Former first lady Barbara Bush finally came out for trans rights at 90 – proving it’s never too late to ‘open your heart’
The late former first lady Barbara Bush changed her mind about transgender people in her nineties, according to her granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager.
Barbara Bush, who was married to Republican president George H. W. Bush, died in April 2018.
Her husband had a mixed record on LGBT+ rights, never once mentioning the word “gay” in presidential remarks and defending his anti-equal-marriage stance as protecting “family values”.
But the politician, who was US president between 1989 and 1992, appeared to change his mind on LGBT+ issues later in life.
In 2013, he and Barbara Bush officiated at their friends’ same-sex wedding in Maine, before the historic 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalised equal marriage across the US; and in 2015 George H. W. Bush told his biographer that while he still believed in a “traditional family”, he had come to believe that “people should be able to do what they want to do, without discrimination… people have a right to be happy”.
In her new book Everything Beautiful in Its Time, Jenna Bush Hager has revealed that her granddad wasn’t the only senior Bush to change his mind on LGBT+ issues – after a lunch conversation with historian Tim Naftali, Barbara reportedly changed her opinions on transgender people.
“One of the things that I learned about her in writing this book is that she changed her views even in her 90s,” Hager told Andy Cohen on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live.
Hager recounts the anecdote of Barbara’s October 2015 lunch with Naftali in a chapter of her book.
Naftali has also written about the lunch, saying that he did not expect to discuss Caitlyn Jenner and the political appointment of Sarah McBride, a trans woman, by Barack Obama.
Barbara Bush initially seemed not to comprehend the significance of McBride’s appointment, or the relevance of her gender identity when it was announced, but after Naftali shared his own journey of coming out as a gay man she grew to accept their importance.
“It is not a choice,” she then told Naftali.
“If a 90-year-old woman can sit with an open heart and listen and change her views about anything, we all could do a little bit better of a job,” Jenna Bush Hager said.
In her book, Hager writes that “in this day and age, it seems as though people write one-hundred-and-fifty word credos and then live by them until they die. No one ever seems to say, ‘Maybe I don’ t know what I’m talking about,’ or ‘Teach me more.'”
“I love that she was not like that. She wanted to learn.”