Sadie, Age 11, Asks Obama Why Inaugural Address Didn’t Mention Transgender People Like Her

Though gay rights activists celebrated Obama's historic inaugural address, one little girl wondered why the president didn't mention the transgender community.

  • Share
  • Read Later
YURI GRIPAS / REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a reception to observe Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month at the White House in Washington June 15, 2012.

When Barack Obama spoke of “Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall” in an emphatic call for equality at his second inaugural address Monday, gay rights activists rejoiced. The Stonewall reference, a nod to the infamous gay rights demonstrations in 1969 at New York’s Stonewall Inn, along with Obama’s calls for “our gay brothers and sisters” to be treated equally under the law, made history.

But Sadie, an 11-year-old transgender girl, felt that the president had left a few people out. That’s why she wrote an essay, “Sadie’s Dream for the World,” published on the blog TransGriot, where she explained the struggles that transgender people like her face.

(MOREBeing Transgender Is Still Widely Misunderstood)

“Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends,” she wrote on lined notebook paper in her fifth-grader scrawl.

Sadie transitioned from male to female in kindergarten. Though she’s been discriminated against at her school, her mother told the Huffington Post, she “isn’t shy or ashamed of who she is.”

For transgender people, it’s important to make their fight for equality recognized, and ultimately, achieved. Mark Snyder, communications manager for the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, told TIME that it would have only helped the transgender cause if Obama had mentioned the community by name.

“Transgender people and gender nonconforming people continue to face extraordinary barriers to accessing healthcare, employment, and basic safety,” Snyder says.

(MORETom Gabel of Against Me! Comes Out as Transgender)

Although transgender people weren’t included in the inaugural address, the Obama administration has made a slew of advances for their rights, American Civil Liberties Union legislative representative Ian Thompson told TIME. Last year, the White House endorsed the Student Nondiscrimination Act, an anti-bullying bill that would prohibitdiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public elementary and secondary schools. And after a landmark ruling, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now protects transgender employees from discrimination.

Thompson says that the transgender community should celebrate Obama’s address as a step in the right direction in their fight for equality.

“It’s important to look at the speech in historical context,” he says. “It would not have even been imaginable four years ago.”

MORETransgender People: The Next Frontier in Civil Rights

22 comments
MaryWhitney
MaryWhitney

Obama dont give a hoot about anyone Why he has to mention a person sexually any how.This will bring a change to the next gerneration if we have one. The children of today will be totaly confused.

KelleyWinters
KelleyWinters

Thank you, Sadie, for this wonderful essay and for raising the question on the minds of many trans people and our families and allies. President Obama has previously spoken of LGBT and transgender issues by name. In his 2008 campaign, he stated,

     "...I ask for your support in this election so that together we can bring about real change for all LGBT Americans."

In a 2011 proclamation, the President said,

     "The story of America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union."

In light of historic erasure and scapegoating of trans people and trans issues within the dominant gay and lesbian civil rights movement, many of us in the trans communities share Sadie's concern about the President's retreat from inclusive LGBT language to just "gay."

TransNewsWire
TransNewsWire

DabizLegend: thank you. Your comments help people see the complete BS trans women have to put up with every day just because of an unusual medical condition.

TransNewsWire
TransNewsWire

President Barack Obama spent much of his inauguration speech talking about equality. He made a point of mentioning Stonewall and later said "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well."

This is a wonderful supportive statement to the Gay, Lesbian and Bi part of GLBT, but as is so often the case, leaves Trans People out. This is just one more example of "the silent T in GLBT".

When the story of Stonewall is told much is made of the Gay and Lesbian people standing up to police, the role of trans people is often omitted.

Trans people were left out of the gay rights movement which surged forward in the 1970s. Gay people it seemed felt that no one would ever accept them as "normal" if they let those "transvestites" tag along.

Now 40 years later, when the sitting president of the United States declares the equality of all gay and lesbian people in an inauguration speech, the "T" once again falls silent.

Trans women are murdered in hate crimes at 40 times the rate of Gay and Lesbian people. They have to fight for rights as basic as using a public washroom. They should have been explicitly mentioned in any speech about the need for equality.

DabizLegend
DabizLegend

Y'all are making mental illnesses look like lifestyles lol. An 11 year old transgender? Are we still on Earth? REALLY!?

