Intersectionality Takes Center Stage at Human Rights Campaign Convention

From left: Maya Wiley, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Mini Timmaraju, and Kelley Robinson
From left: Maya Wiley, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Mini Timmaraju, and Kelley Robinson
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The Human Rights Campaign set the stage for a compelling dialogue on LGBTQ+ rights at the Equality Convention, held last Friday evening at the George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C., ahead of the prestigious HRC National Dinner Saturday. Kelley Robinson, the HRC president, moderated a panel discussion featuring Maya Wiley, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, and Mini Timmaraju, sharing their insights on the political milieu and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

Robinson initiated the discussion, underscoring the significant strides made by the Biden administration to support the LGBTQ+ community. “This is the most pro-LGBTQ+ administration we have ever seen. They are walking the talk,” she observed, laying down a hopeful premise.

Wiley, leading the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, accentuated the crucial role of youth in driving change. “We need to make sure that our youth understand the power of their voice,” she said, further emphasizing the notable yet insufficient voter turnout among the young demographic in 2022.

At the helm of Moms Demand Action, Ferrell-Zabala shed light on the interconnected battles against gun violence and reproductive rights. “We can’t have a conversation about reproductive rights without talking about gun violence,” she pointed out, bridging the dialogues between different realms of social justice.

Timmaraju, heading Reproductive Freedom for All, formerly known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, spoke on the critical need to sustain the momentum in fighting for reproductive rights. “We’ve seen a massive wave of engagement in the fight for reproductive freedom,” she noted, urging continued action to safeguard these rights.

The convention took a more personal turn when a George Washington University medical student shared their fears and aspirations concerning legislative measures aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. This sentiment was echoed by the moving story of a couple who felt compelled to relocate due to the hostile legislative environment in Louisiana.

Dr. Jake Kleinmahon, a distinguished pediatric heart transplant specialist, and his husband, Tom, discussed their heart-rending decision to move from Louisiana to New York for the sake of their family. As he was the director of the pediatric heart transplant program at Ochsner Hospital for Children in Louisiana, Kleinmahon’s departure leaves a significant void in the state’s pediatric heart care sector. His story revealed the harsh reality of how adverse legislation can disrupt lives and vital medical services.

The subsequent interview between Robinson and The Advocate shed more light on the HRC’s strategy moving forward. Robinson was optimistic, stating, “We’ve identified 62 million equality voters, people that prioritize LGBTQ+ issues when they’re going to the polls.” This, she stressed, is a significant number, enough to sway crucial votes in favor of LGBTQ+ rights.

Robinson’s earnest words reflected a resolve to harness the collective power of the community. “I’ve never felt more powerful in the wholeness of my identity than I do right now,” she said, adding that the attacks on the community are reminders of its inherent strength.

The conversation also touched on the administration’s dedication to the cause, as President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were slated to speak at the National Dinner on Saturday.

“This isn’t performative. ... He’s committed to our work and to our movement,” Robinson said regarding Biden’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues. Robinson also praised Vice President Kamala Harris for her engagement and advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.

Robinson emphasized the importance of forming an intersectional coalition.

“It’s the winning thing to do for us all to come together across issues,” she said.

This sentiment resonated as a testament to the collective resolve to fight for a shared cause.

The anticipation for the following day’s HRC National Dinner was palpable as the convention wrapped up. The discussions had fostered a sense of unity and purpose, galvanizing attendees for the battles ahead. The dialogue at the Equality Convention reiterated the strength of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in these trying times.

As the Kleinmahon family’s story of ordeal resonated through the hall, the words of Dr. Kleinmahon lingered, reflecting the broader sentiment of the convention: “Explaining to [our kids] that we are going to stay in a state that does not even think that our family should be able to exist just goes completely against what we teach our children and our morals.”

Pictured, from left: Maya Wiley, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Mini Timmaraju, and Kelley Robinson