, it’s like a classic example. It’s not that part. And one of the first places that Putin started was an attack on LGBTQ people.

It is also why, for example, at almost every single speech that Putin gives to the country, he has an attack on trans people specifically. You would think that he had bigger fish to fry than that, but he makes it a central talking point. But we don’t want that to happen. So we’re gonna hear from everyone on this panel, coming from a variety of backgrounds and spaces…

So first up is….Ricardo Martinez, who is the CEO of Equality Texas, the statewide organization that is devoted to survey the rights of the community of all LGBTQ people in the state of Texas, who will have a lot to say about how some of these big trends that I discussed are actually playing out in the state where you’re in, which I think is really essential.

The next is Charlotte Clymer, who is the editor in chief of Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, her GLAAD nominated blog, which is now Substack that you could all find there. And Charlotte has a really extensive background, not only as a writer and a journalist, but also on the front lines of some of these issues serving in rapid response capacities at HRC, which was not the easiest place to be over the past. Whatever, whatever. It’s almost eight years.

Last one….Robin Maril, who is professor at Willamette University and also works at HRC on policy. So please give them a round of applause.

Authoritarianism in Texas

IMARA JONES: Okay, Ricardo. I’m wondering if you can tell us about how you see authoritarianism playing out in Texas. What are the things that most concern you about that? And what can we learn about the way in which organizations like yours and Texas are respond, but can be applied to other states who face similar voices as those hearing in Texas?

RICARDO MARTINEZ: Can y’all hear me? Okay. So I am often not the aware of good news because I just know the reality of what the landscape feels like, what it is for LGBTQ people, especially here in Texas. So I want you to look at this picture [projected on screen] and remember that regardless of what I tell you, the resistance in Texas is strong. In 2023 during the height of the legislative session, there were thousands of people that constantly showed up to the capitol to defend the humanity and the rights of LGBTQ people.

This is thousands of people marching towards the capitol, and it’s something that happened last year. So, I know that especially for those of you who are not residents of Texas, it might not get internalized that there are people here who are fighting constantly because we’re often counted out, right? Texas is counted out so, so, so frequently. But the, the reality is that there are thousands of people who are working to protect our democracy. So if it gets heavy, if you are listening to what we’re saying, there is hope. There is always hope, and this hold onto this, okay?

But the reality is authoritarianism shows up in this way. And I wanted to show you in an image because I think it’s incredibly important to show you just the mark increase in terms of the attack that LGBTQ people have been facing here in Texas.

So if you look at the chart in 2015 [projected on screen], there were only 12 anti-LGBTQ that were here in Texas. I don’t wanna say that that’s normal because, that’s D.C. always, right? You see that it increases just a little bit of 2017. And then there’s a regroup in period between 2017 and 2019, where the bathroom bill, the bathroom bill failed here in Texas in 2017. And our opposition had to regroup to figure out what is the best anti-LGBTQ message that we can proliferate across the country to attack and to erode. The progress that has been made over the course of the last 50 years, then after an election year that was incredibly difficult in 2019. We see the, the result right in 2021, where 76 anti LGBTQ bills were year in Texas. And at the time, in 2021, that was accomplished over one regular session and three specialists session in Texas. That was a record in 2021, the most LGBTQ bills file for any state legislature in the history of the United States in 2020.

We then set the record again in 2023, where there were over 140 anti-LGBTQ bills filed. But this wasn’t done across three special sessions in a regular session. This was done in one regular session, which meant that from, and I think I remembered this correctly, February 16th through the end of March, there was a hearing an anti-LGBTQ bill at almost every single day.

That type of increased marked increase against us is one of the many ways that we are experiencing the hostile landscape that has developed here in Texas. But that’s not the only way. The legislative attack is just one of the very many ways that we’re experiencing oppression here in Texas. The weaponization of state agencies is another way.

One of the things that started here in Texas, it began to proliferate across the the country, notably in Florida. If you remember back in 2022, the Attorney General released a letter stating that caring for your trans child and providing them with the necessary healthcare that they need to thrive was considered child abuse. The governor then mandated the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate loving parents of trans kids as child abusers to disrupt their lives and really terrorize it. It’s not the only time that the Attorney general or the governor has shown a clear [muffled] against trans people. It has been replicated more than 50 times since 2019.

