The Slatest

Watch Student Come Out to Obama, Call Him Out for Lack of Progress on Transgender Rights

Maria Munir breaks down while asking President Obama a question during a town hall at the Royal Agricultural Halls in London on Saturday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Obama’s town hall in London had one very emotional moment when Maria Munir stood up to speak. “Now I am about to do something terrifying, which is I am coming out to you as a nonbinary person which means that I don’t fit,” Maria Munir said, explaining that nonbinary people don’t identify as male or female. “I am getting emotional. I am so sorry,” Munir continued as Obama encouraged the student to continue: “That’s all right.”

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“I come from a Pakistani-Muslim background, which inevitably has cultural implications,” Munir added before mentioning the North Carolina law that has made waves around the world. And then wondered why world leaders haven’t done more to protect those who don’t identify with either gender. “We literally have no rights. … I really, really wish yourself and [Prime Minister] David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people,” Munir said. Obama praised Munir for being “brave” and said that even though it may not seem like it “social attitudes have changed on this issue quicker than I have seen on any other.”

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In an interview with the BBC, Munir explained it was the first time identifying publicly as nonbinary. “It was something the president said about acting crazy—that if you need to get a social issue across sometimes you need to act a little crazy,” Munir said. “At that moment I felt my pulse intensify and thought that I’ve been sitting on this issue for such a long time. I haven’t come out to my parents, (I’m sorry mum and dad) I just thought, if anyone in the world is going to accept me for who I am it should be the president of the United States.”

Despite all the excitement, Munir didn’t leave the town hall very happy with Obama’s answer. “I’ve been imagining this situation for quite some time. His answers were never going to live up to that, but his answers were not of the caliber that I would expect of an outgoing president,” Munir told Sky News. “I felt that as someone who has eight months to establish his legacy once and for all, in order to be the face of change, he really needs to start doing something about transgender rights.”

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