Rep. Mike Honda with his granddaughter, Malisa.
Rep. Mike Honda with his granddaughter, Malisa.

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) has received the Ally Award from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for his service, as a lawmaker, to the transgender community in the United States.

NCTE, a leading transgender advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., presented Honda with the Ally Award on May 18 “for showing unwavering support for transgender people in his professional and personal life.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) also received the Ally Award.

“I have been proud to lead this Congress toward a better understanding of transgender Americans,” said Honda. “To get this award is a nice acknowledgement of that, but I am far more interested in making certain that every American is treated equally, including those who understand themselves; those who had a gender assigned to them at birth, but who know, in their head and in their hearts, who they really are.”

NCTE celebrated 13 years of saving lives through policy change at its anniversary event, “Transvisibility: The T’s Not Silent.” As transgender issues and people are seen from West Coast to East Coast, from Hollywood to the White House, transgender visibility is at its peak. This year, NCTE honored some of the advocates and allies who have worked tirelessly to make transgender issues so visible.

Since 2001, Honda’s direct efforts to draw attention to protections for LGBT people have been pivotal in advancing a political and cultural shift towards LGBT inclusion in society. In 2008, he co-founded the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and he currently chairs the caucus’ Transgender Equality Task Force.

Honda has been at the forefront of including LGBT people in immigration reform. He has also been involved in monitoring whether the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has and follows policies relating to respectful treatment of transgender people in immigration detention.

He also has a personal connection to the transgender community: his granddaughter, Malisa. Honda has proudly talked about his role of being a grandfather to a transgender girl. He works on a daily basis for her rights as well as those of other transgender people. He has strongly condemned recent state-level anti-transgender legislation as “rooted in fear and deeply misguided notions about who transgender people are.”

In a video message for Courageous Conversation, a symposium for superintendents and school leaders held last year in Southern California, Honda, a former teacher who also founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, said, “As both an individual and as an educator, I have experienced and witnessed bullying in its many forms. And as the proud jiichan, or grandpa, of a transgender grandchild, I hope that my granddaughter can feel safe going to school without fear of being bullied. I refuse to be a bystander while millions of people are dealing with the effects of bullying on a daily basis.”

In a Huffington Post article, Marcia Aizumi, author of “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance” and board member of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), praised Honda’s “bold and touching disclosure about his love for his transgender granddaughter and promising to continue his brave work to halt bullying of all youth.”

She added, “I also thought about what this affirmation could mean to the API community, of which Congressman Honda is a part and has long supported, including being chairman emeritus of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. We in the API community often go into the closet, hiding in shame when our LGBT children express who they truly are and/or whom they are attracted to.

“Perhaps more API parents and grandparents will openly accept their children and grandchildren and express their love unconditionally with Congressman Honda sharing his support of his own trans grandchild; that is my hope and, I believe, the congressman’s as well.”

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