Last night, I attended the ninth anniversary celebration of the National Center for Transgender Equality. The organization gathers each year to celebrate the past year's progress and honor those who are working to secure full equality for transgender people.
The event was my first opportunity to meet fellow LGBTQ activists in Washington, D.C., and I was excited to hear about the creative ways that individuals and organizations are working toward transgender rights.
Gunner Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, won the Julie Johnson Founders’ Award for his deep commitment to transgender rights. Julie Johnson, a Chicago-based transgender activist, spent her lifetime advocating for transgender equality despite the challenges of her own life.
The Distinguished Ally Award was given to Andrew Barnett, Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), the only LGBTQ youth serving organization in Washington, D.C. Barnett talked about his commitment to empowering transgender and gender non-conforming youth to be themselves and fight for full inclusion in their daily lives.
The Service Employees International Union took home the Community Partner Award, which is presented to an organization that has advanced transgender equality through action and activism. SEIU earned this recognition for their outstanding efforts to expand access to health care for transgender people.
Roy L. Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice, addressed the crowd after the awards presentation. He stressed the importance of simple propositions that move our country forward, including statements from President Barack Obama recognizing that all persons deserve equal respect, rights, and protections under the law. Our country is based on these simple propositions for equality, and these are the commitments that will continue to move our country toward equal rights for the LGBTQ community.
For me, the most poignant statement came near the end of the event when Chris Daley, the Deputy Executive Director of Just Detention International, reflected on the importance of this time in history for transgender rights. He highlighted the monumental steps we've taken toward equality in the past four years, and he predicted that Obama's presidency will be remembered as a turning point for transgender rights.
This momentum for LGBTQ rights is exactly why I'm excited to be working for Believe Out Loud at this point in history. Conservative Christians no longer control the conversation on gay rights, and now is the perfect time for progressive Christians to stand up for the the full inclusion of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
As Christians, we believe that all are created in the image of God. I believe that our diversity is a striking testament to the vastness of God's love. Christians are called to extend this vast love of God to the entirety of God's creation, and I believe this involves working to ensure that all people are treated equally under the law. We are called to love our neighbors for this reason: because they, too, are reflections of the divine.
I'm happy to join the Believe Out Loud team and LGBTQ activists across the country as we work together for full inclusion and equality for all people, no matter who they are or who they love.