Why Trump inauguration singer wants a private meeting with the president

Jackie Evancho says she wants to 'enlighten' the president on what her transgender sister endures at high school.

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File
Jackie Evancho sings the US National Anthem during inauguration ceremonies swearing in Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017.

Jackie Evancho, the teenage singer who performed the national anthem at President Trump’s inauguration in January, is “disappointed" with the president’s decision to roll back Obama-era guidelines on transgender bathroom rules in public schools. And she wants Mr. Trump to grant her and her transgender sister an audience – just with him, this time.

“u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration,” wrote the former "America's Got Talent" contestant in a public Twitter post on Wednesday. "Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rghts." 

The request returns attention to the president’s policies on a cultural question for which he has shown little of the fervor apparent in his statements on immigration or police brutality – though his actions as president may mean his lack of visible support makes little difference to opponents. 

Under the Obama administration, schools were instructed to let transgender students use the bathrooms corresponding to the gender by which the student identified. As The Christian Science Monitor noted, a new set of guidelines being drafted by the Trump administration is expected to give states latitude to formulate their own policies:

During his campaign, the president was a vocal critic of the Obama administration's guidance. In a May interview with Fox News, Trump said he felt the directive was becoming a "massive story" even though it only affected a "tiny, tiny" percentage of the population.

"It's a new issue and right now, I just don't have an opinion. I’d like to see the states make that decision," he said at the time. When asked about North Carolina's law in a separate interview in April, he expressed the belief that "local communities and states should make the decision." 

"I feel very strongly about that," he told Fox News host Sean Hannity. "The federal government should not be involved."  

For critics, letting states draw up their own plans is tantamount to peeling back civil-rights protections in favor of complicity with already widespread transphobia. 

In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with her 18-year-old sister, Juliet, Jackie said she sought the meeting to “enlighten” Trump on what she saw her sister “go through every single day in school.” The president has not responded to the request, she added. 

In October 2016, the Evancho family filed a lawsuit against the Pittsburgh-area school district where Juliet is currently a high school senior over their decision to reverse a policy that allowed students to choose the bathroom they used. 

Juliet told the ABC hosts that Trump needed to know about the violence and threats directed at her and other transgender students.

"I've had things thrown at me," she said. "I've had people say pretty horrible things, and the unsafe environment is just very unhealthy." 

Jackie’s performance at the inauguration came after several high-profile acts turned down invitations. But she says she would sing there again, if she had the chance to do it over. 

"The reason why I did sing at the inauguration was not politics. It was for the honor, the privilege to perform for my country. And that will stay the same, I think,” she said.

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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