Benjamin Watson Interviews Connecticut State Rep. Treneé McGee

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Benjamin Watson: Alright. It is an honor to be joined by Representative Treneé McGee. This is exciting for me because I feel like I just follow you on social media, but now I get to actually sit down with you. But you are a representative from Connecticut. You represent the 116th district in Connecticut State House. 

And you’ve done a bunch of things. You founded Be the F.I.R.S.T., a program for higher education among first generation college students. You’re like a pioneer in so many different ways and appreciate everything that you do.  

So, Let’s start here. You’re an elected official, you’re a representative, you’re a Democrat, you’re pro-life, you’re young, you’re all these things that seem to be contradictory. 

What have you seen? What has been the response, I should say, to your stances, specifically being pro-life and being a Democrat in the state house? What has been the response from your colleagues? 

Treneé McGee: Yeah. Some of my colleagues are a bit shocked, to say the least. I think that there is this idea that if you’re Black, and if you’re young, and if you’re a woman, that you are just automatically pro-choice, because that’s what’s supporting women is, but in engaging in discussion with my colleagues, a lot of my colleagues have even said to me, you’ve brought things to the forefront that we’ve never even thought about. You’ve expanded this conversation. I had a colleague say, your voice is so important in this discussion. And although we may not agree, we need you here because you bring a balance. 

And so, I really do see my voice is just bringing a balance and a bridge because it’s really especially needed in this time. I think if you ask any question that may be against culture, you’re demeaned and it’s polarizing. We don’t allow space for nuance. So, it’s been a little bit of a shock. But it’s worth it. It’s worth the response.  

Benjamin Watson: Okay, so let’s talk about the people that you represent, because you’re right, there is an idea that if you’re a Democrat, if you’re Black, if you’re young, if you’re from an urban area, you have to think a certain way. But we know that’s not true. But a lot of people feel silenced. 

What has been maybe the response from some of the, your peers, as in the folks you represent? Is there, what I’m asking is, I know there are other pro-life Democrats.  

Treneé McGee: Yeah.  

Benjamin Watson: There are others who believe in the sanctity of human life and human dignity. Have you seen yourself as maybe a voice for them? 

Treneé McGee: Yes. There are a million of pro-life Democrats. One in three Democrats are pro-life. And they estimate that to be like 20 million people. A lot of my constituents reached out. They said the same thing. We’re also very pro-life. As some even say, I respect what women decide to do, but I think there should be limits. A lot of people believe in limits.  

And then there are many who did not agree with me, and I would show up at their doors. And, I would get emails, and I would show up at their doors and we would engage in conversation. And it led back to a lot of fear. People just felt, they’re fearful. They didn’t know what was coming and what was going to happen.  

But many of them, which I super appreciate, will say, this is the first time I’ve ever voted for a pro-life candidate. A lot of my Republican constituents, I think many of them have been challenged because my Republican opponent was pro-choice. 

And I told many of my constituents, if this is what you really believe, you’d have to vote for the Democrat. So  

Benjamin Watson: That’s a good line.  

Treneé McGee: Yeah. It’s not about party at this point. It’s about the candidate. And I think people are really learning that in this season, which is really important. So, I do think a lot of people have been super empowered. I get emails every day. So, yeah.  

Benjamin Watson: Count me among them. I’ve talked about this post Roe time. It’s a new fight for life. It’s gonna look a little bit different. Obviously, there’s a lot more happening on the state level. What do you think it’s going to take to make abortion unthinkable and unnecessary in this period as opposed to before it was overturned?? 

Treneé McGee: Yeah, I was talking to a few of my young elected official friends and we all agreed. All of us agreed that this, the turn of the life movement has to really be whole life. It has to be solidly about empowering women to then make decisions to choose life. I know for sure one of the top issues that a lot of women who are expecting are facing is housing, definitely in the state of Connecticut. 

I shared yesterday in an interview how I got a call from three moms who chose life prior to calling me, and they all needed housing. All of them needed housing. They all chose life. They all wanted their babies. But they needed somewhere to live. And so, I think we really have to shift into a whole life perspective where we’re educating young women and men about the values of their bodies and the values of their decisions, but also parenting classes. 

We have to restore parenting classes. Dad support classes. We really need, we need that type of holistic work. Adopting families. There used to be this program, I think it was called like The Esther Program, and churches would adopt a whole family. The mom, the dad, and the children, and they would fill in where there needed to be support. 

So, we really have to shift into that mindset. And obviously, legislation’s important as well, but with legislation changing oftentimes, all of the time, or not at all, we have to evolve. We have to evolve, and I think the number one thing is to just really meet the need.  

Benjamin Watson: I love that you mentioned families and the importance of families being a building block. 

And I met your mom a little while ago. I met your mom, talked to her for a little bit. I get it now, 100%. I can’t wait to meet your dad as well. Talk to me about their influence in your life. Just how they’ve instructed you or encouraged you. And you obviously talk a lot about family. Talk to me about your parents and what they mean to you. 

