Jackie Evancho sparked controversy when she announced she would be performing the National Anthem at Donald Trump’s inauguration—not just from progressives, but from alt-right trolls attacking her support for her transgender sister, Juliet.
Juliet, 18, told The New York Times this week that she won’t be attending the inauguration. But she stopped short of saying it was in protest of President-elect Trump. (The girls’ parents say they’re not sure the whole family was even invited to attend.)
Next week, she said, she has “prior engagements.”
Jackie gently interceded.
“It’s just a personal event, I guess,” she said.
“I definitely will be there,” Juliet said, struggling with the words.
“In spirit,” Jackie offered.
“In spirit,” her sister agreed.
The 16-year-old America’s Got Talent contestant has performed for Trump before, at an event at Mar-a-Lago, as well as for President Obama, at the National Christmas Tree lighting and again at a prayer breakfast.
But with barely a week before Trump’s inauguration, Jackie remains the only solo performer committed to perform, putting her in a spotlight she may not have intended to be in. Members of the Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir have voiced protests over performing for Trump. And, for the first time in 20 years, not a single D.C.-area high school marching band has applied to perform in the inaugural parade.
Evancho told the Times she decided to take the gig all on her own: “I just kind of thought that this is for my country,” she said. “If people are going to hate on me, it’s for the wrong reason.”
Back home, though, the girls parents, Mike and Lisa Evancho, are preparing for a different fight: They’ve filed a lawsuit against the Pine-Richland School District to defend Juliet’s right to use the bathroom and locker room that match her gender identity.
“We’re fighting this discrimination at the high school,” says, Mike, 47. “It doesn’t matter who’s going into the office, we would still fight that fight.”
Juliet says she’s focusing on advocating for trans rights, but “not really for any super-political aspect when it comes to a presidency.” Lawsuit aside, she admits her experience at school has improved since she came out as trans. This fall she was even elected to homecoming court.
“I definitely have friends,” she says. “It’s just the only people that I truly trust in my life are my family.”
Do we as a community trust Jackie? As, trans advocate Dawn Ennis wrote in a NewNowNext editorial, “Jackie made a misstep here, but she’s been an ally where it really counts.”
“There’s no denying her decision to sing at the inauguration is off-key, but let’s not forget the girl is 16,” Ennis added. “She’s just starting out in her career. And she’s going to sing for millions of people at an event that signals a peaceful transition of power—Even if that power is passing to someone who scares the shit out of my children and me. The occasion deserves a voice as golden as hers, even if the honoree does not.”