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Trans Children Don’t Always “Come Out,” You Know

Today is National Coming Out Day, and it strikes me that my son — a fourth-grader who only recently got a birth certificate stating that he is, indeed, male — doesn’t really have a coming out story. Thanks to the perseverance of generations of transgender people before him, Max, as my son is now known, has never really had to “come out” to the people in his life. He did, however, start using male pronouns and introducing himself as a boy by the time he was 6 years old, but honest to goodness he doesn’t even remember a word of the conversation we had together. Being true to himself is all he’s ever known in this family.

Max has always been a bit of pioneer. He was born abroad, and I’d like to think that the first 18 months of his life, living as a baby and toddler in the Netherlands, gave him a resilient, adventurous spirit that makes him relatively immune to taking personally the ignorant rhetoric surrounding the politics of gender identity…

…Read the entire essay at Refinery29

Speaker Straus wrote back! (And it’s not a form letter!)

Oh my stars, Speaker Joe Straus wrote back.

We just got home from a Saturday full of activities, including tacos (duh), running errands, and attending Lulu’s bestie’s birthday party (complete with bounce house and rainbow unicorn cake), when my husband went to go check the mail before heading inside.

“You got a letter from Speaker Straus,” he yelled from across the lawn.

“Hmm.  Must be a letter from one of those surveys I filled out during the special session,” I sighed, exhausted from the work we put in over the last year and not in the mood for another “Dear Constituent” form letter from an elected official, even if it was from someone I sincerely liked.

But just to get rid of the clutter on my kitchen table, I opened the letter, fully prepared to put it in the recycling. Once I put down the groceries and picked up the trash that the dog got into (again!), I unceremoniously opened the envelope.  

And cried.

Because this letter was not a form letter — it was a heartfelt note from the Speaker of the House, a man who stood by his convictions, led with dignity, and saved our state and trans Texans like my son from a crushing future. While Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick tried their hardest to erase my child’s existence from public life (because let’s be honest — that’s really what these bathroom bills are all about), Speaker Straus (who, along with Abbott and Patrick, is also a Republican) understood that discriminatory bathroom bills are bad for business, bad for kids, and bad for Texas.

I had hoped that Speaker Straus would have taken the time during the very busy special session this summer to read my open letter that I wrote to him in the Texas Tribune. I tweeted him, I emailed him, and I stopped by his office in Austin to make sure he got the message. 

 

Most importantly, though, I had hoped that even if he himself didn’t know about this letter, that somehow enough Texans would have read it that it could have guided the tone of the conversation towards one of compassion instead of fear.  I won’t ever say that this letter made the difference, but it probably helped a little.  Combined with the much larger coalition of LGBTQ support, from trans-inclusive families like mine, transgender people like Jess Herbst, Lou Weaver, and Ashley Smith, the business community, the religious community, organizations like Equality Texas, HRC, and NCTE, and allies like y’all, together, we all made a difference.

And so, here’s the letter from Speaker Straus (and thank you for reading this far, because I know you only clicked here to see what he had to say).  It’s basically amazing, but what’s even more amazing is this video of my son reading it aloud.  

September 6, 2017

Dear Ms. Briggle,

Thank you for your email in late June and the very touching piece that you posted on TribTalk.  I apologize for the delay in my response, but I want you to know that I have been deeply moved by all that you’ve had to say.

It’s certainly been an interesting year.  I want to thank you, and I want to thank Max, for having the courage to speak up and share your experience.  I’m sure that it hasn’t been easy, but your story has reached a lot of people.  It was encouraging to see the broad coalition of Texans who got involved in the special session and made a real difference in the outcome, and you and your family had a lot to do with that.

Again, thank you very much for reaching out and for your public words of support, all of which i appreciate.  I wish you and Max the best, and please don’t hesitate to contact me again if i can ever be of assistance to you.

Sincerely,
Joe Straus
Speaker

Never think that what you’re doing is too small to matter.  Never think that your voice is too tiny.  Every small act adds up to something great.  Together, we ARE making a difference.  And I love ALL of you for it.

What Back To School Is Like For Trans Kids

My fourth grade son can’t wait to get back to school — after a long, hot summer of missing his friends, he’s itching to get back on that playground and show everyone his monkey bar tricks and the sweet tae kwon do moves he worked on over vacation.

