In March 2017, on the first day of spring, Natalie Rose stood among hundreds of Texans outside of the state Capitol. She and the rest of the crowd were holding signs and waving transgender flags, and were there for one unifying purpose: To oppose discriminatory legislation proposed in Texas and to push forward on proactive efforts to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
The All In For Equality Advocacy Day, coordinated by Equality Texas and several partner organizations, was one of Natalie’s first steps into advocacy against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. She has recently begun socially transitioning, and she knows that anti-LGBT legislation, including Senate Bill 6 – the bill that seeks to restrict restroom access for transgender Texans – would have a real impact on herself and the entire trans community.
Later in the day Natalie and several of her friends met with senators and representatives in Texas to discuss SB6 and other anti-transgender legislation. Some of the lawmakers were friendly to LGBT issues, acknowledging to Natalie and her friends that they would fight against such harmful, dangerous legislation.
Others were not convinced – but Natalie worked to help them understand. Politically, Natalie identifies as relatively conservative, especially when it comes to fiscal issues and foreign policy.
She found this helpful when speaking with some of the Texas lawmakers.
“I talked about how I’m conservative-leaning on some issues, and how many other trans people happen to be as well,” Natalie said. “I found it was helpful – just for them to realize that not all of their trans and trans-friendly constituents are all necessarily liberal Democrats.”
As a conservative, raised in a conservative Catholic family and spending her early years in Louisiana, Natalie believes it’s important for supporters of LGBT equality to not automatically close the door on conservative decision makers or community members.
“You see a lot of blanket fear of Republican politicians,” Natalie said. “A lot of LGBT people are afraid of Republicans – but the reality is that many of them don’t have strong views on LGBT politics—especially the younger generation, and they might actually be neutral or supportive. For example, Log Cabin Republicans. It’s important to give people a chance.”
Conservatives, in fact, continue to grow in their support for LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Republicans nationally support comprehensive non-discrimination protections – and a growing number oppose anti-transgender laws that ignore transgender individuals’ gender identity and require them to use bathrooms corresponding to their sex at birth. With greater education, understanding, and a willingness to speak from the heart, those numbers should continue to grow among conservative voters.
* * *
Natalie serves in the Army National Guard in Texas. She joined ROTC in 2010, while in college at the University of Dallas, and commissioned as an officer upon her graduation in 2014. She currently serves as a Quartermaster Officer and is a distribution platoon leader in an engineer unit.
Since high school, Natalie began to see herself as more gender fluid than male, and over the next eight years, she slowly began to understand more and more. While in military training at Fort Lee in Virginia, she traveled to Washington, D.C. a few times and went out, presenting as female. She felt liberated by the experience, safe to be herself.
During the first year of her ROTC training, the ban on open service for gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military was repealed by the United States Congress – and a few years later, in the summer of 2016, the ban on open service for trans members of the military also was rescinded by the U.S. Department of Defense. It encouraged Natalie to see this positive step forward.
“A lot of LGBT people are afraid of Republicans – but the reality is that many of them don’t have strong views on LGBT politics—especially the younger generation, and they might actually be neutral or supportive.” – Natalie Rose
“I’m glad that was knocked down,” Natalie said. “I don’t think it’s the military’s role to have an opinion on that. People should just be able to accept people who are able and willing to serve, and who have the aptitude to perform their job well—regardless of identity or sexual orientation. These people who serve openly don’t do their job any less effectively, and that’s all that should matter.”
Natalie is proud to be learning and working with SPARTA, an organization specifically committed to securing full equality for trans people in the military. The support of this large network, she said, has made a big difference in her experience so far.
* * *
For Natalie, SB6 in Texas was one of the most egregious of the bills proposed this legislative session in Texas because it targets transgender people in restrooms. By making it harder for trans people to use the restroom, lawmakers in Texas are actively seeking to shut trans people out of public society. If trans people can’t use the bathroom, they can’t comfortably go to work, go to school, or engage in the public square.
“SB6 essentially encourages unconstitutional bathroom policing among private citizens, and could lead, not only to trans people being accosted for their bathroom choices, but also non-trans people who just happen to look like they could be trans,” Natalie explained. “It also creates an implied mandate for law enforcement to force people to use restrooms on the basis of their birth certificate gender, rather than their identity and physical appearance. Clearly, this is not a well thought-out piece of legislation, considering that in terms of external appearance, many trans people are indistinguishable from their cisgender counterparts.”
“People use the restroom because they need to use the restroom; this goes for trans people as well,” Natalie said.
As she continues her journey in the trans community, speaking out increasingly in her state and in her community, Natalie is eager to help change hearts and minds on this subject and fight against discrimination. As a conservative member of the Army National Guard, she believes she is well-placed to meet people where they are and help them understand that there is more we agree on than disagree on – and that no one should face unfair discrimination because of who they are.