Why I support Kirsten Gillibrand for president

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I’m Kyla Paterson, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Stonewall Caucus. I very much enjoy leading such an amazing constituency that will build this caucus up for years to come. I’m also the first transgender chair of the caucus.

You may have read on Buzzfeed in January that I support U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York for the 2020 Iowa caucuses. I am not endorsing on the behalf of the Stonewall Caucus—I have given my personal endorsement.

Some people may be wondering why I did it the way I did, or feel that I was too early, but I think it’s time to stand up for fellow women like Gillibrand. I have been following her since her book Off The Sidelines was released and have been inspired ever since.

You all know about the former Senator Al Franken’s sexual misconduct by now. I endorsed Senator Gillibrand not just because she encouraged him to resign, but because she’s stood with survivors her whole career. It would have been out of place if she hadn’t said something.

Being an outspoken supporter of survivors isn’t always easy, however, and Senator Gillibrand is an expert when it comes to dealing with backlash for calling on a colleague to step down. I’ve been impressed with how she is always still fighting for women. She’ll never stop. This high expectation of conduct is what I want in a presidential candidate. I believe Senator Gillibrand will have the best work environment for her staffers, which I believe is a direct correlation with success.

My endorsement wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t say that LGBTQIA+ issues are a huge reason for my support. Since being appointed to the Senate in 2009 (following Hillary Clinton’s appointment as secretary of state), Gillibrand has proved she’s learned about the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. She became the first U.S. senator from New York to support marriage equality. She supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. She’s also been a strong advocate for transgender service members. She brought experts from the military who proved that transgender service members are no different than their fellow cisgender service members.

Most recently Gillibrand’s become a key sponsor of the bipartisan bill to repeal the Transgender Military Ban, so transgender service members can continue serving their country. She also recognized trans women’s existence on International Women’s Day, something many other presidential candidates had not done.

I have also noticed whenever she talks about topics like transgender issues, she’s passionate. When I endorsed her on January 19, she said in her speech at the Peace Tree Brewery in Des Moines, “If I had a trans child, I would want to fight for them. They deserve every bit of protection and every bit of opportunity that every other child in America deserves.” When I heard this I knew I had chosen the right person for the job to be our presidential nominee in 2020. I think she’s got the compassionate drive to win, and I believe she will fight for people like you and me.

Top image: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Kyla Paterson in Des Moines, January 19, 2019. Photo provided by the author and used with permission.

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  • Right Ideas, Wrong Person

    Although I don’t disagree with many of the LGBTQ+ policies that you have laid out in this piece, I believe you have identified the wrong candidate to advocate for these policies.

    As Mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders transformed the city into, what was known as a Trans Mecca. Sanders advocated for the right of gay-rights organizers to hold the city’s first pride parade despite oppositions from both community members and political leaders. Sanders signed an ordinance which gave legal protection to the gay community against housing discrimination. He also signed an ordinance declaring a “Gay Rights Day” in 1983! In 1995 Sanders strongly rebuked Representative Duke Cunningham when he took the floor to attack “homos in the military.” Sanders vehemently defended homosexuals and ripped apart Cunningham for his egregiously insensitive comments.

    Similarly, the actions she has taken that you have noted have indeed been embraced by Senator Bernie Sanders. He supported the resignation of Al Franken. Sanders also supported marriage equality in the same year that Gillibrand came out in support of the policy. He opposed DOMA and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy dating back to it’s inception.

    These last two pieces highlight the real difference between Sanders and Gillibrand. Gillibrand’s staff had to defend her legacy on LBGT rights in 2009 by arguing she has always opposed DOMA and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but felt that there was no opportunity to repeal the legislation under George Bush. This is a clear indication she would not fight on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights when not ‘politically feasible.’ In contrast Bernie Sanders fought for LGBTQ+ since 1983, and even resisted openly bigoted arguments on the floor of the House of Representatives. While Sanders has engaged in political ACTION in the interest of the LGBTQ+ community, even while facing opposition, Gillibrand has only recently been DISCUSSING fighting on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights. The difference is evident, words as opposed to actions.

    The great late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. once said he wished his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” He comments reflect the idea that we should not judge individuals in society for their appearance or the way they were born, both arbitrary methods, but rather judge individuals based upon the actions which define their character. The difference in this case is beyond clear.

    • Thank you for coming forward and sharing your opinion.

      I appreciate the work Senator Bernie Sanders has done for the LGBTQIA+ community. However, as a trans woman, I believe Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has done a tremendous job on the behalf of LGBTQIA+ community that are employed in the military and she’s also fighting sexual misconduct in the military and on college campuses. She also isn’t afraid of talking about gun violence towards the community and has been actively talking about the increasing violence towards trans women of color. Fighting sexual misconduct and fighting for the trans community are big issues for me especially since almost 50 years ago the Stonewall Riots happened.

      Thank you for commenting!