White Supremacy, Radicalized Anti-Trans Parent Groups

The infiltration of our safe space: when you have all of this misinformation, when you get people to believe that it’s okay to attack LGBTQ people, and you start seeing the infiltration of our safe spaces, right? So we often see people showing up to drag brunches, to our Pride event, and we’re talking about white supremacists who are armed and who intend to do as harm. You’re seeing vigilantism and intimidation. We’re talking about we exist everywhere, right? Number one, the rural, suburban, urban and Texas, we’re everywhere. We country and we city, right?

But those who are practicing courage in local community are being intimidated by folks who are harassing them and discriminated against them all across the state. That’s another way that it shows up. Radicalized parent groups is another way. Oftentimes, the fight is not only in the legislature, it really comes through school boards. And you’re seeing parents show up you know, championing anti-LGBTQ policies, mostly policies that make conditions for queer and trans young people that attempt K-12 public schools really, really dangerous.

Anti-Trans Disinformation Campaigns

And this is all facilitated ’cause of this disinformation campaign, right? And this is one of the, the formulas that they used, that have worked time and time again, over the course of the last 50 years. They take something about our community that the majority of Americans wouldn’t necessarily understand. They take that knowledge gap, and they insert disinformation and misinformation, right? In hopes that that misinformation and misinformation causes hysteria. And when they achieve that hysteria, they use that hysteria as a reason to legislate against us. And then the discrimination happens and is perpetuated.

But one of the things that I wanna underscore that I think Imara said really well is that these over recycling tactics that have been used time and time again, so we compare it, is one of my favorite Instagram handles [muffled]. So if you don’t follow them, you should. Because it simply shows you that the 1970 Islamophobia language is the same language as being used to uplift 2020 transphobia. So I just want folks to remember that this is recycled, and it is effective. And there are ways that we can push back, right?

But all of this combined, the seven bills that passed last year of the 141 that were introduced, they create conditions that make accessing healthcare more dangerous, navigate every life, more dangerous. But there are things that we can do as far as equality in Texas, we are, but we know that we don’t have institutional power, right?

We don’t have the governorship, we don’t have a lieutenant governor who is supportive of our issues. We don’t have a minority in the house or the Senate, but we do have the people, 75% of Texans believe that discrimination against LGBTQ people are, is wrong, but we’re fighting apathy at the same time that we are fighting.

Tips for Fighting Anti-Trans Bills

What’s happening at the capitol? People are feeling this as urgently as they need to, right? And what you can do is, number one, stop racism, stop homophobia, stop transphobia in your daily lives, right?

Number two, you get to plug into the work when and if you can, and when, and if you have time, I know that advocacy’s a journey, and we’re all in very different spaces within that journey, right? Education is incredibly important. So if you don’t necessarily know much about the issues and what we’re fighting, education is where you begin following organizations like ours, the Transgender Education Network of Texas, the Texas Freedom Network, ACLU Texas, HRC and Lambda Legal, all those organizations that are championing LGBTQ rights here is important.

And then following their actions, right? And encouraging folks to vote, because it matters.

It matters because the attention here is to shrink civic engagement spaces so that people feel so they don’t feel empowered where they stay at home and do nothing and continue to perpetuate the sense of inertia that really allows them their overall intent to really actualize.

So, mobilize, educate, engage. I’ll stop there.

IMARA JONES: One of the things that I, I wanted to ask the audience before going to Charlotte: raise your hands at the following numbers. How many of you think that we’re just trans people? How many of you think trans people are 10% of the population? How many people think that trans people are 5% of the population?

One person, 2, 3, 4. How many people think trans people are 1% of the population?

Okay. How many people think that trans people are less than 1% of the population?

So on a good day, a really, really high count of day, trans people are almost 1%. It’s either 0.8 or 1% population. But you see the number of bills in the number in, in Texas alone dealing with this relatively small group of people. And nationwide, it is 400 bills.

We need 400 bills on clean water, we need 400 bills on housing. Like, there are a lot of other things that impact people, but I think it is the reason why you can, like Ricardo is framing this as an attack, is because you place this much energy into a small number of people. It can’t be other than that, there’s no problem that you’re actually solving for. And the volume kind of tells you.

