LGBTQ South Florida

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s transgender son, Rodrigo, to be honored at SAVE reception in Miami

Union activist Tobias Packer, left, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen at the 2014 Miami Recognition Dinner in Miami Beach.
Union activist Tobias Packer, left, and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen at the 2014 Miami Recognition Dinner in Miami Beach. Miami Herald File

Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, transgender son of U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, on Friday will receive a Champions of Equality award from LGBT-rights group SAVE.

Heng-Lehtinen, who grew up in Miami as Amanda, transitioned more than five years ago. He will be accompanied to the reception by his father. The congresswoman had a scheduling conflict and has prepared a congratulatory video that will be shown at the event.

Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, is one of Congress’ most outspoken advocates for LGBT equality. In 2003, she told the Miami Herald that her children helped her evolve on the subject of gay rights.

“They think of it as a Neanderthal way of thinking not to accept someone because of their sexual orientation,” Ros-Lehtinen said at the time.

She didn’t know 12 years ago that Amanda, then 17, would eventually come out as a transgender man.

This weekend, Ros-Lehtinen has a message for other parents of LGBT children:

“Mother’s Day may be a difficult holiday for many families who have not been accepting of their children’s gender identity issues,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Our kids deserve to be treated as adults who have struggled to find their authentic selves and families should come to terms with that realization. It can be a painful journey of awareness for both the child and the parent but a necessary one. Dexter and I are blessed to have four adult children and we love each one. Why would we not?”

Heng-Lehtinen is married and lives in Los Angeles, where he is donor services director for GLAAD, an LGBT media watchdog group.

“SAVE is doing outstanding work for trans inclusion in Miami and throughout the state, and our community wouldn't be the same without them,” Heng-Lehtinen posted Monday on Facebook. “I hope you can join us on Friday night to support this wonderful organization!”

Other 2015 SAVE Champions of Equality: Arianna Lint, Sunserve transgender services director; Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University; and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“SAVE is proud to honor the individuals and organizations helping us do the work on a day to day basis to fulfill the unique needs of South Florida’s LGBTQ community,” said Tony Lima, the group’s executive director. “Not only are we proud to recognize leaders who helped make the advancements over the last year a reality, but we are also glad to count among our closest allies organizations like AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which we are proud to induct this year into the Hall of Champions for its critical role in serving South Florida communities hit hard by the HIV/AIDS crisis.”

If you go

SAVE’s Champions of Equality reception will honor trans advocate Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen; Arianna Lint, Sunserve transgender services director; Mark Rosenberg, president of Florida International University; and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

The reception will be 6 to 10 p.m. Friday at Briza on the Bay, 1717 N. Bayshore Dr., Miami. Tickets are $150 online and $175 at the door. www.championsofequality.com

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