Cathy Gillis grew up in the “Last Frontier State” – Alaska. She fondly remembers many adventures of flying into bush Alaska with her father, fishing for wild salmon, hunting, and growing up in a community of people who are independent, strong, and unique. Being an Alaskan is part of who Cathy is, and she remembers a simple lesson passed down to her by her mother and father when she was a child: “Cathy, you have to work hard, be honest, and do good for others. Love your neighbor.” This guidance has informed Cathy’s identity for as long as she can remember, and it’s a mantra she has used in raising her own children, including her son, who is transgender – meaning he was born female but has transitioned to the male he has long known himself to be.
“When people claim transgender people are a threat to public safety, my heart breaks,” Cathy said, reflecting on a very public electoral fight in Anchorage in 2018, when the city voted against a divisive ballot measure that attempted to repeal protections. “My son’s gender identity does not affect his kindness, his work ethic, his compassion, and it shouldn’t affect his ability to live, work, and grow in the community he calls home. It’s time to open our minds and our hearts to the real world, where we breathe the same air, move about in the same spaces, and do the best we can each day.”