I think the other really important thing is that we know what Ricardo’s saying, that they actually have a name and we actually know who they are, right? It’s actually not a mystery. One of the things that we have at TransLash is an investigative unit that produces a podcast called the Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality, which looked into the people, the money, the organizations, the politicians, the media network that’s driving this.

And the thing that you should know is that none of this is an accident.

None of this is the conversation that we’re having about trans people and LGBTQ people is designed to look as if it is organic, but it’s anything but: it is a structured campaign that is a result of years of focus group testing and planning on their part to set up the time and the conversation in a way that it’s happening.

So when we say the they, it’s not, you know, how people say when, well, they are putting tolls on roads. Who’s the they? The they, the invisible They, the they we use as a plural in this case, because we actually know who they’re, and there are a lot of ’em.

Transphobia: A Threat to Democracy for All

IMARA JONES: Charlotte, given where you sit and the fact that you as a writer observe the big trends that are happening, and at HRC were on the front lines, when the Trump administration began to weaponize many of these many of these rules and policie, and even before then, kind of the long tail fight, I’m wondering what strikes you about what you’re seeing and the way in which it increasingly threatens democracy?

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: That’s a great question. You know, first of all, thank you all for being here for this session. I know you could be so many other places because this is such a great festival conference. We’re really happy that you’re here to learn about Fight ahead. I am from the great state, Texas. I grew up here in Austin. And if you had told me when I was 14 that I’d be South by Southwest talking such a illustrious company about LGBTQ equality, I, I’m not sure I would believe you. So it’s really, really great that we’re having this conversation. [Robin] and I worked together for the better part of three years at the Human Rights Campaign during the Trump administration.

And I think the biggest difference is during that time, the Republican Party, Donald Trump, that really, the, the conservative movement overall was a lot more reticent about their goals.

They weren’t so open about wanting to do what they did. And the big difference now is that they are very much standing quiet part out loud you know, just from the avalanche of legislation that’s happening across the country to the Heritage Project or Heritage Foundation that just released Project 2025. Robin’s gonna talk more about that, but it’s, it’s just really out open. They’re not being shy at all at what with what they wanna do.

And what’s frustrating is that so much of political media either seems exhausted or desensitized to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that’s coming from their party on day one. If, if Trump were to win, on day one of the executive orders that would come down our community, are numerous you know, first of all, the trans military ban would get reinstated within the first hour after he takes the other office, guaranteed, guaranteed.

Every LGBTQ mention on every government website will be wipe away. That’s what they did, by the way, when he was first elected. Absolutely the second time we out. And that’s not even close to being the worst part. We’re going to see legislation that will probably I would say utilize diversion therapy and prevent it from being decriminalized anywhere in the country. We’ll definitely see efforts to ban trans people from using the restrooms of our choice spaces or being having basic protections in the workplace despite the Supreme Court’s ruling board. And, and that’s another thing too. And I, I think this is really, really important to get across. Same-sex marriage as a momentous a moment as it was as, as much it was a landmark in our history. It really obfuscated the overall struggle of LGBTQ people.

There are two rights that we have at federal level: marriage and employment protections. Both of those are Supreme Court rulings, and both of those were made under Supreme Court that was very different than it does now. There are votes on the court to overturn same sex marriage.

And, and you know, I think that there are some folks who disagree me on this respectfully, and that’s fine. I do believe same-sex marriage will be overturned in the next five years, that is my personal opinion. I believe it’s gonna happen. And when it does happen, what we’re going to see is immediately we’re going to see a lot of families whose lives are affected very directly. And what’s worse is that this is not a theoretical thing. It’s not a hypothetical. Republicans are saying they want to do this….the fact they that they want to do away with non-discrimination protections across the board.

I wanna end on this. I think this is really important. When you get a few drinks into some progressives who are not LGBTQ, and you really start talking to ’em, they will let on that they believe that at least we’ve made permanent progress. And what they mean by that is that essentially white gay men are now protected, right? White gays that have faced discrimination, they’ve been assimilated into the larger society framework.

Folks, no one is safe. No one is safe.

I don’t care who it is. No one is safe. Your whiteness will not save you. Being a man will not save you. Your checkbook will not save you. It might delay me inevitable, but it’s not gonna save you. Being a military veteran and gay is not going to save you. Going to church. I go to church myself every Sunday. It’s not going to save you. Jesus might save you. No. But Jesus is not gonna save you from the policies of the Republican party. It’s not gonna happen.