I, however, always face the new school year with trepidation. Because my fourth grade son is transgender. Adding to the new school year anxiety is the fact that we also live in Texas, a state that attempted to pass 30 anti-LGBTQ bills during this year’s legislative session and, when that wasn’t enough, Governor Greg Abbott added a “special session” over the summer just to try to eke out a little more hate before the school year started.

While other families are concerned about getting haircuts, new shoes, and backpacks for the first day of school, parents like me add considerably more to the list: worries like, “Will my kid’s teacher use the correct pronouns?” And the very basic, “Will my kid be able to use the bathroom at school?” That’s on top of wondering if this presidential administration is going strip what remaining Constitutional rights people like my child have.

In no particular order, and certainly far from complete, here’s a list of a half-dozen things that parents of trans kids are thinking about when the school year starts, and how teachers, parents of cisgender kids, and friends can be allies. I’m sure we’d all rather be thinking about cool monkey bar tricks — but there’s a lot of work to do, first.

…Read the entire essay and list at Refinery29

What Nobody Talks About When We Talk about School “Bathroom Bills”

It took me a while to recognize my child’s strange after-school ritual: Max would rush through the door and without so much as a hello, race to the bathroom. Max, then a first grader and well past the “potty emergency” age, was dropped off at my office by his friend’s mom, because as a small business owner, I couldn’t leave early enough for school pickup. I didn’t think much of it that afternoon, but day after day this pattern became clear: The front door opened and closed quickly and little feet would scurry down the hall as fast as they could go. What seemed like an eternity later, my baby would reappear, asking me in his sweet little voice what kinds of snacks I had in the break room. Once I noticed the pattern, it took me a little while longer to realize that he was always scurrying into the men’s room, even though the women’s room was closer.

“Sure,” you’re probably thinking. “Your son wanted to use the men’s room. That’s where boys belong.”

Except when all this was going on, I still thought that this child was my daughter. It took months and months more for me to begin to realize that my baby wasn’t a tomboy—he was a transgender boy, and that there was actually a big difference between the two.

…Read the entire essay on Lifetime

Potties, Power, and the Politics of Fear

My state representative knows my transgender son by name. He makes it a point to shake his hand when we meet him, and pat him on the back.  He uses male pronouns and calls him Max, instead of his birth name of Mary Grace.  He also signed on as a co-author to HB46, a bill which would strip local municipalities like Fort Worth or Plano of any current non-discrimination ordinances, and prohibit other cities in the state to pass anything similar.  This bill would make it legal to discriminate against transgender kids like my son Max, as well as veterans, seniors, and anyone not already protected by federal law.

 

I would like to believe that my representative cares about Max.  But after seeing his name on that bill, my hunch is that he cares more about getting re-elected than he does about doing the right thing.

 

Those of us who have been following these “bathroom bills” (and I count HB46 as one, even though it’s much broader reaching and would have a much bigger, much more negative effect) all understand that this is nothing more than a political pissing match. Once marriage equality became the law of the land, the far right needed to find another target that would play into their politics of fear: the T in LGBT.  Like marriage equality or desegregation, this has nothing to do with “common decency”– but it has everything to do with winning the primaries.

 

I had hoped that by introducing my transgender child to my representative, he wouldn’t buy into that politics of fear.  He would see Max for exactly who he is: a freckle-faced 4th grader who dotes on his little sister and our rescue cats.  Max is smart and funny and athletic and kind.  And because he is transgender, he is also among the 75% of trans students who report that they don’t feel safe in school, and that maybe — just maybe — that might be something our representative would want to try to address.  But the politics of fear is strong, and he knows it gets out the vote.

 

So he threw my son, and the estimated 145,000 transgender Texans like him, under a bus.

 

Texas is a heavily-gerrymandered state, and a case will soon be heard at the Supreme Court about this very issue.   Governor Abbott refuses to make voter registration easier and more accessible with automatic voter registration (which already successfully exists in 35 other states, red and blue alike), and if you move, your voter ID card is not forwarded to you in the mail.  If you end up not voting for a while, you’ll be purged from the whole system.  Folks complain that voter apathy is to blame for poor turnout on election day, but that’s not the whole picture: the current political system in Texas is counting on these deliberate acts of voter suppression to stay in power.  And when people don’t feel empowered, they’re going to feel apathetic on Election Day.  The cycle continues, and things only get worse.

