June 26, 2018 at 10:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Arlington teen makes history as first trans Va. Senate page

Sean Bender-Prouty was a Virginia Senate page during the 2018 legislative session. Bender-Prouty is the first openly transgender teen chosen to take part in the program. (Photo by Penelope Bender)

RICHMOND, VA. — A teenager from Arlington this year became the Virginia Senate’s first openly transgender page.

Sean Bender-Prouty, 14, told the Washington Blade on April 14 during an interview before attending Equality Virginia’s annual Commonwealth Dinner with their father, Bob Prouty, that they and the other pages with whom they worked ran errands for the senators and passed messages “back and forth” to them.

Bender-Prouty, who uses gender neutral pronouns, told the Blade they met Gov. Ralph Northam at the Executive Mansion and “thanked him for supporting LGBT equality.” Bender-Prouty also met state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who is the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S.

“It was awesome,” said Bender-Prouty as their father listened. “It was really cool knowing that she was just over there in the House.”

Bender-Prouty, who was an eighth grader at the Nysmith School for the Gifted in Herndon when they spoke with the Blade, was one of 35 pages who were chosen to work in the state Senate during the 2018 legislative session that began on Jan. 10 and ended on March 10.

Bender-Prouty told the Blade that lawmakers “treated me fine,” even though “only a couple knew that I was trans.” Bender-Prouty said some of their fellow pages made transphobic comments towards them, in part, because they were not aware of issues relating to gender identity.

Bender-Prouty said the Senate Page Leadership Program administrators were “very supportive” of them.

“I was definitely glad I did it,” they told the Blade.

“In general, I think it went well and I think Sean took the whole thing as a positive experience,” said Prouty.

Bender-Prouty editor of magazine for LGBT teens

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation earlier this year chose Bender-Prouty as one of its HRC Youth Ambassadors. Bender-Prouty is also the editor of LGBTeen, a magazine they told the Blade “is for and by LGBTQ-plus teenagers.”

“I didn’t feel there was enough representation of LGBTQ youth in the media,” they said. “I wanted there to be a way for LGBTQ youth and teenagers who were writers or poets or artists to be able to express that and publish their work.”

Bender-Prouty will be a freshman at Maret School in D.C. in the fall.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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