President Obama fielded a question from Maria Munir, a young trans activist, at today’s town hall for youth leaders in London. The activist, who became emotional as she came out to Obama as non-binary, asked what more he and UK Prime Minister David Cameron could do on trans rights.
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“I’m about to do something terrifying which is – I’m coming out to you as a non-binary person which means that I don’t fit within – I’m getting emotional – I’m so sorry…”
“That’s alright,” said Obama.
“…because I come from a Pakistani Muslim background which inevitably has cultural implications – and I know that in North Carolina with the bathroom bill people are being forced to produce birth certificates to prove their gender in order to go to the toilet. in the UK we don’t recognize non-binary people under the equality act so we literally have no rights so if there was any discrimination there’s nothing we can do…I really, really wish that yourself and David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people and perhaps you could elucidate as to what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement in including people who fit outside the social norms.”
“I’m incredibly proud of the steps it sounds like you have already taken to speak out about your own experience and to start a social movement to change laws. It sounds to me like you’re on the right track.”
On North Carolina, Obama explained that the “bathroom bill” is a state law and he can’t overturn it unless a federal law is passed that prohibits states from doing these things “and with the Congress that I currently have that’s not likely to happen.”
“We’re taking a lot of serious steps to address these issues within the federal government,” he added, praising the young activist for staying focused and active and telling her to be hopeful:
“You should feel encouraged just by virtue of the fact that I think social attitudes on this issue have changed faster than I’ve seen on any other issue. It doesn’t feel fast enough for you or for those who are impacted and that’s good. You shouldn’t feel satisfied. You should keep pushing. But I think the trend lines are good on this. We’re moving in the right direction. In part because of courageous and active young people like yourself.”