As Parent of Transgender Child, GOP Congresswoman Films PSA Urging 'Culture of Acceptance'

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa hearing on March 4, 2014. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

A Florida Republican has filmed a public service announcement with her transgender child “to build up a culture of acceptance and love and tolerance among all communities.”


Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) filmed the spots titled “Family Is Everything” in English and Spanish for SAVE, a south Florida LGBT advocacy group, joined by her husband, former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the only transgender child of a member of Congress.

“Every transgender person is part of someone’s family and should be treated with compassion and protected from discrimination,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the ad.

Heng-Lehtinen, 30, was born Amanda Michelle and came out as transgender in college.

“We were quite shocked, but of course, this is a message that we take with faith, is about love and acceptance, and Dexter and I understood that family is everything,” Ros-Lehtinen told MSNBC today. “And so we did not hesitate to accept Rigo. We loved him when he was born. He was born Amanda Michelle. Now he’s Rodrigo. But it’s the same child with the same hopes and aspirations and dreams as any other child.”

“And I hope that that message that we did with SAVE transcends all of that divisive rhetoric… with the protests and angry words.”

Heng-Lehtinen, a membership manager for GLAAD, said he had a bag packed in case his parents threw him out of the house after he told them the news.

“They said we might have questions, we might not understand yet, but that doesn’t mean you’re not our child. Family is family no matter what,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “Unfortunately, that’s uncommon. Almost 60 percent of transgender people are kicked out of their homes and rejected by their families, which is heartbreaking. So that’s why we filmed this message with SAVE, so that more people like myself can be met with acceptance, met with love and that no one is kicked out of their home.”


The congresswoman called it “an important message for all parents, because maybe they’re dealing with their child, who is scared to come out as gay or lesbian or transgender — and just think of how fearful that world is for Rodrigo and other people like him.”

“And when you hear all of this — all of these bills that are being filed and you think, wow, I’m going to be rejected at home, I’m going to be rejected, I’m going to lose my job, I’m not going to be safe at school,” Ros-Lehtinen added.

“…It’s a tough world. And anyone who thinks, oh, yes, you know, these guys are just trying to show off and that’s not real, they’re just playing around, hey, this is real.”


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