Transcript:

Ayres-Brown: It’s early on, but in your view, how significant is this change in administration in terms of policies and protections for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly trans Americans? 

LeBeau: Nationally, it is hugely significant — just having that tone set from leadership matters so much. And I think what we’ve seen across the country these past four years, is just so many of these more conservative states have used that hostile administration as fodder for all of these horrific laws, and also an excuse to do nothing to improve the lives of their queer residents.

Now, I’ll say that I was so happy to be in Rhode Island during Trump’s administration because we were fairly insulated from the consequences of his administration — but it was just like, what’s it going to be next? I mean, I had friends flee the country because they were so upset and scared about what was going to happen to them under a Trump administration.

Ayres-Brown: The new administration has also vowed to put together a more inclusive team at the federal level. Just this past week, he picked for Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who may become the first openly transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate. What’s the significance of adopting not only new policies, but also increased representation in leadership?

LeBeau: That’s huge, and it shows that queer people have a lot to contribute. And someone like Dr. Levine, she’s immensely talented and she’s done a wonderful job in Pennsylvania, and she’s going to be fantastic in her federal position. 

And also having that trans experience, she’s going to know and understand health care in a much more nuanced way. And hopefully her approach is intersectional, because I think a lot of times, when we talk about queer inclusion, we forget about race.

In terms of health care, queer people have experienced significant barriers to accessing quality, competent, affirming health care every step of the way. And I think having queer people at the highest level is going to bring a level of expertise in there that hasn’t been seen before. 

Ayres-Brown: You mentioned that we’re already seeing some sweeping changes at the federal level. Looking to the future, how or to what extent do you think this will change the lives and experiences of trans people at the local level, say here in Rhode Island?

LeBeau: Luckily, Biden is off to a great start by making it so that federal agencies can’t discriminate against queer people. I think that was what he signed [Wednesday]. So yeah, first day in office, he’s absolutely making queer people a priority.

Certainly I think on a local level, the challenges are still the same. Just getting it through people’s heads that queer people are here, and how do we start to break down these cisgender, heteronormative assumptions about what it means to exist in the world? And that way, anyone with a body that looks any type of way, who experiences gender in any type of way, who wants to display their gender in any type of way, who is attracted to whoever for whatever reason, or maybe not attracted to people for whatever reason — can feel okay, and celebrated, and welcomed. That’s still the work that needs to be done.


Antonia Ayres-Brown is the Newport Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. She can be reached at antonia@thepublicsradio.org