ShanaJuly
ShanaJuly

Uh, sorry Sadie he had you covered...give the man a freaking break...

joeberman334
joeberman334

Why didn't Obama mention heterosexual, slightly overweight, Jewish converts from Alabama who currently live on the West Coast?  I'm offended.

manicsquirrel
manicsquirrel

Maybe, in a way, the president did mention transgender people. He mentioned "Stonewall". The Stonewall Riots were initiated by people we would now consider transgender. So, when the President spoke the word "Stonewall", we do not know if he was speaking with the understanding that it was a "gay" event, "trans" event, or a "gay" and "trans" event. It is my belief that Stonewall is an important historical event for both gay and transgender people.

MarkSnyder
MarkSnyder

In my interview for this article, I also felt it was important to remind folks of a few points that did not make it into print. 1. The Obama Administration has been the most supportive of any before it. 2. Transgender people were at the Stonewall Riots, which were mentioned in the speech. 3. Vice-President Joe Biden recently said transgender rights were "the civil rights issue" of our time.  I am personally inspired by how outspoken Sadie is at such a young age, and was also very inspired by the inaugural speech. - Mark Snyder

LaurelFenengaParker
LaurelFenengaParker

How were transgender people not included in the inaugeral address? Would the President have had to mention every single medical condition, race, creed, color and personality difference in order to be inclusive? 

I realise the child was just 11, and might not understand what inclusive means ( ALL means ALL, not this one and that one and this one and that one), but the letter should have prompted educating her on that and not used to spin some negative message.  This was not a newsworthy piece and only serves to divide us further. 

DabizLegend
DabizLegend

@TransNewsWire Transgender women are lying to themselves and society. Get over it. And homosexuality is demonic possession at its finest.

Dani_Uke
Dani_Uke

@joeberman334 Because, unlike slightly overweight Jewish converts from Alabama, transexuals cannot marry who they want, they can't go to school without being discriminated against, and they can't live a normal life without being constantly told they shouldn't be the way they are. 

ShanaJuly
ShanaJuly

@MarkSnyder Well, then Sadie should be told what the President said AND she needs to understand the importance of him even mentioning LGBT in an inaugural speech...so be grateful not hateful and expect him to single out certain Americans.  I think this makes no sense....

illyriah
illyriah

@LaurelFenengaParker The only negative message I see is from you. This is quite newsworthy. It's not only interesting, but it gives a voice to an 11 year old girl as well as a group of people the desperately need the publicity. 

 While gay people are trying to obtain the right to marry, trans people are not only unable to marry, but they're also denied necessary medical care.  Their medical needs have been repeatedly declared medically necessary by the AMA, APA, and many others. Yet, they cannot get insurance coverage for what they require. They need help in a big way. They need people speaking up for them. 

Unlike gay people, trans people do not so easily blend in. This has caused discrimination on a scale which is frighteningly high. So after being coverage for their medically necessary condition, they are also denied employment and housing. They suffer indignities on a daily basis. Teenagers trying to get help from their parents are thrown out of their homes. The very negative effects of their condition combined with the abuse they suffer leads to an average suicide rate of 41% 

In short, they need help -- badly -- and now.

But please don't take this the wrong way. This is not some attempt to win the Oppression Olympics however. Yes, there are other people that need lots of help too. Adding that "all" shows the character of the POTUS. But for many reasons, trans people are considered part of the same community gay people are in. The LGBT grouping -- yes, that T is for transgender. So if the president mentioned gay people, it would be logical for him to mention trans people as well, and that is in addition to their urgent needs I already touched on. 

The institutionalized discrimination against trans people is even felt by an 11 year old girl. That in itself should speak to you about the importance of this piece.

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn

@LaurelFenengaParker Exactly right! This 11 year-old's complaint is completely groundless -- and the press making a story out of it is completely shameless.

KelleyWinters
KelleyWinters

@ShanaJuly       >even mentioning LGBT in an inaugural speech<

The President did not mention LGBT. He only said, "gay."  President Obama has previously spoken of LGBT and transgender issues by name. His retreat from language that includes transgender people is disappointing to many trans people, who have been erased and marginalized within the dominant gay and lesbian civil rights movement. I urge you to actually read Sadie's message. There is absolutely nothing hateful in it. This remarkable young woman makes perfect sense.