Treneé McGee: Thank you for asking me this because I really love my parents. My mom is my best friend. And just like a little bit of an idea of the McGee household. I’m the eldest, and then my brother, he went to the Ohio State. He did gymnastics, so he’s a sports reporter. And then my sister is a Boston Celtics cheerleader. And then my younger brother, he just started college, and so he’s in sports as well. And then there’s me in the arts, which we all like to sing and dance, but that’s just a glimpse of our house. 

And that, to me, is obviously reflective of the seeds that our parents sowed years ago in ministry. Being on time for church, my dad cleaning up the church, just always being there to serve. People don’t realize that those things are, that’s the blossoming of your offspring. 

And our parents never limited us. They never made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. And that’s why, being someone who, I got my degree in acting, but I felt empowered. I felt like I lacked nothing running for office. And that really stemmed from how my parents raised me. So, I’m really grateful for that firm foundation and that’s why I’m a big advocate for families. 

Benjamin Watson: Yeah. Yeah. You want, you can have seven kids. You should come babysit for us.  

Treneé McGee: I would love to.  

Benjamin Watson: Just to try it out.  

Treneé McGee: I would love to hang out with them.  

Benjamin Watson: Yeah, we got seven now.  

Treneé McGee: I would love to. 

Benjamin Watson: Come down to Georgia. Babysit. Just test it out. See if you want to have that sort of thing. Test it out.  

Treneé McGee: Listen, I’m taking up on that offer. I would love to. I would love to hang out with them. 

Benjamin Watson: Next time you’re in Atlanta, hit us up.  

Treneé McGee: Okay, Will do.  

Benjamin Watson: So, you’ve talked about your pro-life work as being part of racial justice as well. Expound on that a little bit. 

Treneé McGee: Yeah, I the door opener for my fiery passion for life came from my racial justice passion, really. And I had always known abortion was wrong. I always knew going back from debating it in high school to college.  

But when I was in college in New York, Eric Gardner was murdered. And so, I remember going into my class and I said to my professor, I need to do something tangible. And he said, if you orchestrate what you want to do, I will give you an A.  

And I was a little bit of a radical at this time, but I was the President of the Black and Latino Student Association. So, I sent an email out to the whole student body and I said, let’s meet in the lobby and we’re going to go stand with all of the people who are standing against the murder of Eric Gardner. 

And 60 students showed up and then 40 met us at the protest. And I will never forget. I held a woman’s hand. She was from Yeshiva University, and she was in her traditional her Orthodox Jewish attire, and she held my hand. And on her sign, it said, I can’t breathe in Hebrew and it said, Yeshiva for Black Lives. 

And that was the first time I felt like someone who didn’t look like me really understood the pain that I experienced and I felt. And I don’t think people realize, but that to me transformed into… She told me holding my hand that my life mattered and that’s the same sense that we have to have for the preborn. And that was that radical nature, that fire, that was the door opener for me understanding that this is a life. 

Yes, it’s, before we were formed in our mother’s womb. We know what the Bible says. In addition, science says it’s legit a life, and I think they intersect. They really do intersect. If I fight for racial equality, then I’m also addressing the inadequacies and the disparities in the medical industry that have all that Black women have always been, the recipients of. And which obviously that correlates to the abortion industry.  

Benjamin Watson: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. Lastly, if you were to encourage people in the pro-life movement, specifically along the lines of what you just said. Opening your eyes to seeing some of the contributing factors, the pathway. Sometimes we talk about systemic pathways that lead to abortion. 

Speak a word to those people who may feel like those things don’t matter, or those are irrelevant. Because we’ve talked a lot about womb to tomb. We’ve talked about a mother and child. We’ve talked about entire communities. Challenge people along that vein.  

Treneé McGee: Yeah. I really, really more than anything believe that it’s so important for us to build relationships with people and the women in our communities. In the state of Connecticut, 70% of women who receive abortions, it’s paid for through Medicaid, so that tells us that there’s obviously a disparity. 

These women, if they had the resources that they needed, that they felt empowered, safe environments, homes, better schools for their children. All of those things are reasons why women don’t choose life, believe it or not. And I’ve experienced women saying, listen, I don’t really have much. How can I care for this child? 

And so, people really do believe that parenting is a privilege. It’s supremacy. I parent because I have. And so, we have to do our due diligence to make sure that women really do have all that they need. And really think outside of ourselves. Really think outside of ourselves. 

Everyone in this movement, I believe we have different positions and different roles to play, but it really does require us taking a step back from ourselves and listening, being effective listeners, which makes us effective leaders. 

Benjamin Watson: Listening.I love the fact that people are listening to you. I have a feeling that a lot more people around the nation are going to be listening to you in the coming days, months, and years.  

Treneé McGee: Thank you very much.  

Benjamin Watson: So thank you. 

Treneé McGee: Thank you for having me.