I read the news that Jackie Evancho is going to perform during the Inauguration of President-Elect Donald Trump. And my heart sank.
As my readers probably know, her older sister Juliette is a young trans woman who has bravely stood up to hurtful anti-trans discriminatory policies in her school district and is working with Lambda Legal and other trans students to sue the Pine-Richland School District. Those policies, including restricting who can use what bathroom and locker rooms, are interfering with her sister’s education as well as disrupting the lives of all LGBTQ folks who have been effectively ‘targeted’ as second-class students. KDKA reporter David Highfield filed an exceptional story, including an interview with Juliette and her mother.
I realize Jackie is young and certainly going to make mistakes and errors as she grows up. I’m sure her career has an impact on family life for good and for bad – growing up with a famous sister probably isn’t easy for her siblings. All of that is understandable and not really something that public needs to scrutinize.
But this? This, dear readers, is one of the most appalling examples of family rejection I have ever encountered. I’ve been blogging about the LGBTQ community for 11 years and have documented hundreds of stories about people from this region and beyond. I’ve written over a hundred blog posts about the violent deaths of people in my community, most of whom are young trans women, and the vast majority of those people experienced some degree of rejection by their family. Some reconciled, some did not. The most ‘popular’ blog post I ever wrote was about the tragic murder of a young white trans woman in Ohio at the hands of her own father.
It is one thing to toss your teenager out onto the streets because they are trans and it is another to actually cause them bodily harm or even death. Those are experiences youth in our community know far too well. It is a terrible reality that we struggle to acknowledge as adults, much less address.
But to literally use your talent to validate and normalize the election of the most avowedly anti-transgender Presidential Administration in the history of the United States is another form of family rejection so profound, so fundamentally awful – that I cannot find other words to describe it. This not only hurts her own sister, but all of the trans youth in our nation – all of the LGBTQ youth. Is that really worth whatever payment and exposure this provides? Is it worth jeopardizing the court case – what LGBTQ person or ally would donate now? For this tangled mess of allegiances?
Michelangelo Signorile has an excellent piece up on Huffington Post Queer Voices about why he cannot remain friends with Trump supporters. This absolutely applies to remaining fans of Trump supporters. The phrase that resonates with me is this “being forced to reflect on the magnitude of what you’ve done.”
Vice-President elect Mike Pence thinks Jackie’s sister, Juliette, and me and most of the people reading this post need to be cured. It is such a serious thing that Pittsburgh City Council actually took legislative action to protect those of us in the City, especially youth, from being forced into reparative therapy. A Trump pick for Supreme Court doesn’t bode well when and if Juliette’s lawsuit makes it to that level of appeal. Repealing existing federal orders protecting some trans rights under HUD and the EEOC as well as other federal agencies will be very hurtful to us.
I’m sure that Lambda Legal has advised the family on all of this. I’m confident Jackie’s sister and parents understand the political landscape. So I hope all of you understand the political consequences of her decision to perform.
I mention Vice-President elect Pence because he’s not Donald Trump. He’s the one with an actual legislative record on LGBTQ rights. And, honey, when you decide to sing for President Trump, you are singing for the whole Administration. Her lovely voice will send a clear signal to Americans that she supports this Presidency. She might even convince some people that Donald Trump isn’t so bad and that’s a very dangerous thing to do.
President Trump presents a clear and present danger to her sister and to the other trans youth who do not have the support of their parents and the economic privilege that her family has. And, frankly, her career is not as important as their safety and well-being.
Some have suggested that this is a strategic decision by the Evancho family to get access to Trump about the school policies; others suggest Jackie might use this platform to send an anti-Trump message. I think both of those suggestions are ridiculous. And neither will be served by the impression that Jackie and her family are actively supporting President Trump and Vice President Pence. That’s what people will see. And remember. And use to validate their own feelings. If Jackie can embrace the Vice-President who wants to ‘cure’ her sister of her gender identity, why shouldn’t everyone else?
Others have told me that no one turns down an opportunity to perform at the White House. Well, that’s also ridiculous. There are plenty of tactful ways to gracefully turn down almost any opportunity in the world, especially when it is about your own sister.
But while we are on that note, I can’t help but think back to June 2015 when Latina trans activist Jennicet Gutiérrez did use her moment at the White House Pride Reception as an opportunity to make a statement to President Obama. She was soundly criticized, booed and harsly condemned from all corners of the LGBTQ community. Even as recently as yesterday, she is harassed about this.
So if an adult member of our community is punished for speaking out to our ally President, do we really want a 16-year-old performer involved in some sort of covert intrigue plot to salvage executive orders under Trump? Come on. It is creepy enough to have a 16-year-old young woman on stage in the first place given the President Elect’s history of sexual assault and objectification of women.
I hope with all of my heart that Jackie’s family will realize that this is a bad decision that probably won’t help her career while definitely hurting her sister and every trans youth in this country. And I really hope that the Evancho family hasn’t secretly supported Trump all along. If that’s the case, we’ve all been fed a lie and shame on everyone.
There’s a lot of outcry about this decision on Facebook and beyond. I hope it gives Jackie and her family a chance to “to reflect on the magnitude of what you’ve done.” Before it really is too late to disavow.