So if you have relatives or friends, or you, yourself are a white case, cis man, and you believe that they’re perfectly protected, you are surely mistaken. They’re not stopping with trans people. They’re not stopping with abortion. They’re not stopping with anti-Blackness. They’re not stopping with anti-immigrant policies. They’re not stopping with anti-Muslim policies, not antisemitism. They’re not stopping with any of these things. They’re going after everyone who doesn’t look like them, think like them, be like them. We have to understand that all of these things are linked together. This struggle is not going away. We have to figure out how to work together and fight this behemoth that is coming our way. We can do it. We can do it, but we have to know the threat that’s coming.

We can’t stick our heads in the sand and pretend that it’s just gonna go away. We wish it away. So you know, I’m really glad to be here and it’s so great that y’all are here to, you know, learn more about this. But you know, when you go back home tonight, or when you’re at your next family gathering, you hear your family member who bless their heart is a very misinformed heart. It is your duty to have a hard to heart conversation with them, to let them know there are publican party coming after all of us. And we need to recognize that thread and address it directly.

The GOP is now a Christian Nationalist Party

IMARA JONES: I think two things that are really important, and it kind of sets up the question for Robin. One, I think the reality is, and this is a fact, this isn’t, this isn’t conjecture anymore. The Republican Party is a Christian nationalist authoritarian party. There is no longer a right wing of the Republican party. The right wing are the party. And we have to disabuse ourselves that we’re using a term that no longer represents a party that, that most people in, everyone in this room actually at some point grew up with. And still faith exists. That party is gone.

When you have the speaker of a house who is a Christian nationalist and a dominionist, which is kind of an extreme form of Christianity, when you have a person [Trump] who says that on day one, they’re gonna be a dictator whose policies have we guided by what we’re gonna talk about Project 25 at the Heritage Foundation, which is an organization devoted to injecting Christian policy into the federal government.

I think it’s just really important for us to name that the Republican Party is a Christian nationalist authoritarian party in 2024.

It’s, it’s just as it’s plain as day. I think the other thing that’s really important here is that we saw in the Trump administration just how quickly and systematically were basically a two year period. They turned the entire federal government on trans people in through through executive orders dealing with the military and health and education and housing because they didn’t want there to be equal access to housing and successful lawsuit. And so things can change really quickly.

And so within this, if, you know, the federal government is shaky, if the states are shaky, if the Congress is shaky. Just this year we began to have votes in the Congress that are anti-trans as a condition for her to support the new speaker. Marjorie Taylor Green demanded that anti-trans bills be on the floor, and they were, and they originated. And so if the states are kind of, can be shaky and federal government, depending on who’s there can be weaponized overnight at night and the Congress the same thing, that then leaves one last possible bull work against all of this. And that’s the courts.

And Robin, you have experience in dealing with the analysis of the court system and how we have used it to advance or, or short rights. But then maybe there’s some, some dangers in of that.

And well, as well as speaking about what happened through, through Project 25, which would be a combination of these executive orders and laws.

An Anti-Trans Supreme Court: By Design

ROBIN MARIL: Yeah. I think I share Charlotte’s concern about the future trajectory of the court. And it is not, this is not a place that I was at even three years ago. So this is why I think I am now more concerned about the status of the court. And I think that the repeal of Roe v.Wade is absolutely just to the start of what this court is willing to do, and what they were brought on to do, and what was part of I think a very strategic plan for the past 30 years to remake the courts, to undo Roe v. Wade, but also to incorporate these, the traditional family moral values that we saw come up with Reagan.

Now in modern America, we’re employing really outmoded methods of interpretation. You know, we’re citing founders from 1789 who incorporated slavery into the constitution, right? The constitution and the framers of 1789 were not a liberatory, did not have a liberatory idea. And we’re gonna have this same result when we apply that mentality to modern problems. I think that with that there is so much power in naming what is happening.

And while I’m so glad you brought up the 1930s, and I think for a long time I hesitated to say the words authoritarian and fascist in the context of the United States. But we are there, and I think looking at the way just across history, LGBT people, but gender non-conforming people and women and immigrants and people of color have been really brutalized and used as scapegoats by authoritarian government.

And they use the same language. Because the same language that we see in Germany in the 1930s around erosion of family values and the degradation of society, and all of this is linked to, they’re using the same playbook…Oklahoma is signing in an executive order designed to “protect women in Oklahoma, “right? And that’s how it is being sold. But the language he’s using is, but it is actually about transgender people and children, right? This is what this is about, right? It is about Nex Benedict.

And instead what he’s saying is, this executive order is going to “stop the erosion of our society and preserve the very essence of being a woman,” right? And we’re putting it into state policy, right? And I think the big part of this is that it is just as Imara was saying, this is based on fear, whether that fear is real or manufactured right? And regardless of whether that fear is insecurity around economics or just fear of the future and have change, what we have seen in the 1930s in Germany and we see now is that when rights are expanded, when opportunity and access to opportunity increases for people who have not traditionally had it, that is when the majority population starts to say, right, I am afraid of this.

And when you are afraid of someone, then the politicians can look at you and people become problems. And when people become problems, they become really convenient responses to real problems like inflation and unemployment and war, right? And the failed war on drugs, picking on a trans kid in Oklahoma is a lot easier than responding to the fentanyl crime. Fentanyl crime, right? It’s a lot easier. And it also from an individual community perspective pushes us in our lives further from the community and political life, right? We are distanced and we’re alienated from actually being able to exercise our political power when we are over and over and over dehumanize and pushed away. And I think what’s important is that fascists are exploiting preexisting hate and bias. This isn’t new in the United States, right? Trump’s an invent racism. He exploits it. And that is the problem.

Because when you give them room to exploit pre-existing hate and bias, and you validate it and you give, you get everyone together in a state and you say, it is okay to say these things. In fact, it is your patriotic duty, and then everybody else becomes a threat to national security and health, and then we can undermine reproductive rights, then we can undermine affirmative, affirmative action, right? And we can undo same sex marriage, then we can pick our next benefit, right? Because we space to do that. So I think as dark as it is and as darker as it might become, I think there are things that we can do both as a community and personally by just living. Because I think one of the things that I have sort of come to terms with is to the extent that what the far right Republican party wants is conformity and an easy sort of populace to push around, right? One of the most radical things that you can do is to be your god damn self. Mm-Hmm, ready. That is an action that we can take every day. And for those folks, like in my home state of Oklahoma where it is not safe to come out, I think part of it is still holding on to what makes you you, even if it is unsafe for you to come out, you can still maintain and say, I am worth it. And that can be an antifascist as well. So thank you. I’m sorry the video didn’t work, but I hope that it was, I reenacted it and gave,

IMARA JONES: One of the things that’s important, I think, is that, you know, we can lose side by talking about the trends that are happening and the various laws that are taking place, the way that institutions are responding. But I think that we always have to put in mind as well, that like, this is an issue of life, right? The anti trans climate due to legislation passed in Oklahoma and the ability to deny people healthcare. They’ve had clinics dealing with trans youth shut down you know, subject greatly. Other things directly contributed to the murder next benefits. We know that in states where, even where these laws are just discussed, that the cause to suicide headlines by trans and queer kids to shoot through the roof, that just the conversation can lead to violence in all its forms. And a South Carolina legislator who introduced an anti-trans bill in that state told me that that is also part of a plan.

That is a saying that they know that the conversation itself can have an impact even if the bills don’t pass. So they’re very aware of this and they’re very aware of this violence and all over, you know, here, there are stories. There are people that I have talked to who have to decide what their families are going to do when these anti-trans laws are passed. You know, are they gonna have to move? One case where they, I know where they split the family, it they lived in, in a school district and a place where they had a child with special needs, great school for child for special needs. So one parent decided to stay with that kid, the other person decide to move to another state with their trans teenager so that they can get gender affirming care. There are cases in Florida and people in Florida that I know where families have done the same thing, where they’ve had to stay in the state because of work, but then transfer custody to the mother sister of a 16-year-old trans girl so that she could be at a place where she could get the healthcare that she needed and be safe.

And this is America.

