SPONSORED:

Transgender teen Stella Keating receives viral praise after testifying before Congress on Equality Act

Sixteen-year-old Stella Keating is garnering viral praise online for her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the Equality Act during a hearing about the sweeping civil rights legislation. 

Keating, who is a high school sophomore from Washington state, first began her virtual testimony on Wednesday by calling the opportunity to testify for the hearing the “honor of her lifetime” before introducing herself.

“I’m 16 years old. I’m a sophomore in high school and I just got my driver’s license, which was a great day,” she said smiling. “Like a lot of teenagers, I have a lot of interests and the list will just continue to grow.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m really into hiking and playing chess and also the ukulele,” she said. “I love history and one of my goals is to become a civil rights attorney. A couple of months ago, I started my first part-time job, and, if you ask my parents, I spend too much time on my phone.”

She then introduced parents, whom she said were next to her off-camera. Her mother, Keating said, is on her school’s board and has spent time running a program on youth leadership for elementary schools and her father owns a local bicycle company.

“One of his biggest passions is to help anybody who wants to ride a bicycle have the opportunity to do that. Both have taught me the value of hard work, how important it is to be respectful, the responsibility we have to give back to our community and be of service of others,” she said.

Keating then spoke about movement she launched three years ago called the GenderCool Project, which she said aims to “help replace opinions with real experiences meeting transgender and nonbinary youth who are thriving.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

After explaining the program, Keating took the opportunity to reintroduce herself to lawmakers, this time disclosing that she is transgender. 

Keating said she is testifying to represent “the hundreds of thousands of kids, just like me, who are supported and loved by their family, friends, and communities across the country.”

Through her GenderCool campaign, Keating said that 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. 

“I’m humbled,” she went on, “by how some of the biggest companies on the planet are lifting up our voices and listening so that they can become places where all young people, like me, want to work. They recognize that we are the nextgen workforce.”

“They want to attract the best talent, and they know that my generation is creating a country where everyone belongs,” she said. “But that’s the good news and here’s where things fall apart.”

Currently, Keating said she lives in a state where she has equal protection under the law, but now, the high school student says she has begun to look at possible colleges to attend.

“And all I can think about is this: less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law,” she said.

“What happens if I want to attend college in a state that doesn’t protect me? Right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states. How is that even right? How is that even American? What if I’m offered a dream job in a state where I can be discriminated against?” she said.

“Even if my employer is supportive, I still have to live somewhere. Eat in restaurants. Have a doctor. And why am I having to worry about all of this at the age of 16?” Keating continued. 

Keating said these questions and her story help underscore why it “is so important” that Congress past the Equality Act, a civil rights bill that would expand protections for education, housing and employment for LGBT individuals.

The bill passed the House in 224-206 vote earlier this year and now awaits consideration in the Senate.

“I represent America’s future. We are the next generation of small business owners. Software engineers. Scientists. Teachers. Nurses. Presidents. And for my generation to achieve all that we will, we just need to be able to live our lives,” she said. 

The testimony drew viral praise from many on social media.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Keating is the first transgender teenager to ever testify before the U.S. Senate.

In her remarks on Wednesday, Keating said, after college, she plans to become a civil rights attorney and later run for office.