Annette Bening shares heartfelt tribute to her trans son Stephen: ‘Such an inspiration’

Annette Bening in a black blazer and top smiling at the camera while on the red carpet.

American actor Annette Bening has opened up about her relationship with her trans son Stephen Ira, who she shares with husband and fellow Hollywood star Warren Beatty.

To many, Annette Bening is the BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning actress famed for her roles in classics like American Beauty and Being Julia. When it comes to human rights though, the 65-year-old star is a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, inspired by her eldest son, trans writer Stephen Ira.

The poet is now 31, but he came out in his teenage years. Despite initially feeling “very ignorant” when her son first revealed his trans identity, Bening has since become an outspoken ally who is determined to discuss why the “debate” over trans rights is so damaging.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bening went into detail about why she feels such urgency when it comes to sticking up for her son and the wider trans community.

Actress Annette Bening with her husband Warren Beatty stood against a rainbow flower background.
Actress and ally Annette Bening with her husband Warren Beatty. (Getty Images)

“For me, the real transition has happened as the right-wing in the [US] has become more and more mobilised on misinforming people about the LGBTQ community,” she said. “They have been vilifying our community and creating problems that do not exist and creating and sowing hate and fear as a way of rallying their base.”

In 2023, numerous states across the US have attempted to introduce anti-trans legislation that aims to strip the trans community of their rights.

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Texas and Tennessee are just two of the states that have banned gender-affirming healthcare for minors, while Bening’s home state of Kansas has brought in a law that will effectively erase trans people from existence by forcing them to reverse gender markers on their legal documentation. 

While Bening said that the anti-LGBTQ+ movement isn’t “new”, it seems to have found a new target in trans people.

“Now it’s transphobia, and it’s just rampant. They’re doing it at a time when there are more and more trans people who are living openly and who are our teachers, our writers and our doctors. One of my most favourite doctors is a trans woman.

A graphic of Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis wearing a suite and tie as he stands in front of a capitol building, the US flag as he launches his presidential campaign
LGBTQ+ activists warn Ron DeSantis will use his 2024 presidential campaign as an attempt to “export his extremist agenda”, which has attacked LGBTQ+ people in Florida, to the nation. (Getty)

“What’s happening in the political world with trans people is so concerning and so dire. It’s only going to get worse as we go into the election cycle,” she said.

Many of the Republican candidates for the upcoming 2024 presidential election, including Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump, have troubling stances when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, and activists are concerned that LGBTQ+ people will be used as a scapegoat for political failures.

“It is heartbreaking to me, the coldness and lack of compassion that so many people have, and they are trying to stir up all this fear in people about trans kids and parents, and they are trying to legislate that,” Bening added.

She further explained that her “wish” is that everyone would have a trans person in their family because “once somebody you love is trans, then you get it”.

“I have a trans son, and he is such an inspiration to me,” she gushed.

Stephen Ira.
Annette Bening’s trans son, writer Stephen Ira. (Poetry Foundation/Chris Berntsen)

“To love your child so much is the greatest way to learn about what trans people are all about.

“I get to say this because I’m the mother: My son is incredibly brilliant … I am incredibly proud of him, and he has carved his own way. He’s someone I do admire, and I’ve learned a lot from when he first came out,” she added.

“I was very ignorant about what that meant to be a trans kid. I, like every other parent, want to protect my kids and make sure they’re OK, and I had a lot of learning to do.”

Bening joins a growing list of celebrity parents who are proud to support their trans children, with fellow Hollywood stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Cynthia Nixon and basketball legend Dwyane Wade publicly sharing their adoration for their trans offspring.

While The Kids Are All Right star Bening has learnt the best ways to advocate for her son, she’s explained that her support won’t stop there, and she’ll continue speaking out for trans people everywhere.

“We all have a responsibility to protect and defend the rights of trans folks in our world. They’re precious parts of our community,” she stated.

“My parents are Republicans, and I was raised in a Republican household. My mother, who is now 94, was one of the first people to say, ‘I used to have a beautiful granddaughter. Now I have a handsome grandson.’ It’s that simple.”

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