York student comes out to Obama live on TV

Maria Munir

Maria Munir, a third year York politics student, came out to President Obama as non-binary live on television.

Munir told Obama: “Now I’m about to do something terrifying, which is I’m coming out to you as a non-binary person, which means that I don’t fit within – I’m getting emotional, I’m so sorry – because I’m from a Pakistani-Muslim background, which inevitably has complications…”

The exchange took place during a question and answer session at a town hall event in London that was hosting the US President.

Munir then urged both Barack Obama and David Cameron to take non-binary people seriously and ask what our political leaders can do to help LGBTQ people.

They explained: “In the UK we don’t recognise non-binary people under the equalities act, so we literally have no rights.

“I’m still at university and running for local election and at the same time I’ve managed to get them to respect pronouns, to commit to gender neutral toilets.”

They then asked: “What could you do to go beyond what is accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement including people who are outside the social norms?”

They were greeted with general applause and cheering from the audience, which included celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch and Karren Brady.

Obama responded by joking: “That wasn’t that crazy. I thought you were going to ask to come up here and dance with me."

He then went on to add: "But look, I’m incredibly proud of the steps you’ve already taken to speak out about your own experience and try to create a social movement and change laws.

“It sounds to me like you’re on track. I can’t speak for David Cameron but I will say that on LGBT issues I think David’s been ahead of the curve relative to a lot of other leaders around the world.”

Munir told York Vision about the experience: "I was overwhelmed when I sat in the centre of the front row in front of the leader of the free world.

"Coming out to Obama felt absolutely necessary when he picked me by chance to ask a question. I thought it's now or never; if anyone can raise awareness of non-binary campaigns, it's the President of the United States…

"That the UK doesn't recognise non-binary people under the equality act is deeply unsettling.

"I hope that drawing attention to these issues will started a concerted international effort for the media and politicians to understand the real struggles of human beings before they criticise other countries for being illiberal and backwards on LGBTQ rights."

Munir, as well as being a student, is running as a Watford candidate in the local elections.