 

I still believe, however, that the power is in our hands — but only if we vote in the primaries.  A lot of Texas politicians know that if they can get through the primaries, they’re pretty much guaranteed an Election Day victory.  Ever wonder why the candidates listed on the final ballot are usually so extreme and unappealing? That vetting happened much earlier, back in the primaries, a time when a lot of us just weren’t paying attention.  And with extreme groups promising tens of thousands of dollars to candidates if they take a hard stand on something like bathrooms, the allure of the politics of fear becomes even greater. But if we do our research and look at the facts: that there has not been a single case of a transgender person assaulting anyone in a bathroom, that there are already laws in place to protect us against predators in public spaces, and that the vast majority of sexual assault cases are committed by someone we already know and trust (and not by someone putting on a dress and walking into a well-lit public space) — we will come to see this for what it is: a trick to try and get the most extreme voters to cast ballots for the most extreme candidates, all because they have persuaded us to be scared of something that doesn’t exist.

 

It’s not hard to vote in the primaries — you don’t even need to be registered with a political party. But you do need to pay attention.  Pay attention to the distractions that our politicians try to conjure up.  Things like this bathroom bill. This isn’t about potties. This is about politics and power. But if we all show up and vote in the primaries, we might actually have a shot of turning this ship around, instead of just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic every November.

Transgender Troops are Fighting for this Country. Will our Country Fight for Them?

My grandfather was a Marine in the Korean War, and survived a brutal march for nearly a hundred miles in the winter, with the enemy on one side of him and the ocean on the other.  The only food he had was a can of bacon that he would heat up whenever he was lucky enough to find a campfire, peeling off a thawed strip or two from the inside of the frozen can, and staying just long enough to warm up his feet to prevent frostbite. Unlike so many of his fellow brave Marines, my Grampa Phil actually made it back home alive, where he married my gramma and raised seven kids as the loving, hardworking, Christian man that he was.

 

When my grandfather signed up for the military, he signed up to serve his country, and our ideals as a nation.  The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees equal rights to every American, and though we have a complicated history when it comes to equality, we have throughout time tried to right our wrongs through things like the Emancipation Proclamation, the 19th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, or granting same-sex couples the right to marry.  These are the ideals that my Marine grandfather fought for, and these are the ideals that he instilled in me as his granddaughter.   

 

I’ll be forever grateful to Grampa Phil for teaching me how to fight, because I’ve unfortunately had to do a lot of it lately: as the mother of a transgender child in Texas, I’m living in a state and indeed in a nation that seems hellbent on discriminating against my 9 year old son Max at every turn.

 

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.  Looking at him, you’d never know he was trans. And why should that matter if he can “pass” or not anyway?  Isn’t he just as much an American as you or I? Max likes all the same things that your 9 year old kids like: he’s obsessed with our cats, he builds elaborate Minecraft worlds, he struggles with his multiplications tables, and like his Great-Grampa Phil, his favorite food is bacon.  What’s not to love about this kid? Why aren’t we doing more as a nation to protect him?

 

But rather than stand up for transgender Americans like my baby, the Department of Justice has instead rescinded any guidelines that were previously in place, meant to protect my child from discrimination.  There are serious questions about how exactly the Department of Education will (or won’t) investigate complaints brought to them on behalf of LGBTQ students when these same students feel that they have been treated unfairly by their teachers or school boards.  And now the Trump Administration has said that Americans like my son Max will be unable to serve this country in the military because they are transgender.

 

As parents and as Americans, we tell our children that when they grow up, they can be anything they want to be. If Max wants to be a Marine like his great-grandfather, who are we to stop him? Disappointingly, Trump wants to limit my American child’s potential. Nothing would make me prouder as Max’s mom to see him serve this country in the military, protecting our freedoms, serving as an unofficial ambassador in far off lands, and fighting for what he believes in. But after hearing this most recent news from the White House, I’m asking myself: if Max fought for our country, would our country fight for him?

There are 150,000 transgender service members who have served our military, or are on active duty, and an estimated 134,000 more when you count the Reserves. In fact, transgender Americans are more likely to serve in the military than their cisgender peers. Is it maybe because they’ve been fighters their whole lives? Think about it: transgender people had to fight to be who they are, and our brave service members continue to fight today for our country, including their right to exist in it. Their sacrifice and service is notable, appreciated, and selfless. The same cannot be said about their Commander in Chief.

This essay was originally published in the Huffington Post

That viral photo of my trans son crying? Here’s what’s really going on.

My 9-year-old son doesn’t have a political agenda; he’s just a kid. You wouldn’t think so given the backlash against a photo I posted of him on Facebook this weekend, though: a crying child, sitting exhausted on the floor of the Texas capitol, as his concerned mother wipes his tears. Somehow that struck a nerve with people across the country, and the criticisms of my parenting and the validity of my transgender child’s experience have been the center of online conversation ever since…

…read the entire essay at Refinery29

For Max

For 140 days, we defeated MULTIPLE attempts by the Texas Legislature as they tried again and again to pass anti-transgender legislation.  The regular session is over, but the special “session of oppression” begins on July 18, 2017.  The stakes are high for kids like Max, but with your help, we can win again.  Here’s how we fight for him today, tomorrow, and every day:

 

An open letter to Speaker Joe Straus

Dear Speaker Straus,

We’ve never met, but I wanted to say thank you. I’ve watched the way you guided the House through a tumultuous legislative session and honestly, I don’t know how to thank you. While the lieutenant governor seems to have lost his mind and the governor seems to have forgotten how to lead, you, sir, have been resolute in trying to address the real issues affecting Texans — not on trying to legislate lavatories.

I haven’t really spent much time tracking legislation before; I guess I’ve never really had to. My life has been pretty privileged up until now — I’m a white, middle-class, college-educated, married lady who likes country music, ice tea and Jesus. I own a business, and until recently, I believed that if you just worked hard enough, you could accomplish anything.

But I started paying attention to what y’all were doing down in Austin the year that I finally accepted that my child was transgender. And what I found, Speaker Straus, is that there was an awful lot happening under that pink dome that could quite possibly kill him…

Read the full version of this letter here.  Thanks to TribTalk and the Texas Tribune for publishing this!

Choosing love over fear

People often ask me why I allowed my son to “choose” to be transgender. As if being transgender is a choice. I usually turn the question around and ask them why they chose to be cisgender (or, to put it another way “not transgender). It usually takes them a minute to try to process the idea that my son didn’t choose his gender identity any more than they did.

Really, though, I think a better way to frame that question is not to ask me why I allowed my son to choose to be transgender, but rather, when I did choose to accept the fact that he really is a boy? When did I finally allow him to live his truth out loud? What was it that finally made me decide to use male pronouns, call him by a new name, and stare down our elected officials in Texas every time they want to regulate where my child should pee?

To be clear: this didn’t happen overnight. When two year old “Gracie” told me that he was a boy, literally the last thing I thought was that he was transgender. That word wasn’t even in my vocabulary back then.  Instead I told him that there were lots of different ways to be a girl, and that if he wanted to play Star Wars instead of My Little Pony, that was totally cool.  Being a tomboy was perfectly acceptable, and in fact, celebrated in our society.  I wanted to help him “redefine girly” and in turn, educate the whole world on the multitude of ways to express one’s femininity.

We let him pick out his own clothes, and gradually his hair got shorter and shorter. We thought we had found the perfect balance of allowing our child to express himself without denying the fact that he was still “really” a girl.

But moms have a sixth sense. And although I was okay with him wearing Spiderman t-shirts instead of sundresses, I suspected there was something else beneath the surface.  So when he was still in preschool and asked me — out of the clear blue sky — if scientists could turn him into a boy, I knew it was time to dig a little deeper.

Unfortunately, at least back then, there wasn’t a whole lot of easily accessible information for parents wondering about how to support their child’s “gender creativity.”  In fact, most of the first-hand blogs and essays I read from other parents questioning the same thing used those words — “gender creativity” — instead of “transgender,” because so little information was out there and few people really believed this was possible, especially for a child.  I pored over every article I could find, every scientific study, every news story, and every parenting blog, in a desperate attempt to uncover what it was that my little one was trying to tell me.

Years of research eventually uncovered two major themes.  First: all of us — you and I, your neighbor, your kid’s teacher, literally everyone –has a gender identity. Ask any child from the age of 3 or 4 years old if they are a boy or a girl, and the majority of them will have an answer for you. They won’t say, “I have a penis, so I’m a boy.” They’ll just say, “I’m a boy.”  These kids don’t have political agendas — they just simply have gender identities like you or me.  Cisgender people like me are the ones whose gender identity happens to match the gender they were assigned at birth.  Transgender people like my son are the ones whose gender identity doesn’t match the gender that was assigned to them at birth.  And that’s okay, because we are understanding more and more that gender is not a binary, but exists on a spectrum, and that that sense of gender lives in the brain.

What I discovered next, though, shook me to my core — because when that gender identity isn’t valued and supported by those around us, it can have tragic consequences.  A 2014 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41% of transgender youth have attempted suicide at least once.  Not “contemplated” suicide, but actually tried to kill themselves.  The rate of attempted suicides among the general population is closer to 1.4% — to be clear, ANY life lost this way is tragic and heartbreaking. But when more than 2 in 5 trans kids are trying to kill themselves, this is clearly an epidemic, and one that we are almost completely guilty of creating.

You see, transgender people aren’t trying to kill themselves because they are mentally ill (in fact, a 2016 study published in Pediatrics showed that trans youth who are supported in their transitions had essentially the same rates of mental health as their cisgender peers).  Instead, they are suffering because of the way we are treating them.  Let that sink in: trans youth are killing themselves because so many of us can’t wrap our minds around the simple idea that there just might be more than one way to know your gender identity.  We’re letting our heads get in the way of our hearts.  And our children are dying because of it.

Fact: there is still no federal law prohibiting anyone from discriminating against transgender people.  Several states are trying to pass (or have already passed) “transgender bathroom bills” whose real purpose isn’t to protect women and children from predators, but to prevent trans people from participating fully in public life.  After all, how can you buy a new dress for your sister’s wedding, meet your friends for coffee, serve on a jury, or even go to school if you can’t use the bathroom?  Think about the sweet trans child who is disowned by their parents when they come out, or the trans adult who is fired from their job or denied housing simply because of who they are.  Not to mention that 75% of transgender students report feeling unsafe at school and that they are far more likely to be bullied than their cisgender peers.  Is it any wonder that so many these precious children become suicidal?

When confronted with my son’s insistent, consistent, and persistent avowals of his gender identity — and the profound sadness and anxiety he experienced whenever he was told he was a girl — I felt that I basically had two options. I could either allow my child to transition socially (names, pronouns, the way he dressed, and yes, bathroom use), knowing that he’s more likely to be bullied and discriminated against for being trans; or I could force him to continue to live in a way that doesn’t fit his true identity, knowing that my rejection of his gender identity could very likely turn him into another statistic.  When faced with those facts, I made the easy choice: I chose my son’s life over my own fear of the unknown. I chose to let my sweet child, who was at that point not quite 7 years old, to transition halfway through his 1st grade year and go back to public school on Monday using male pronouns and a new first name.  In the end, I wanted Max (as he’s known now) to define himself from the inside out, not the outside in.  And I’d rather face bullying and discrimination with my son by my side, instead of bury him because I couldn’t accept the fact that his life was different than the one I had imagined for him.

I wish I had known about websites like Amaze.org when I was seeking out resources for Max years ago.  Their cute, short videos geared towards children are surprisingly useful for grown-ups too.  This video in particular would have been crazy helpful when Max was a wee one — for years, he would dress in superhero costumes in order to avoid wearing dresses and being called by a girl’s name.  Watching this video today, it all seems so obvious to me what was really going on, but back then I was left putting all the puzzle pieces together by myself with very little help.  Thankfully there are far more resources available to parents of gender nonconforming children today than ever before, and Amaze.org is working to give parents like me the tools I need to navigate Max’s future as he enters puberty and beyond.  And I wonder: had I known about Amaze.org all those years ago, would we have accepted Max’s transition sooner?  How many fewer tears and sleepless nights could we have saved?

Max has my eyes, his dad’s goofy personality, and his own adorable smile with teeth too big for his freckled face. He’s bright, courageous, helpful, athletic, and the most popular kid in his class.  And when I look at him, I am reminded that he is just as precious and miraculous today as he was on the day he was born. Nothing about Max has changed except the words we use to describe him, but I can honestly say that I have changed for the better. My child didn’t choose to be transgender, but I have chosen to love him unconditionally.

