Jackie Evancho, the singer best known for being a national anthem–singing scab on Inauguration Day, is beseeching Donald Trump to sit down with her and her transgender sister to discuss the discrimination against trans children his administration has endorsed.
Jackie’s sister, Juliet, is currently suing her Pittsburgh-area school district along with two other transgender students over the district’s recently implemented policy barring trans students from using restrooms that match their respective gender identities. On Wednesday, Trump rolled back federal guidance supporting trans students with the backing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the perhaps-reluctant signature of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The legal guidelines, instated under Barack Obama, instructed public school to let trans students use whichever set of gender-specific facilities made sense to them.
When Jackie heard that Trump planned to revoke the guideline, she tweeted that she was “obviously disappointed.” Later on Wednesday, she asked the president for a meeting: “u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration. Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rghts <3.”
Both Jackie and Juliet appeared on Good Morning America on Thursday to talk about Trump’s decision to let states decide whether or not to subject transgender children to harassment, violence, mental anguish, and health problems. “I guess I just want to enlighten him on what my sister, I’ve seen her go through every single day in school, and people just like her,” Jackie said. “What they deal with, the discrimination—it’s terrible.”
“I’ve had things thrown at me. I’ve had people say pretty horrible things, and the unsafe environment is just very unhealthy,” Juliet said of going to a school with “unclear” bathroom policies. “Donald Trump needs to know that being in such an unsafe environment won’t do any good, for not only the transgenders in the LGBT community, but as well as everyone as a whole.”
When Jackie Evancho agreed to sing at Trump’s inauguration, she was a relative unknown. She’d nabbed second place in the 2010 season of America’s Got Talent, and that was it. The most press her career had ever gotten came when she made the desperate-seeming decision to ply her talents on a morning of fascist pageantry. Even then, despite Trump’s deluded tweeting to the contrary, her album sales didn’t budge much.
Evancho knew that the man whose claim to power her performance helped validate was an enemy of the lives and livelihoods of LGBTQ people. A group of trans people made a video before the inauguration pleading with Evancho to cancel her performance as a statement of her support for LGBTQ rights. All the while, she maintained that singing the national anthem at the inauguration of President Trump—a spot Beyoncé herself had held at her BFF Obama’s big day four years prior—was no endorsement of the president himself. “This is for my country,” she said, not for any politician.
It was for a politician, though. The inauguration was not for the new head chef of the Congressional cafeteria—it was for a racist swindler who’d promised to terrorize the most vulnerable Americans and people around the world. Evancho’s performance boosted the profile of a party that has made it an explicit goal to terrorize trans people and exclude them from the public sphere. That’s an inconvenient reality Evancho has very much tried to ignore. In January, she told the New York Times that she didn’t see trans bathroom rights as a matter of politics. “For me, it’s not political,” she said, speaking of Juliet’s lawsuit. “It’s just accepting people for who they are.”
Wouldn’t it be great if that were the case? In this country, though, the rights of trans children to use the bathroom have been wielded as a political weapon to rile up right-leaning Americans looking for an outlet for their fear. On Thursday, Evancho captioned a photo of her and Juliet “#NoHate #Love.” The importance of love and “no hate” in human life cannot be understated. But love will not allow a transgender student to change in a locker room without being bullied, harassed, or shamed. Political action and legal protections will. I guess it’s possible that Evancho will use whatever clout she can glean from having feted Trump’s ascension with song to push the president and the country on trans rights. The far more likely outcome is that all this attention Jackie Evancho is directing toward trans discrimination will benefit only Jackie Evancho.