The Forum for Equality is pleased to post the testimony on SB 155 from one of our most valued partners in equality. Thank you very much, Dylan, for your bravery and honesty!
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
My name is Dylan Waguespack, and I’m here today representing Louisiana Trans Advocates, an organization working to provide social support, education, and advocacy for and by transgender Louisianans throughout the state.
Every year, I come to the table on this bill or some version of it. At this point, all of you have heard the legal and rational and historical reasons why this legislation is necessary and important. So earlier when I sat down to try and figure out what I would say today, I decided I’d do something a little different this time.
Almost all of you know me. I’ve worked on campaigns, lobbied on other issues, provided untold amounts of research and communications help to members in both chambers.
I’ve been coming to this building for five years. I work hard, and if you’ve had the opportunity to work with me on something, you know that my work product is good. I’ve worked on legislation that has made its way in front of each of you several times, more often than not prompting an immediate and unanimous yes vote from each of you.
I’ve lived in Louisiana all my life. I grew up in New Orleans. I graduated from Ben Franklin High School. I live in St. Gabriel now, on a little farm squeezed between Elayn Hunt Prison and Price LeBlanc’s cow pastures.
I’ve been a Christian all my life and every night before I go to bed, I pray to the same God as each one of you.
Every single person in this room today is more alike than different.
I’m nervous speaking to you today. Public speaking doesn’t make me nervous. But I am because I’m sharing something with all of you today that I’ve never spoken out loud to more than three or four people in this building. I’m transgender. I was born female and have medically transitioned to male under the supervision of professional health care providers.
This isn’t something that I hide. In every other aspect of my life, it’s something that almost all people know about me. Many of you already know this because my medical transition started after many of you met me. And one of the things that makes me proud to be a part of this process is that among the majority of those of you who do already know this about me, it hasn’t been a problem.
But still, I’ve had to squeeze out every last drop of courage in me to come to the table and say it. And that’s because in this building, every year, I’ve witnessed testimony from fellow lobbyists and members of the public and overheard conversations between members of the legislature and others who work in this building that conveyed contempt and disgust for people like me. I’ve even overheard a house member, one whom I’ve never spoken to nor spoken a word about, telling a colleague that they shouldn’t work with me. To avoid me. Not speak to me. Specifically because I’m trans.
I’m young. I’m 25 years old and have decades of work ahead of me, work that I hope keeps me here, in Louisiana. And before coming to the table today, I had to consider deeply what impact sharing this in the public record would have on my career and my ability to do the work I love and whether that outweighed the hope that I could change even just one heart today. Ultimately, I had to put my faith in God and in each of you and tell the truth. Because it’s that important.
It’s that important for the people who are like me but who haven’t had as easy of a path to walk as I have, as great of a support system. People who live in fear, who have to choose every day whether to be honest with the world about who they are and risk discrimination, harassment, and violence or to hide their true selves and have that eat away at them for the rest of their lives. There’s a reason that more than 40% of transgender people attempt suicide. And it’s not because of who we are, it’s because of the way the world responds to people like us.
I believe that most people are mostly good. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to summon the strength to come here today. And I don’t believe that anyone here would make a hiring decision or fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Most white people aren’t racist and most men aren’t sexist, but all black people have experienced some form of racism and all women have experienced some form of sexism, big or small. I’m not here to tell you that our struggles are exactly the same, because they’re not. And I’m not here to ask you to solve all the world’s ills. We’d definitely need a few more special sessions if we set our goals that high. But I am asking you to do one small thing to help change one small piece of the world. I’m asking you to pass this bill onto the Senate floor. Because I’m one of the 70% of Louisianans who thinks it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate in the workplace against gay or transgender people.
I want to thank Senator Carter for again choosing to be a voice for people whose voices have been quieted by fear and intimidation. And I want to thank all of you for allowing me the opportunity to add mine to his, on behalf of people like me throughout the state.