POLITICS

GOP Congresswoman Stands Up For LGBT Rights Alongside Her Transgender Son

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and her son say family comes first.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and her transgender son, Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, gave a heartwarming interview about the importance of rejecting divisive laws against the trans community.

Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, recently appeared with her son and husband, Dexter Lehtinen, in two PSAs defending transgender rights.

In the ads -- one in English and the other in Spanish -- the congresswoman says, “Every transgender person is part of someone's family and should be treated with compassion and protected from discrimination.”

The PSAs are in partnership with SAVE, a South Florida organization that promotes rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Floridians.

In an interview with MSNBC’s José Díaz-Balart on Wednesday, the mother and son said it’s their mission to combat laws such as North Carolina’s HB 2 that discriminates against transgender individuals.

Ros-Lehtinen discussed how she felt when her child revealed he was transgender.

“Well I don’t want to sugarcoat it … Actually we were quite shocked," Ros-Lehtinen said. "Dexter and I understood that family is everything 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," she continued. "I hope that the message that we did with SAVE transcends all of that divisive rhetoric."

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. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Heng-Lehtinen said that despite coming from a loving family, he was afraid to come out to his parents.

“I was still terrified to tell them. I had even packed a bag and was ready to live outside the home in case I wasn’t welcomed back. I’ve been very fortunate that my parents were unequivocal,” Heng-Lehtinen said.

“They said, 'We might have questions, we might not understand yet but that doesn’t mean you’re not our child,'" he added.

“We might still kick him out," the congresswoman joked, "but that’s for other reasons. He’s still not cleaning up his room. He might be 30 but he’s still a slob."

Heng-Lehtinen, who now works for GLAAD, said that shameful rhetoric directed towards trans people “pushes [them] further into the shadows” and “bills [like HB 2] make people like me even less safe.”

Watch the full interview above.

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