This is not, this is not some, you know, speculative fiction fantasy. This is America right now. But I think as well in all the moving too, we have to give people hope before we ask, ask you all to wa with your thoughts and questions. And Robin, your advice was for people to live and to be and to confront authoritarianism just based upon who they are. Charlotte and Ricardo, I’m wondering what is your advice for how to respond positively in this moment? And what, if anything, is giving you hope that the worst thing that happen? I wanna hear from Ricardo first. .

RICARDO MARTINEZ: There’s a lot of things that give me hope. I, you know, oftentimes the, the scariest messages are the ones that proliferate, right? But there are are good things that are happening here in Texas. So, for instance, one of the things that gave me a tremendous amount of hope recently was there’s an there’s a Democratic House member in house district 1 46 who was running for reelection, and she was primaried by a queer Black woman. And this is a, a district in Houston. The incumbent was really anti GTQ in very many of her positions in 2023. And she came very close to losing her election with Lauren Ashley Simmons actually getting 49.5% of the vote and just narrowly, narrowly missing out on winning outright and becoming the new state representative, right? And that a tremendous amount of effort and community to unsee an incumbent who has been there for years.

And I think that’s the energy and the power that we often forget that we have in holding people accountable. Lauren actually is going to win. Yes, she’s, she’s going to win because she has so many people doing what they can in moments when they can to propel her to victory, right? Because she’s depending on community, she’s depending on small donors, she’s depending on community organizations that are aligned with their values of shared prosperity, right? ’cause We all have the right to live out our fullest potential. That gives me a tremendous amount of hope that in a place like that we can really galvanize a community to, to create some change. There are thousands of people that turned out in 2023 to set a record at the legislature. So at the height of SB 14, the anti-trans healthcare ban bill that ultimately ended up passing nearly 3000 people showed up to the capitol to drop a card, which means the formally note your position against the bill.

And that’s the third. And most people that ever in the history of when the, the legislature has kept records, the third most amount of people to ever show up against to, but what ended up happening during that time was that their voice was suppressed, right? But despite their voice being suppressed, you can’t change the history. You can’t change the record, right? And we are, as we are living, writing that record to point back the history to say that we did something right. And that the young queer kids that continue to show up and be vocal and unapologetic about who they are, giving me a tremendous amount of folk TikTok, but they do . And what, what they’re learning is how to use their platform for good and using your platform for the common good, and remembering that we all have to, even if we don’t recognize our humanity and do what is right by Texas, what is right by the us it’s watching so many people do that and commit to doing that time and time again despite how hard it has been.

That gives me a tremendous amount of hope.

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: Yeah, I, I’ll be quick because I know, but that’s in here. But it, in the nature of my work I’ll sometimes meet a new colleague or a new client usually always wonderful. I, I never have an issue with clients, but every now and then, I’ll be one who’s significantly older and they have a, a child in high school or what have you. And I can tell that they’re very excited. They don’t say, I can just tell they’re very excited to get home and, and tell their kid “I’m working with a trans woman. How about that?” And it’s very sweet in a way, it’s very endearing. And I don’t have the heart to tell them that their kid doesn’t care. Their kid doesn’t give a shit. You know, a Gen Z young person will tell you to your face that you are a new liberal sellout and they’ll use your correct pronouns when they do.

That’s the future. That is the future. You know, our generations are coming up. These kids are better informed more empathetic and more assertive in their fight for quality in any previous generation. Time is on our side. Time is absolutely on our side. It’s really bad right now. But the fight we’re having is whether the quality’s going to be achieved 20 years from now, or it’s gonna be achieved 40 years from now, or 60 years from now. But it’s inevitable. It’s coming. We’re just kind of go through a lot of struggle to get there.

IMARA JONES: I hope you’re right. I always say that like, you know, well everyone, this is not an uncommon notion. You know, our, the world universe bend towards justice. But I think it, it is been, it doesn’t been on its own. No one’s going to, it is in everyone’s interest for things continue the way they are. And the only way that it doesn’t is if people make a change.

You know, like you want to make sure that the kids that you all were talking about can have the world where they can be and make that change, but that responsibility falls on adults. That’s not children’s work. It’s not the work of kids. It’s our job. It’s our job for that in order it to happen to happen. But we have some hope. We have some hope even, even in the darkness.

So can we just take maybe three questions from the audience? We’re gonna go over a little bit.


