Watch: Trans Teen Schools Senators on Why Equality Matters

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday March 18, 2021

The March 17 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Equal Rights Act was awash in misinformation and fearmongering when a 16-year-old high school student named Stella Keating gave her testimony via video.

Poised and confident, Keating, a sophomore in Washington State, gave the committee a perspective the hearing had lacked...that of transgender people, the very targets of those speaking against the Equality Act.

"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," Stella said.

Political news site The Hill noted at age 13, Stella created "the GenderCool Project, which 'helps replace opinions with real experiences meeting transgender and nonbinary youth who are thriving.' "

Stella said: "she and her peers have been able to travel across the country to speak in front of thousands in the corporate world, and more through the media," The Hill added.

Companies "want to attract the best talent, and they know my generation is creating a country where everyone belongs," Stella said. "That's the good news...and here's where things fall apart."

The Washington Post reported the teen spoke about applying to college; although she is legally protected in Washington State from discriminatory treatment due to being trans, where she eventually continues her education could change because of absent federal protections.

"What happens if I want to attend a college in a state that doesn't protect me?" Stella said. "Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states."

Stella continued: "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," she continued. "I have to eat in restaurants, and have a doctor. Why am I having to worry about all of this?"

The Washington Post noted that Stella's testimony came after Republican officeholders had insisted that the bill - which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide federal protections for LGBTQ Americans - would open the floodgates to "biological males" taking over girls' and women's sports, and virulently anti-trans writer Abigail Shrier - a proponent of the medically meaningless "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria" narrative, which falsely paints trans youth as simply jumping on some sort of fashion bandwagon - claimed trans individuals are "threats to the safety of other girls and women."

For Stella, who talked about her dream of becoming a civil rights lawyer and possibly running for office some day, the consequences of denying Americans the protections of the Equality Act - which covers everyday areas of life like housing, credit, and education - could be very real.

Stella's testimony was brave and lonesome. Trans rights advocate Gillian Brandstetter, of the National Women's Law Center, noticed Stella was "the only transgender person in the room," the Post reported.

Though, Stella brought something others who testified did not: a calm and confident voice of lived experience.

Watch Stella's testimony in the Twitter post below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.