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This woman's must-watch speech just settled the whole 'bathroom bill' debate.

The story of one woman's brave stand against anti-trans myths.

This woman's must-watch speech just settled the whole 'bathroom bill' debate.

Madeline Goss is a software engineer from North Carolina, and she has one simple request: to be able to use the bathroom.

Believe it or not, her state's legislators called a special session (at a cost of $42,000 to the taxpayers) to pass a bill that says women like Madeline aren't allowed to use public bathrooms.

Seriously.


GIFs from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

Why? She happens to be transgender, so those legislators think she should be forced to use men's restrooms.

But before the bill became law, Madeline worked up the courage to make her case in front of state legislators.

She shared an emotional story about growing up in Hickory — a city of about 40,000 people located 57 miles northwest of Charlotte — and what it was like for a woman like her to be forced to use the men's room.


In telling her story, you can hear her voice fill with a swirl of emotion. There's desperation, frustration, exhaustion, and sadness.

Recounting her assault, Madeline verges on crying, but she pushes onward so as not to go down without a fight.

Hearing about the law, "felt like a one-two punch to the stomach."

In a blog post for the Human Rights Campaign, Madeline described how it felt to learn that North Carolina's elected representatives had deemed her less a person than she truly is.

"I couldn't believe my home state would pass such a discriminatory bill into law," she wrote with more than a hint of despair. "They ignored the public outcry from trans people, allies, business leaders, celebrities, as well as representatives from HRC, Equality NC, and the ACLU."

And before the House of Representatives, she shared a chilling truth: Being forced to use the men's room puts her and others like her in grave danger.

GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

Nearly 70% of transgender people have been harassed or assaulted in a public bathroom — so Madeline has every right to be afraid.

A 2013 study found that 68% of trans people had experienced verbal harassment and 9% had been physically assaulted. By telling women like Madeline that she should use the men's room, they're sending her into a very dangerous and scary situation.


17 states and more than 200 cities offer protections that ensure trans people can use restrooms in alignment with their gender identity — without incident.

Even so, those insistent on passing laws blocking nondiscrimination ordinances peddle the fiction that trans-inclusive protections are a radical concept. They're not, and Madeline got that point across as tears welled in her eyes.

GIF from Human Rights Campaign/YouTube.

"This is the moment when a hero stands up, reeling from just being clobbered, and fights back for the greater good," she wrote, describing her testimony.

Madeline spoke out even though she had to know that there was little hope of her testimony getting through to those intent on making her a second-class citizen. Still, she stood up with a brave face to stand up for what's right.

The world needs more heroes like Madeline.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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