U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) took her message of acceptance for the transgender community to Spanish-language television Wednesday, opening up about her son’s transition an interview with Telemundo.
"It’s a tragedy that a great proportion of young people who pass through this transition are rejected by their families," Ros-Lehtinen said. "People tell me and my husband, 'Oh, how great that you are accepting him.' First of all, he’s our son. He’s a blessing. He’s a gift from our creator."
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Ros-Lehtinen's son, told Telemundo that when he first started to understand that he was transgender, he didn’t know how his parents would react. He grew up in relatively conservative South Florida, he noted, and both of his parents were public officials.
But Heng-Lehtinen, who now works on the staff of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, said he couldn't be happier with how things turned out.
"It’s not easy to speak out in public about having a transgender son when there’s so much discrimination in this world," Heng-Lehtinen said. "For us, family is family and love is love."
Ros-Lehtinen has spoken publicly about her son’s gender transition before. But as Patricia Mazzei at the Miami Herald notes, taking her message of acceptance to a national, Spanish-language news broadcast has the potential to influence audiences that can tilt more socially conservative.
"Rigo’s transition hasn’t been a problem," Ros-Lehtinen said, using a nickname for her son. "It’s been an adventure for our family. An adventure of acceptance and learning what our priorities in life are."
Watch the Telemundo interview above.