Teen Vogue: Marie Newman and Her Daughter Evie on LGBTQ+ Rights, the Equality Act, and Family

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Representative Marie Newman (D-IL) felt sick to her stomach while watching the results come in on election night 2016. She stayed up late and followed along on three different computer screens and her television as it became clear that Donald Trump would be the next president.

Eventually she turned in, hoping for a miracle that would not come. “I’m a super optimistic person, and every day [I] get up and it’s a fresh day. I never let a bad day before affect the next day, ever, but I was a hot mess,” Newman tells Teen Vogue.

She was worried about her daughter, Evie, who, just two years earlier, had come out as transgender and begun her transition. “All I could think about is this individual that I believe to be literally a piece of garbage in every way was going to roll back all of Evie’s rights,” Newman says. “All of our economic rights, all of our health care rights.”

The next day Newman canceled her meetings and sat at home in her pajamas trying to think of what she could do about Trump’s election and protecting her daughter. That’s when, she says, she decided to run for Congress.

“I started realizing that I was kind of pretending to be somebody that I’m not, and I realized that I’m really not comfortable with being perceived as a boy.” – Evie Newman

Evie, now a 20-year-old sophomore at DePaul University, had doubts at first. “I was very much disillusioned by the Trump election and that made me kind of skeptical of electoral politics as a whole,” she recalls, speaking to Teen Vogue over Zoom from her north Chicago apartment in a joint May interview with her mom. “I didn’t really understand why she was doing it, because I don’t think that a single person alone could really change the structures of power that exist in this country.”

Newman lost her first campaign, in 2018, in a hard-fought primary election against former Rep. Dan Lipinski, a conservative Democrat who opposed abortion access and consistently voted against LGBTQ+ rights. But she tried again in 2020, when she narrowly defeated Lipinski in the Democratic primary (by 2,816 votes), and then bested her Republican opponent in the general election.

With her win, Newman joined a small but vocal — and growing — list of federal lawmakers who have trans people in their immediate families. According to Newman, there are six representatives with close trans or nonbinary family members, including her Progressive Caucus colleague Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

The advocacy of those members of Congress is getting tested by a fresh wave of transphobic legislation being proposed and passed in states nationwide. After years of failed pushes for restrictive bathroom bills, it seems the GOP has found a way to break through on trans issues, using trans kids as its cudgel.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced at the state level during this legislative cycle, including attempts to restrict the access trans young people have to everything from sports to trans-inclusive health care. The ACLU found that more anti-trans bills became law in 2021 than in the previous 10 years combined. 

Republican-controlled legislatures in at least seven states — Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Montana, and West Virginia — passed new laws banning trans girls and women from participating in girls and women’s school sports, and Arkansas became the first state to ban transition-related care outright, such as puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy, for trans teenagers.

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