Tonight, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called me. Here's what she said.
As always, she wanted to talk about policy. That's who she is.
It was completely out-of-the-blue.
I was preparing for a virtual panel I had tonight while simultaneously writing an op-ed that I was very tardy in sending to my editor when my phone rang with an unknown number.
I’m usually pretty good about not answering those, but I was worried it might be a comms person for the panel and answered anyway. I’m glad I did.
“Hi, it’s Elizabeth.”
I admittedly did not recognize her voice, or rather, I would like to chalk this up to the disconnect my brain did between the gravitas of an iconic senator who has more than earned her title many times over and the informality of a first name.
I would never call Senator Elizabeth Warren simply “Elizabeth” to her face. She’s “Senator Warren”. Maybe that’s the old-fashioned soldier in me, but respect is earned. And Senator Elizabeth Warren has earned it. Repeatedly.
Then again, that’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren for you: naturally down-to-earth and casually brilliant, as though she’s your next-door neighbor who just happens to be one of the finest progressive visionaries in the modern political era and is completely chill about it.
Like the absolute opposite of… well… most men in the Senate, regardless of ability.
“Elizabeth?” I asked.
“It’s Elizabeth Warren.”
I jolted up in the exactly the way you would for someone who released a detailed plan to fight COVID back in January of last year, weeks before most of her colleagues were even engaging on the issue and nearly two full months before the country was brought to a screeching halt by shutdowns.
“Senator Warren! My goodness, I’m so sorry. I didn’t expect your call!”
Like… what do you say in this moment? My brain was mush.
She called because she wanted to congratulate me on President Biden’s executive orders repealing the trans military ban and prohibiting discrimination in the federal government on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
She wanted me to know she was celebrating with all of us in the LGBTQ community on such a wonderful first week in the Biden Administration but also acknowledging there was a lot of work left to be done. And she would be with us in this fight all the way.
Of course she’d be with us in the fight. She’s Elizabeth fucking Warren. She wakes up every morning eager to fight for equality.
I quietly listened to her talk about all this—pinching myself at least once to make sure I wasn’t dreaming—and for the only time I imagine I’ll ever do so, I interrupted Elizabeth Warren.
It began when she said: “President Biden campaigned on these issues, and he’s been a great leader—”
Which is true, of course. President Biden did do that, and he’s a wonderful champion for LGBTQ rights. But I remember when Elizabeth Warren’s own staff called countless trans and non-binary people during the campaign and talked with us individually a number of times to ensure they were doing right by us in their policy platform.
I talked to her LGBTQ coordinator on several occasions, but I wasn’t special. They talked to a lot of people. Her staff made a point of doing the work and the research to build a comprehensive platform for equality. I only found this out by talking to other trans and non-binary folks.
And it showed because whenever Sen. Warren talked about LGBTQ rights—and more specifically, trans rights—on the campaign trail, she was deeply informed and persuasive on what it would take to get the job done, far more than just about all of her peers.
So, of course, I interrupted. When she started praising President Biden, I interrupted to say: “… and so did you, Ma’am. You fought hard for us. You always fight hard for us.”
Her reply was simple: “All of us fought hard for this.”
It wasn’t false humility or pandering. She believes in teamwork and movement building and shining a light on others. That’s partly why she’s an amazing leader. The bridge between any given brilliant policy wonk and true presidential timber is whatever Elizabeth Warren is carrying around in her soul. She gets it.
I wish I could tell you that I remember the entire call verbatim. We only spoke for four or so minutes, but my mind was buzzing with things I wanted to tell her.
Last year, I did a delightful fundraiser for Sen. Warren’s campaign that surprisingly (and eventually) netted close to a quarter million dollars in donations. She called me the day after its completion to thank me—again, an unknown number—and I was so caught off guard (do you notice a pattern?) that I spent weeks after that thinking I should have said this or should have said that, despite it being a very pleasant short convo.
But knowing this was my chance to tell her more, my mind was overwhelmed, and so, I told her: “Senator, I’m so sorry, there’s a lot I want to tell you, but I want you to know how much you’ve meant to me and countless others.”
Rather than accept the praise fully, she gave a quick, polite thanks and pivoted back to thanking me for my work. And talking about the work that still needs to be done for LGBTQ people. Her focused, authentic messaging is a comms person’s dream.
I didn’t want to be rude with her time, so I said the first thing that came to mind that made the most sense in that moment:
“Senator, will you give Bailey a hug for me?”
“Yes, of course, I will. And please know Bailey sends his hugs back.”
I know, I know, there are so many things I could have asked to chat with her about regarding policy, but truth be told, I know I didn’t need to do that with her.
She’s Senator Elizabeth Warren. She already knows. She’s been doing the work.
And we’re grateful for her.
Hi, I’m Charlotte Clymer, and this is my Substack. It’s completely free to access and read, but if you feel so moved to support my writing, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription: just $7/month or save money with the $70/annual sub. You can also go way above and beyond by becoming a Founding Member at $210.
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