President Joe Biden signs his first executive order in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Biden signs executive actions aimed at dismantling Trump's policies
02:56 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate and other outlets. The views expressed here are the author’s. Read more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

In the first hours and days of the Biden administration, something precious has been returned to us. That invaluable thing that has been restored to LGBTQ Americans – and many others – is hope.

Allison Hope

Among President Joe Biden’s first actions in office was to issue an executive order barring workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Another was to end the Trump administration’s policies denying the existence of systemic racism and barring diversity and inclusion training. Already, the relaunched White House web site contact form invites users to choose their own pronouns, a seemingly small but deeply significant reflection of the new administration’s commitment to inclusion.

There is hope in the appointment of Dr. Rachel Levine to become the highest-ranking transgender woman nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Biden administration. “I am proud of the work we have done as an administration to address health equity, and the work I have done personally to raise awareness about LGBTQ equity issues,” said Levine, who is a pediatrician, in a statement when she was nominated for the cabinet position.

Her presence bolsters Biden’s promise to undo the Trump administration’s harmful policies, including rules that allow health care providers to shut the door in the face of LGBTQ patients. There is hope in knowing there will be no more abominable amicus briefs on the wrong side of history – like the ones that aimed to deny us workplace protections, equal access to goods and services or a right to open our homes to a child without one.

President Joe Biden has tapped Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health, leaving her poised to become the first  transgender federal official to be confirmed by the US Senate.

There is hope in the anticipated confirmation of a gay man, Pete Buttigieg, to be transportation secretary and in the appointment of a Black gay woman, Karine Jean-Pierre, as deputy press secretary – to name only two of the most visible among the many LGBTQ Americans called to serve in an inclusive, diverse administration.

Levine’s nomination alone is enough to make me want to dance in the streets. To at long last have someone who understands – intrinsically, deeply and personally – what LGBTQ Americans and particularly what transgender people face, carries the prospect of more inclusive policies and approaches. What a complete about-face from the previous administration, which actively worked to strip trans Americans, already trapped in a broken system that marginalized them, of health care access.

I’m reminded of what the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called “the dissenter’s hope: that they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow.”

All the dissenting, measured in petitions signed and virtual doors knocked, in dollars donated and social media rants posted, in clever signs and fists held high at rallies, in first-time confrontations with racist uncles and hard, honest conversations with our children, has not been for naught. That dissent has, in the great words of RBG and in her honor, given way to the one thing that paves the way for endless possibilities to follow: hope for the future.

I trust that Biden won’t just undo Trump’s damage and revert back to Obama-era policies. Biden will do better than that. After all, then-Vice President Joe Biden was a major force in moving the Democratic Party out of the closet on supporting the LGBTQ community. In May 2012, Biden declared his support for marriage equality, the highest ranking official to do so at the time. The move helped push President Barack Obama to also endorse same-sex marriage in a national TV interview a few days later, and, well, the rest is history.

Biden isn’t perfect. He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act during the Clinton administration and to cut off federal funding to schools teaching acceptance of homosexuality. But he has evolved, and surrounded himself with forward-thinking people who embody and embrace LGBTQ inclusivity and will help push the needle in the right direction towards equality and justice.

What could that look like under the Biden administration? With a friendlier Congress now in place, it could mean passage of the Equality Act, which Biden has pledged to sign in his first 100 days and which would provide blanket protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people. If adopted, the measure would mitigate the patchwork of state and local laws that leave roughly two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s estimates, vulnerable to getting kicked out of their homes, turned away from school or denied entry to a public space simply because of their sexual or gender identity.

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    LGBTQ Americans like me have shed a lot of tears over the last four years, but this week, I was weeping with relief. And, when this avalanche of emotions has subsided, when the pomp and circumstance settles, I’m hopeful we can start to let go of some of the anxiety and pessimism we’ve been holding onto. Only then can we allow ourselves to fully exhale into something that looks like the future, a brighter spot where our lives matter – Black and brown, gay and transgender, immigrant and citizen, rich and poor, young and old. We feel the sun on our skin again.