Two months ago, I had the chance to participate in Opening Ceremony’s creative and timely “Pageant of the People” for New York Fashion Week. At the show, I was asked about what it means to be an American. In response, I answered:Being an American is an action, an ideal for us to strive for. It’s a constantly perfecting union that with each generation expands our still too-limited definition, “We The People.” Four years ago, I came out as transgender. At the time, I worried that this country didn’t have a place for me and that my dreams and my identity were mutually exclusive. But that is changing. And in the end, we must never be a nation that says there is only one way to love, only one way to look, and only one way to live. We must be a country that truly believes that “out of many, we are one,” a country where everyone has the freedom to live openly and equally. A place where you can be gay, you can be trans, you can be black, Muslim, a woman, or anything else that our society says is mutually exclusive with dreaming big dreams, that you can be any or all of those things and still be seen, still be valued, and still be respected as the equal humans we all are.
At no time in recent history, has this description been more at stake. As voters head to the polls, we are not just choosing between two candidates with policy differences, we are also deciding whether our country is big enough for the beautiful and rich diversity that has already made our country great.
For the last two years, our country has been subjected to a nearly non-stop slew of insults and hate from Donald Trump. From his rhetoric and policies towards undocumented residents, to his proposal for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States, to his treatment of women throughout his life, we know that a Trump presidency poses a very real threat to marginalized people across the country and around the world.
As a transgender person and LGBTQ advocate, I feel this threat acutely. Despite (barely) saying the letters “LGBTQ” at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump has endorsed nearly every single anti-LGBTQ position possible. He has committed to signing legislation legalizing Kim-Davis style discrimination, endorsed the ability of states like North Carolina to discrimination against transgender kids, and promised to appoint anti-equality judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court and federal bench. Perhaps most startling, in effectively his first governing decision, Donald Trump chose someone to be his running mate, Mike Pence, whose entire national profile was largely built on being anti-LGBTQ.
Hillary Clinton, on the hand, has presented the most progressive, inclusive vision of any major party presidential nominee in history. In her first 100 days, she’ll introduce comprehensive immigration reform. She’ll work to ensure full federal equality for LGBTQ people like me through passage of the Equality Act to ban discrimination in the workplace, housing, and the public marketplace. And will work to fix our broken criminal justice system.
In the midst of this election and all the hate that has been spewed, it’s easy to forget that despite Donald Trump’s best efforts, our country is on an inalterable path towards justice, equality, and dignity for all. How soon and how fast that change comes relies on us.
And when you vote this November, you are not just making clear which candidate you support. You can also send a powerful message to the undocumented person fearing deportation, to the Muslim-American who wonders whether the country they love loves them, too, and to the LGBTQ person who worries that their dreams and their identity are mutually exclusive. You can send a powerful message to all those people – and more – that the heart of this country is big enough to love them, too.
And that’s why I’m proud to say that “I’m with her.”