Hashtags meant to inspire activism often fizzle out before they ever reach the masses.
#EveryoneWelcome, a campaign encouraging solidarity with transgender people, hopes to avoid that fate by emotionally appealing to values of fairness and equality — and by finding allies in both everyday Americans and high-profile celebrities willing to speak out.
Partnering with Tumblr, the campaign is calling for and sharing 30- to 60-second videos of people declaring their support for transgender rights.
The initiative recently launched with videos from lawmakers and activists, while big names and people around the country will join the campaign soon.
In one video, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, talks about her transgender son: "I believe Rigo and other transgender Americans, like everyone else should be treated fairly and equally," she says. "Nobody should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are."
Those stakes couldn't be higher. Last week, the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for transgender students, insisting that states should handle access to bathroom and locker facilities as they see fit. In a few weeks, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case about transgender high school boy Gavin Grimm, whose Virginia school board wouldn't allow him to use the bathroom that matched his gender identity.
A simple hashtag might seem like an unlikely weapon in this fight, but #EveryoneWelcome has something unique going for it.
"There's a sleeping giant of people who really believe in treating each other fairly."
Last year, as the Massachusetts legislature considered banning discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, #EveryoneWelcome became a rallying cry in support of the bill. Boston's major sports teams backed it, as did companies like Google, Cisco and Facebook. Celebrities, including the Transparent cast and Bruins star Patrice Bergeron, recorded supportive videos. The bill became law last July.
Now #EveryoneWelcome is being revived as a national campaign, with participation from organizations that support rights for LGBTQ people, including Freedom for All Americans, GLAAD, Trans Latin@ Coalition and Trans People of Color Coalition.
"The point of this campaign is to showcase the broad and deep support that we know we have in order to make the case to policymakers currently attacking transgender people that they’re off the pulse, and not doing what the majority want them to be doing," said Kasey Suffredini, chief program officer of Freedom for All Americans.
A Pew Research Center poll conducted last year found that a slim majority of Americans support access to bathrooms based on one's gender identity. A much smaller PRRI poll found that 72 percent of people favor laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.
"Our supporters are just realizing how important it is for them to step out and speak up," Suffredini said. "There's a sleeping giant of people who really believe in treating each other fairly, just looking for an opportunity or way to speak out."
If #EveryoneWelcome is as successful as Suffredini hopes, it may well become a powerful tool in the historic fight for transgender rights.