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Keisling speaks on staying optimistic in the age of Trump
by Matt Simonette
2019-09-10

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While speaking at Center on Halsted the evening of Sept. 9, activist Mara Keisling said that, though the trans community has been beset by numerous setbacks since President Donald Trump came into office, she is nevertheless optimistic about what the future holds.

"The sky will be blue again," she said. "The grass will be green. We know how to do these things."

Keisling is founding executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality ( NCTE ), which has both advocacy and political action committee arms. She reflected on the advances that the transgender community was making before the Trump administration came into power, noting that transgender folks had been making a steady "uphill"progression until 2016.

"I'm shocked and appalled every day that he has power over anybody," Keisling said of Trump.

Keisling further recalled speaking at her alma mater, the University of Chicago. An audience member there asked her what it was like for trans people at the time she was a student in the late '70s. Keisling struggled for a moment and answered that there didn't seem to be any trans people there when she attended school.

"There was nothing to exit the closet into [back then]," she said Sept. 9. "We had no role models."

Among NCTE's major current projects is interviewing Democratic presidential candidates about their viewpoints on transgender issues. They've finished five such interviews and have two more scheduled; the organization expects to have the remaining interviews finished by the primaries, Keisling added. Another major victory for the organization was a successful push to change the International Building and Plumbing Code—which is often used as guidance for state and municipal regulations—to include or clarify rules pertaining to gender-neutral washrooms.

"We can win if we fight together," Keisling said.


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