Over the weekend, Annette Bening received GLSEN’s Advocate Award at the LGBTQ+ organization’s annual Rise Up L.A. benefit. The four-time Oscar nominee lived up to the award’s name, delivering an impassioned message to anti-trans lawmakers.
“You do not want to make this momma mad,” said the actor, whose son, writer Stephen Ira, is trans.
Bening is “incredibly proud” of her trans son and wants to use her platform to protect trans rights.
“Most of my career, I’ve been a pretty private person,” Bening said in her acceptance speech, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “But over the last several years, I’ve changed my mind.”
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Bening explained that she now feels it is her responsibility “to speak out and speak up as transphobia has invaded our government at the local, state, and federal levels.”
“It is hurtful. It is shameful. And it is being used as a tool by the far right to rally their base and turn out the vote,” she said.
To illustrate the devastating effects of anti-trans legislation that has been passed in states across the country recently, Bening told the story of a friend with a trans child who was forced to flee Texas after early 2022, when Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who support their transgender children for child abuse if parents allowed their kids to access to gender-affirming medical care. (In March 2022, a Texas judge issued a temporary injunction, blocking the directive. But this past June, Abbott signed a bill into law banning gender-affirming care for minors.)
“Imagine being brought up on criminal charges or reported to child protective services because you are just trying to do what is best for your child,” Bening said. “It got to the point where my friend gave her young trans child a burner phone and an explicit set of instructions to follow in case child protective services came to her school to question her, which they have been allowed to do without the parents present.”
Bening described her friend, now in California, as a “political refugee within our own country.”
“Think about that for a moment,” she said. “The government should not be getting in between parents and children when it comes to private matters like this.”
The story Bening told is a dire one, but it is not unique. Across the country, families of transgender kids are fleeing states that have outlawed gender-affirming care for minors, seeking sanctuary in states with laws guaranteeing access to such care.
Still, Bening closed her speech on a hopeful note and a call to action.
“There is one thing I have always known,” she said. “Love and compassion have to lead the way. Let it lead the way towards radical understanding and acceptance, let it lead the way toward queer joy and celebration, and let it lead us all the way to the ballot box.”