Hunter Schafer, the 18-year-old transgender UNC School of the Arts graduate who sued lawmakers over House Bill 2 and its replacement, has been nominated as one of Teen Vogue’s 21 “Girls and Femmes Changing the World” younger than 21.
With that nomination came an opportunity for the Raleigh teen to sit down with Hillary Clinton, the guest editor of the magazine edition set to hit newsstands on Dec. 5.
Schafer, who finished high school in May and has been accepted to study at the University of the Arts London Central Saint Martins art school, has made a name for herself as an advocate for LGBT rights and a model who has walked the runways for high-profile fashion designers.
After deciding to postpone college, Schafer moved to New York where she shares an apartment with four others in Brooklyn while working for Elite Model Management. Among the designers she’s modeled for are Helmut Lang, Versus Versace, Gucci and Converse.
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“She’s enjoying it,” said her father, Mac Schafer, pastor and head of staff at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.
Schafer has been by his daughter’s side — as she came out as transgender and at federal court proceedings for the lawsuit challenging HB2 and its replacement. He stood at a podium outside the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem in August 2016 with his daughter beside him and shared their story with the hopes of giving the public a better understanding of the transgender people among them.
He admires his daughter for continuing to tell her story as transgender and gender nonconformity issues become more prevalent. He spoke with pride about a video of his daughter speaking in New York with the former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady.
“It was empowering to watch,” Schafer said in a telephone interview this week. “This was a special experience. She got to sit down with these five other women and Hillary Clinton.”
The question put to Hunter Schafer by Teen Vogue was, “What would you tell the first female presidential nominee for a major party if you could?”
“I want to address how public schools in America are continuing to struggle with accommodating the bathroom needs of gender-nonconforming and trans young people,” Schafer said. “This was made evident in my home state of North Carolina when they passed the bathroom bill, House Bill 2. How can we as a society and even on institutional levels ensure the safety and comfort of gender-nonconforming students and children as they continue to come out?”
“It is an issue that really calls on people to be compassionate, kind, and understanding,” Clinton responded. “We are at our best in our country when we treat people with respect as individuals and worry more about the content of our character, as Dr. King said, and have an open education system, an open society. I was very disappointed when the decision was made to reverse the openness of our military for trans soldiers who are serving our country.
“I think what happened in North Carolina should give you some measure of hope because there was such an outcry. It fundamentally struck people as wrong to discriminate like that, and there was an effort made to reverse the legislation. That doesn’t change attitudes overnight, but you’ve got to have the institutional barriers like the legislation and regulation come down first. Then you begin to hope people will be more understanding and compassionate. In schools (is) where all of this has to start.”
The General Assembly passed HB2 in March 2016, with Republicans saying it was a necessary response to Charlotte expanding its nondiscrimination ordinance to cover LGBT people and allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. The state law required people in government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates.
Though Schafer spoke with Clinton weeks ago, she was required to keep it quiet until the magazine posted the news. She shared the story Wednesday on Instagram. “These incredible compelling girls/femmes and I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to pick at HRC’s brain earlier this year, the gathering was beyond special and I left with an incomparable feminine, powerful, energy that we had shared over our discussion...,” she said in the caption beside the picture of her with Clinton and other nominees Mari Copeny, Muzoon Almellehan, Nadya Okamoto and Simone Askew.
Hunter Schafer was home in Raleigh over Thanksgiving and spent much of her time with her sketchbooks at Cup A Joe coffee shop, her father said. She sketches, paints with watercolors and fills book upon book with her illustrations and artwork.
Though North Carolina lawmakers repealed HB2 earlier this year and adopted a new law in its place, Hunter Schafer and her father continue to speak out about the replacement law.
“The problem is, local cities and towns can’t put forward legislation that would give my daughter more rights,” Mac Schafer said. “Yes, portions of HB2 are off the books. But I think my daughter would say, ‘There’s still a lot of work to be done.’ ”
Hunter Schafer got more good news on Dec. 1. She was selected by the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship fund as one of four teens in the group of 21 Under 21 to receive a $25,000 grant to be distributed over the next year. Each recipient was asked how they would use the money to pursue their “groundbreaking dreams.” Schafer, who incorporates art into her activism through Arts Not Parts, an organization that creates posters to fight transphobia in bathrooms, also will have an opportunity to be mentored by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie.
Mycoskie created TOMS after traveling in Argentina in 2006 and seeing the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. At TOMS, the company matches every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.