LaurelFenengaParker
LaurelFenengaParker

@illyriah @LaurelFenengaParker The comment you're responding to wasn't to mine, it was one in your head. You simply used me as a scapegoat for something that obviously bothers you so much you were unable to digest what I said. 

You're absolutely correct. Transgender people have special medical needsi, that have not been acknowledged nor studied to any degree by the medical community, let alone addressed. I agree with everything you said about this tragic gap, and I'll add what you didn't mention - the fact that for decades all the medical community has done for children born with indeterminate sex, is assign a sex (usually female) to an infant who can't speak for itself. Obviously that sets that child up for a life long battle, and it's nothing short of insane that it was ever allowed to happen.  I wonder how someone like Troy Aikin would handle this challenge!

Trust me, I'm on your side in that I think these things need addressing - and that yesterday is better than today. I also agree (or at least I think I agree, since you implied but did not say outright) that lumping transgender individuals in with gays is an awkward fit - and while it might convenience the transgender population in some ways, it also creates some problems because the groups don't share all the same problems. It requires constant explaining and clarifying. I'm sure you know, you can hardly find any two transgender individuals who agree on the subject - how can you reasonably expect more of outsiders, many of whom have never even heard of this subject? 

Which is precisely why it is beyond absurd to expect this to come up in a presidential inaugeration. If DOCTORS are so unfamiliar with transgender needs that they're systematically failing to treat individuals or treating then horribly, and trangender individuals (and the few professionals who specialize in treating them) cant agree on anything, how do you expect 90% of the population to get their head around it on top of everything else that goes on in an inaugeration? 

I'm sure Obama, knows the difference, and was not snubbing LB&T's but chose to use the most universally familiar ( and accepted) term  for LGBT. You may not like the term but it beats a chain of letters no one gets right, and everyone knows it's an umbrella term. Who honestly thinks Obama only spoke for male homosexuals? What he did was no different from when I say to my family  of 2 males, and 2 females) "Hey Guys, what do you wat to do for dinner?" 

 I think it's really sad that whatever adult put this 11 yo on display didn't instead encourage a more optimistic view - give her some skills that will help her get through life with a shred of happiness. Hell, she's got challenges enough, without being encouraged to think like Debbie Downer when there was absolutely no call. Why didn't her parents give her some perspective - talk about how far we've come - jeez, do you realise how far Obama has come in four short years? Four years ago, he said he was just not comfortable with the whole issue, but was trying. Now he's campiagning for 100% acceptance! Don;t you think a LITTLE credit is due?  Why not encourage her to have some faith that things WILL get better for her, instead of letting her feel hopeless and then parading it, so that her identity becomes that of a victim? Especially when she is NOT a victim - at least not a victim of the president or the inaugeration.

At 11, a child still needs to feel the world is as safe a place as their caregiving adults can make it. Crimey, their world is rapidly changing. Puberty is hitting (and I'm sure that's extra fun if you're transgender) . If she were my child, my focus would be on makin geras UN-suicidal as  possible., not making her a political icon.  I can't help wondering  how else this girl's parents take advantage of her. It's disturbing to me how much advantage everyone involved ( including in the comments) is taking of this CHILD, and deserves to be protected from viewing the world as a hopeless desert where everyone, including  president, betrays her. 

I recently read an article about the percentage of babies who are now thought to be born with characteristics of both sexes is dramatically larger than ever suspected. Well, plenty of people ( including, it seems, the entire population of the Christian right) had no idea ANY babies were born this way. And you want to turn the inaugeration into a surprise party??? WHY? So you can alienate as many people as possible? 

I could not disagree with your last paragraph more. The issue is vitally important, and that is precisely why it should be handled with care. Campaign the medical community to begin serious studies, so that, on the unfortunate but inevitable day that this becomes an (UGH) political topic, your side is armed with the necessary facts. What you and the 11 year old girl are begging for is a bigger battle than you already have. I know it's hard to hear your time hasn't come yet, but it hasn't. Why? Sadly, for the same reason you're so anxious to resolve it NOW. It's because so much has been suppressed for so long. You may have been dealing with this for what seems like forever, but the general public hasn't and needs time to digest and warm up. Keep in mind that 60% of the population have a temperament type known as Guardian, because they'll guard the status quo, no matter how awful it is. By shoving a new idea at them, all you'll get is a defensive response. 




