Stella Keating, a 16-year-old high school student from the state of Washington, is receiving widespread praise after testifying before Congress on the importance of passing the protections-expanding Equality Act.
“It is the honor of my lifetime to be here,” Keating said when appearing virtually during Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Equality Act, which passed the House earlier this year. “I’m 16 years old, I live in the state of Washington, and I’m a sophomore in high school. I just got my driver’s license which was a great day. Like all teenagers, I have a lot of interests and the list just continues to grow. I’m really into hiking and playing chess and also the ukulele. I love history and one of my goals is to become a civil rights attorney. A couple months ago, I started my first part-time job, and if you ask my parents, I spend too much time on my phone.”
Keating then explained her mother serves on the local school board and her dad is a small business owner, adding that her parents have taught her—among other things—the importance of giving back to one’s community. Three years ago, Keating helped launch the GenderCool project, a youth-led movement that aims to replace misinformed opinions with positive experiences by way of meeting remarkable children who identify as transgender and non-binary.
From there, Keating reintroduced herself to the testimony panel, noting that she is trans and—like thousands of other people across the country—fears what the future could look like if the Equality Act isn’t swiftly put into motion.
“Less than half of the states in our country provide equal protection for me under the law … right now, I could be denied medical care or be evicted for simply being transgender in many states,” Keating said. “How is that even right? How is that even American?”
Keating, who also plans to one day run for public office, urged those listening to understand the simple fact that “every person” deserves the chance to be excited about their future. Ensuring that, Keating added, also emboldens the future for the entire country.
“I represent America’s future,” she said. “We are the next generation of small business owners, software engineers, scientists, teachers, nurses, presidents. … We just need to be able to live our lives.”
The Equality Act passed in the House in February with a bipartisan vote of 224-206. More than 630 organizations—spanning civil rights, education, and healthcare groups—have endorsed the bill.
Given what’s at stake, Keating’s testimony—which should fill even the most hardened cynic with a sense of hope about younger generations—has been enthusiastically embraced: