Transgender Kids Need Support From Everyone, Not Just Family

My Conservative Family Grew To Love My Transgender Daughter – Will You?

Close up photo of mom’s comforting hand on daughter’s shoulder
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So you’re okay now.

It’s the response I’ve been hearing since the final gavel of Texas’s 87th legislative session, which featured an unprecedented number of bills targeting transgender children. I’ve had to fight for my trans daughter’s rights at the Capitol before, but never so visibly as in 2021. When all thirteen anti-trans bills failed to pass, friends and allies were eager to share their relief. But trans kids and their families are not okay.

Governor Abbott’s special session put my nine-year-old’s life on the agenda. Senate Bill 29, which bars transgender youth from playing on school sports teams of their affirmed gender, has been resurrected a second time. And as primary challengers question the governor’s conservatism, Abbott has also announced he will ban gender-affirming medical care to appeal to far-right voters despite the fact these restrictions fly in the face of medical best practices.

But you’re okay now, my parents say. My mother’s tone is breezy and dismissive, and doesn’t reflect the increasing possibility that it is too dangerous for my daughter and our family to continue living in Texas. My dad recognizes this, and raises a new concern: If my daughter moves her family out of Texas, who will take care of her mother and me?

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My parents weren’t always supportive of our decision to affirm our child’s gender. Both are conservative Christians and lifelong Republicans. I was scared to tell them that my daughter is transgender, but I underestimated them. Nothing motivates a parent to action like the threat of losing a child. My parents don’t want their grandchild to regress to the withdrawn, anxious person she was before my husband and I allowed her to socially transition. They also don’t want her to become another statistic of bullying or self-harm. Or another suicide.

They’re not really going to pass those bills, Mom says. If they do, Biden will overturn them. But relying on federal intervention ignores Texans’ responsibility to create lasting change. What must change are the minds and votes of the Texas people who either support or ignore these politicians and let them spread misinformation unchecked.

As a parent, it’s easy to be in denial about the threat of misinformation. Imagining a scenario in which my child is excluded from normal school activities or denied gender-affirming medical care—life-saving care that is endorsed by every major medical association—can feel like too much to bear. But if we don’t acknowledge that anti-trans legislation could pass (and very nearly did already), then it most certainly will in the future.

And we don’t have to abandon our roots to prepare for the future. My parents haven’t abandoned their political party or faith. They are Republicans, Christians, and supporters of the LGBTQ community all at the same time. My parents’ 180 on transgender rights exemplifies the idea that when people spend meaningful time with a transgender child, no matter how different they seem, people come to see the reality that these are the same children they always loved. As they watched their grandchild socially transition, they transitioned into understanding. They became some of my daughter’s biggest advocates. Would they have called their representatives and encouraged their friends to do the same this legislative session if their grandchild wasn’t trans? No way. But when you watch a child’s face light up simply because you used the correct pronoun, you know that trans kids deserve to be treated like everyone else.

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Some of the strongest advocates for trans youth have been independents and religious conservatives. Unlike the legislators pushing anti-trans bills, these conservative, religious advocates actually listen to trans people and understand that religion and the LGBTQ community need not be mutually exclusive.

No matter how different our political parties appear, we all want what’s best for children in Texas. I’ve seen other families experience a similar journey of understanding and acceptance, and I know that parents from every background and walk of life have the desire and the ability to learn, grow and come to protect the transgender child they love.

There are not enough trans people and families of trans people to fight against discriminatory legislation alone. We need cisgender allies and the LGBTQIA+ community to listen to experts—trans youth, their parents, and medical providers— and vote for the welfare of trans children. Remember that we—like you—only want what is best for our children.

So, no. We are not okay. We have hope, but not without you.