MarshalAlanPhillips
MarshalAlanPhillips

@epitygxanwn It's hardly shameless; it's a very legitimate letter from an 11 year old; and the president does need to specifically address transgender people at some point during his administration; the public needs to be educated about this specific issue; no need to harm others lives through lack of understanding of this particular human condition.  Good for the child in writing!

LaurelFenengaParker
LaurelFenengaParker

@edgeofidaho Thank you. You bring up what actually prompted me to comment on this subject, when you said that advancing gay issues advances trans issues. Before reading this article, I read one by a Black man who resented that Blacks weren't specifically mentioned. Never mind that nearly all the performers were Black, and hey the PRESIDENT is Black, the man felt slighted. Woe is me, we've been dumped and all Obama will care about now is gays and immigrants. He actually said that Obama was elected by Blacks. All the rest of us are chopped liver, I guess. I just had to comment, because the Black community on the whole is very negative about gay rights. It's equality for me me me, and to hell with every one else. No, sorry, your race has come a very long way and it is time to start giving back, not standing in the way of the next group. 

So then I saw this article, and here is the identical poor pitiful me sob story, again by someone who was NOT excluded, and she's a child - and her behavior is being PROMOTED in the press. It's disgusting. And it is certainly not in her best interest. Nor was the man's. What is in our best interest is offereing a hand to the next person. 

For the record, I am not Black, and I am not LGBT. I don't even have relatives that are Black or LGBT, but I get equality, and I believe in treating others the way you want to be treated.  

Obama did not address any of the issues I deal with - I'm a second generaton atheist and the mother of gifted children. You want to talk about discrimination? Gifted children are prohibited from certain kinds of medical care - for disorders they are highly prone to. Only children with delayed milestones can get certain kinds of evaluations, even though children with advanced milestones are equally prone to the same disorders  And by denied, I don't just mean insurance companies won't pay for it, I mean doctors refuse to prescribe evaluaitons and specialists refuse to see them. Or treat them, in most cases, if they ever do get diagnosed. People who would deck someone for making fun of a child with Downs think nothing of picking on gifted kids for being 'different'.  In most gifted classes, 100% of students are on meds for ADHD, because so many teachers believe all gifted children this condition, when in fact, they deal with a high rate of depression (which has the exact same symptoms as ADHD) and also squirm from boredom in most classrooms, because their most essential needs go unmet ( often because we're bending over backwards to meet the needs of kids at the opposite end of the spectrum, at the expense of all other children). Parents who seek help for any of this are typically ridiculed and accused of bragging. 

Obama didn't say a thing in favor of the issues that affect my family.  in fact religion came up at least 20 times during the inaugeration, as it does during every inaugeration even though we are, by law, a seperation of church and state country. But I got a message the Black man and the transgender girl didn't, and that was that it is time we all changed our attitude and treated each other with respect and as equals. How can anyone ask for more than that? 


edgeofidaho
edgeofidaho

@LaurelFenengaParker @illyriah holy crap... a well-thought out post on trans people on an internet message board? Pinch me! I agreed with pretty much everything you said, especially the Debbie Downer bit. Kids like this do need a ton of support and have to learn to thicken that skin too. It's a tough life, and the best that can be said is that it *is* getting better. Obama has done a lot, and I have hope he'll help get ENDA through in this term. And Stonewall was started largely, by trans people. So I count it. The way I see it, advancing gay rights does advance trans rights, we just follow a little slower. And although gay and trans are really utterly different causes and not at all the same, a lot of us straight trans guys (and girls) do often "pass through" the gay community as we come to grips with ourselves and prepare to come out and transition.

edgeofidaho
edgeofidaho

@epitygxanwn Try living with it, then talk about it. That kid's going to have have to live with it all her life, likely. Can't blame her for hoping for a little change to come her way.

epitygxanwn
epitygxanwn

@MarshalAlanPhillips Newsflash: just because you cannot figure out what is wrong with it, does not mean it is "a very legitimate letter". It is not. It is runaway "identity politics".