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Emmett Schelling and Nadine Smith, the executive directors of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and Equality Florida, are among the 100 most influential people in the world in 2022, TIME Magazine said Monday.
Schelling and Smith have led their organizations through the first half of a year marked by the introduction of hundreds of pieces of legislation that target LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender youth.
Officials in both Texas and Florida have led the charge against gender-affirming health care for transgender and nonbinary youth and steered efforts to restrict talk of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms and libraries.
The leaders of two LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations on Monday joined 98 others on TIME Magazine’s 2022 “TIME 100” list – the publication’s annual roundup of the 100 most influential people in the world.
During a year in which hundreds of bills targeting LGBTQ+ people – particularly transgender youth – have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide, TIME Magazine recognized Emmett Schelling, the executive director of the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), as one of 2022’s most noteworthy “pioneers.”
“Emmett is leading a scary and grueling fight for trans survival, and we are so lucky to have him,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote Monday in Schelling’s entry.
Schelling, himself a transgender man, has led TENT since 2017, the same year he began working in activism full-time. The Texas organization is the largest transgender-led and transgender-focused in the state, and seeks to support transgender and gender-expansive people across Texas through “social, legislative, and corporate education,” according to the group’s website.
“During the past year, it often felt like Emmett lived at the capitol,” Strangio wrote. The Texas state legislature, which meets only during odd-numbered years under its biennial system, introduced close to 80 bills targeting transgender young people in 2021 – triple the number of any other state.
In the absence of a legislative session this year, Texas officials have been among the most vocal in their opposition to things like gender-affirming health care for transgender and nonbinary youth, including medical treatments like puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones.
In February, state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) wrote in a highly publicized opinion that he believed certain types of gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors amounted to abuse under his interpretation of Texas law, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to order state agencies to open abuse investigations into the parents of transgender youth, warning of “criminal penalties.”
A Texas judge earlier this month ruled those investigations may continue, striking down a statewide injunction that had temporarily blocked such probes.
“Existing as a transgender person in this country has never been more politicized, especially in Texas, so it’s not lost on me that TIME magazine has chosen to recognize a trans leader in Texas,” Schelling said Monday in a statement. “Amid an unprecedented level of intentional cruelty from politicians who should be working to expand rights for all Texans, the trans community has continued to show resilience and fight for justice. We are in a critical moment in this country where people from all different backgrounds and communities are pleading to exist without being harmed, so my hope is that we can unite together to build a better, more inclusive, and healthier future for every Texan.”
“Trans rights are human rights, and trans justice cannot wait,” Schelling said.
TIME on Monday also recognized Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida, as one of the year’s most influential “icons.”
“She is a powerhouse, a champion of equality for everyone, and a truly incredible humanitarian,” the author Kristen Arnett wrote Monday in Smith’s entry, adding that Smith, a queer woman of color, has over the last three decades “regularly spoken out about discrimination and biases against LGBTQ people when others have stayed silent.”
Smith this year led Equality Florida, an organization aiming to secure “full equality” for LGBTQ+ people in Florida, through a grueling legislative session marked by the introduction – and ultimate passage – of the nation’s first “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Officially titled the Parental Rights in Education law, the measure prohibits public primary school teachers in the state from engaging in classroom instruction related to sexual orientation or gender identity. Educators through high school may not address either topic in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students.
Equality Florida is one of several LGBTQ+ advocacy groups to challenge the law, and in a complaint filed in federal court in March called the measure an “unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools.”
“Our work is far from done as Florida, once again stands at the center of the fight against extremism and hate,” Smith said Monday in a statement tweeted by Equality Florida.
“But this is not simply Florida’s fight,” Smith said. “The wave of anti-LGBTQ, racist, freedom-destroying bills sweeping the country calls each of us to fight for our rights and, indeed, our democracy.”