Collectively, we’ve been telling our daughters for years they can be anything they want to be, but until girls see other girls or women break a barrier that has been created by gender, it’s hard to believe in the possibilities. When Hillary Clinton became the first female Presidential nominee for a major party, we were able to show our girls how wonderfully fragile the glass ceiling can be. Then Kamala Harris became the first female and Black Vice President and more opportunities for women and women of color felt tangible. I was one of the many parents who was able to tell their daughters and son that women can do anything men can do — I also mentioned that they can do it just as well, if not better.
But I felt like I was hiding something from my transgender daughter. Clinton and Harris are cisgender women. The painful truth is that I don’t know if a transgender woman will ever hold the highest position in the country. But Biden, the man currently holding that job, nominated Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, to be his assistant secretary of health. Dr. Levine will become the highest ranking transgender official in the United States Government.
When I told my daughter this news, her first response was, “Donald Trump never would have done that.”
Because of Trump, she knows a lot about what people won’t allow transgender people to do. My daughter knows that transgender people’s existence can be limited, but she hasn’t completely put that reflection on herself since she hasn’t yet been denied anything because she is transgender. My community and I work endlessly to be sure her and all trans and queer kids feel loved and limitless. My daughter is aware of her differences and has insecurities, but she still believes that she can and will do anything she sets her sights on. I believe she is capable; my doubts are in society’s ability to see beyond their biases and bigotry in order for her to get where she deserves to be.
Thankfully, there are other transgender people in positions of political, economic, and cultural power to show my transgender daughter that the adjective which so many people focus on and attack is also celebrated and ignored in the best possible ways. My daughter’s ability to hold a job, have health insurance, receive an education, and to find safe and affordable housing shouldn’t be limited because her gender assignment at birth was wrong. This discrimination should be as offensive to you as if your own daughter was denied basic rights because of her eye color, handedness, or…because she’s a girl.
My daughter is a girl and all transgender women are women, but transgender women’s rights and respect are still far below par when it comes to gender equality, even from cisgender women who consider themselves feminists. We need more representation and acceptance of transgender women in high profile places if folks are going to wrap their affection, or at least civility, around transgender women, men, and nonbinary people in everyday roles and places.
Biden has promised to make his administration reflect the Americans he wants to protect. And whether people like it or not, included in the population are transgender people like my daughter and nonbinary people like me — even though the 2020 Census didn’t include me, I still live, work, and pay taxes here. Congress recently introduced non-gendered language to acknowledge the existence of queer lawmakers, so maybe they’ll also find a way to catch me in 2030. The queer community has had to ask, beg, and demand to have our voices heard. We have had to re-tell traumas, validate our experiences, and prove our worth just to get a seat at the table.
Biden hasn’t just invited gay man Pete Buttigieg, transgender woman Shawn Skelly, and now Dr. Levine to the table, he has invited them for dinner and dessert too. He has asked them to stay and make themselves comfortable. This is what makes Dr. Levine’s nomination so special. Biden sees her as someone who is qualified and will do amazing work. Any discomfort he may have felt while educating himself on LGBTQIA+ topics has improved his ability to make queer people comfortable in his presence because he is able to appreciate our similarities as well as our differences. Biden is able to recognize adjectives that go beyond sexuality and gender identity. As he and others start to trust the smart, capable, and hardworking members of the queer and transgender community, my hope is that others can too, specifically cisgender people who feel threatened when someone else’s identity makes them question their own.
I don’t know if a transgender person will ever become President or Vice President of this country. But my daughter knows that the current President, Joe Biden, values and respects a woman who happens to be transgender to be a part of his team. She also sees transgender people collecting firsts and breaking barriers so that she and other transgender people have fewer ceilings to crack. This adds credibility to my words when I tell my daughter she can, and will, do anything. While I’m glad Biden was smart enough to pick the right woman for the job, I’m more thankful for Dr. Levine’s strength and determination to be exactly what this country needs. She’s going to be amazing.
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