Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, has long been an outspoken advocate on Capitol Hill for LGBT equality, from her early support for lifting the ban against openly-LGBT Americans serving in the military, to advocating for anti-discrimination and anti-bullying measures.
For her, it’s personal.
In an HRC video, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who earns a perfect 100 in HRC’s Congressional Scorecard, speaks movingly, as a mother, about her transgender son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen.
“Every child is precious. God has formed that child,” Ros-Lehtinen says. “Support is so important.”
“[We] just want our children to be healthy, to be safe, to be happy.”
But Ros-Lehtinen also talks about the reality of having a transgender child, of being a parent, along with her husband, Dexter, “worried about safety, worried about bullying.”
“We can’t sugar coat it and pretend violence doesn’t exist,” she says.
Unfortunately, facts back up Ros-Lehtinen’s concerns. Too many LGBT young people lack crucial support from their families, and instead are rejected, leaving them at risk for homelessness, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, who is married and lives in Los Angeles, in an interview with his mother on Telemundo last fall, succinctly described his parents support after he came out as, “family is family and love is love.”
His mom says she couldn’t be prouder of her son and his own activism on behalf of LGBT people. “He’s so happy,” she says, “living an authentic life.”