I'm A Transgender Conservative — & Donald Trump Let Me Down

Photographed by Torey Van Oot.

Many of the thousands of attendees of this week's Conservative Political Action Conference are treating the gathering as a celebration of Donald Trump's whirlwind first month in office.

But for Jordan Evans, one recent move by the White House has cast a cloud over CPAC: the decision to lift an Obama-era directive protecting the rights of transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

Evans, 25, is a Republican. She's also transgender. She saw the bathroom access protections as Trump's "first big litmus test” on LGBTQ rights. And, in her mind, he failed.

“Anyone can keep an LGBT envoy, anyone can hold the flag, but you have to believe in the message and you have to enforce it,” she told Refinery29. "I feel like Donald Trump let me down on this one.”

The Massachusetts native didn’t vote for the president. Turned off by the vitriol in the campaign, she backed Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson instead. But some of Trump’s remarks, including at the Republican National Convention, gave her hope that he would do right by the LGBTQ community as commander-in-chief.

“I’m very disappointed," says Evans, a library trustee in Charlton, MA. "I wanted to believe that Trump would be an ally because he said he would. But he didn’t come through for me.”

Even after news of the decision broke, Evans was encouraged by reports that Betsy DeVos, Trump's Education Secretary, initially argued against the reversal. But DeVos sought to shoot down such speculation in a Wednesday speech, criticizing the guidance from the Obama administration as an example of "overreach."

Evans, who says she is America's only openly transgender Republican elected official, came to CPAC this year with a sign that reads "Proud to be Conservative, Proud to be Transgender, proud to be American #SameTeam." While some GOP allies on the issue, including Caitlyn Jenner, have publicly criticized Trump's decision on bathroom access, she knows not everyone at CPAC shares her views. As she spoke to reporters outside the main ballroom, a woman who identified herself as a "Tea Partier" chimed in to argue that the issue — and all other decisions related to schools — really should be left to the states to decide.

After a brief debate over limiting the role of the federal government in education vesus the constitutional right to protection against discrimination for transgender youth, the two found something they could agree on: the need to repeal the Department of Education.

And with that, they high-fived.