IMARA JONES: Do you mind coming to, you know, I can hear you love your voice.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Hello, my name’s Zach. I’m him, his I have the great joy and pleasure of working with a lot of trans youth in Washington, DC as part of the, this course together Youth course on Jen out have wonderful I, in those interactions though, something that I often hear from them is that despite being part of a community that is affirming ’em at every given opportunity, they’re still scared and they’re still even more scared for the people that they know who are not out, who feel that they can’t come out because it may not be safe at home or what have you. So I guess my question is twofold.

One what would the message be that you would give to those kids who are too afraid to come out right now? ’cause they’re noticing all of this that’s going on in our society.

And I guess my second part of that question would be what would you suggest that we do as just individual members of the community to make it so that those been more safe?

RICARDO MARTINEZ: I mean, I just think coming out is a journey, right? I put myself in the shoes of a teenager who was just scared to come out, like, so was I, right? And I think it was finding my c my people feeling safe, taking small steps and acknowledging that I wasn’t ready just yet. And then just taking my time and not having a timeline for it until I was, I was ready to, to shadow through the roof right now here with Mr. Gay Texas , something that I was part of my story when I was 16 years old–

IMARA JONES: Especially being from New York–

RICARDO MARTINEZ: –and what we do as individual community members, I think hold space for their braveness and courage when they are ready. As much as we can you know, follow their read of their message and finding when you can if you can, an advocacy showing, yeah, there’s, there’s no right way to come out that doesn’t exist.

CHARLOTTE CLYMER: There is a wrong way to respond to someone coming out and that is to not ask them what they need at that moment to make sure they have all the resources they need, that they have ear. You know, there are bad days for folks that have just come out or there’s bad days for all of us. But, you know, especially for folks who have just come out because it’s you encounter things that you think you would encounter forms of discrimination, moments from violence that people, and what I personally, I think what what especially helps period is knowing they always pass someone they can talk to who’s been there before, who can hold their hand in the roughest parts of that journey.

IMARA JONES: I mean, I think really quickly more than coming out, we want them to stay alive. So they need to come out when they can do so safely, period, full stop. It’s not even a question. The second thing that I would say to them is that there are people working really hard to make sure that they can have that opportunity.

And that’s something to communicate as well, like that there are thousands of people who are marching in Texas, for example or in Florida to the state capital. But there’s a lot of work being done to make sure that they can.

And I think thirdly, what you can do is not only be supportive of people in this moment, but also think about what you can do to make where you live and operate your community safe for these kids. So if there’s every ever an anti-trans conversation that’s gonna be at the school board show up if you, if there’s going to be a debate locally in the state legislature, whether you’re not in D.C., you know, you make your voice heard. Try to create a space for also kids who are queer to be able to come together, because that’s also a huge thing.They not only wanna do that online, but spaces. So there’s lots of things that you can do immediately where you are to have an impact.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1: Thank you. ….What are the things that we can do other than just being ourselves and visible, to refocus the conversation with the stuff that we really need to fix?

Because frankly, I don’t think any of us wants do anything to them….So what are your suggestions?

IMARA JONES: Yeah, I, I’ll take that…I mean, I think that one of the most under appreciated parts of the marriage campaign was the encouragement for people who are gay to talk to their families about marriage. It’s a huge push to do that. And I think that in this moment, in this environment, that in your families or friends or even workplaces, it may be reticent to talk about this, but that’s literally one thing that you can do, is to begin to have people interrogate their own thoughts about this through conversation.

Like you are, you personally do have that power, right? And then in telling your own story and how the environment relates to you, that’s something that you can do in a lot of places. And that’s a really powerful thing.

I also think that in general, as a part of that, people underestimate the power of making their voices heard. You know, one of the things that happened, and you guys have done this really successfully, but in other states, one of the reasons why they pass anti-trans laws is because they can be the consequence-free, that no one’s gonna care. And so, to the degree that you can engage people around you and also make her a voice heard, that actually really helps a lot.

ROBIN MARIL: Yeah. And I was just gonna say that I think that also going, kind of holding politicians in the media accountable when they take the bait and talk about non-issues instead of the real issues, I think demanding that we spend time talking about unemployment….I think it’s important. I think naming what’s happening is really important.

IMARA JONES: Well, I think that that’s all that we have time for, sadly. There are other sessions that are gonna use this room….But thank you all so much.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


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