For more resources on gender identity, hop on over to the Amaze Parents Facebook page and give them a like!  This essay was graciously sponsored by Amaze.org. All ideas and opinions expressed here are my own.

Leading with a heart: A thank you to Kathleen Wazny

In January of 2015 I filed paperwork to become a city council candidate.  About a week earlier, my child and I sat down and finally addressed something we had needed to talk about several months – if not years – earlier: he wasn’t the daughter I thought I had, but rather, he was my son.  He wanted to be called new name and use male pronouns. He was only 6 years old.

Looking back on all of this, I honestly have to say that running for city council was way harder than navigating the social transition of a transgender 1st grader.

To further complicate an already complicated family matter, it was also a legislative year here in Texas (Lord have mercy on us all).  The Texas Legislature convenes for about 6 months, once every 2 years, and tries to hammer out budgets and bathroom bills, while the rest of us all pray that they don’t screw everything up.  Which they usually do – some years worse than others.

We struggled for almost 5 years with our son, who insisted from the age of 2 that he was actually a boy, and not a girl like we all thought.  The feminist in me celebrated his gender-bending ways, and enjoyed correcting people who thought my daughter was really my son. “There’s lots of ways to be a girl,” I’d remind them.  After a while, though, I’d notice the way that Max would cringe when I would inform those random strangers about his “true” identity. I began to wonder: maybe they weren’t mis-gendering my child.  Maybe I was.

So finally, after five long years of research, prayer, and discernment, we transitioned as a family – switching from female pronouns to male ones, and changing his name from Gracie to MG and finally to Max.

And then the Texas Legislature reconvened and wanted to pass laws about which bathroom my transgender child could use at school.  As if all of this wasn’t complicated enough.

My husband, being the thoughtful person that he is, wrote a blog and titled it “An Open Letter to Debbie Riddle”.  That essay was picked up the Dallas News and ran as an op-ed a few days later.  We wondered if giving the permission to republish it was the right thing to do – it was our first time speaking publicly about an issue that was still so new and private to us, after all. But we didn’t live in Dallas, and we thought that this might be a good way to speak out on this issue while also maintaining some degree of anonymity.  We felt that if we didn’t speak up, there were thousands of transgender Texans just like our son (actually, about 145,000 of them) who could be affected by this discriminatory legislation.

That piece was published just a few weeks before a debate at Robson Ranch, a gated retirement community far on the outskirts of my adopted hometown of Denton, TX.  Despite its geographic distance, it’s in the same district as the one I live in, so the city council race that year was between myself – a then-37-year-old mother and small business owner living near the University core, and a 60-something retired grandmother and resident of that very same gated retirement community.

Robson Ranch is so gated, in fact, that they hosted a candidate’s forum and invited only the candidates from their district (Kathleen Wazny and myself), and opened the doors to only their residents.

Here I was: in the lion’s den.  Kathleen was loved and well-respected by her neighbors, all of whom had shown up for the forum to cheer on one of their own.  And then there was me – a political newcomer, living on the opposite end of town, young enough to be their daughter, but wanting desperately to hear their concerns so I could do an effective job of representing the entire district, not just my part of town.

We were each given a minute to introduce ourselves, and then the questions from the audience began. Audience members wrote their questions down on a piece of paper for the moderator to read. Kathleen and I would each take turns going first, and we’d each get a couple of minutes to speak  It went back and forth this way for a while, with the same predictable questions about property tax rates and whether or not we needed a new city manager. You know, typical stuff.

And then.

I should have anticipated it. I should have known that someone there would have read my husband’s op-ed. Some anonymous bully in that room had the nerve to ask about transgender people using public restrooms, knowing full well that I had a transgender child at home, and that acknowledging this in a room mostly full of conservatives (did I mention that this debate was hosted by the Robson Ranch Republicans?) was a sure-fire way making sure I’d lose not only the debate, but focusing the campaign on my “faults” as a mother and distracting from the real issues like road repair, funding our parks, and managing a city budget of nearly $1 billion.

While the unknowing moderator was reading the question out loud, I stared at my husband sitting in the first row and gave him a silent, panicked look. “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” I screamed with my eyes.  He silently screamed right back at me, “I. Cannot. Believe. They. Are. Doing. This.”

Being that this was so early in my family’s transition, everything still felt raw and vulnerable.  I know how calmly I would have handled it today, but that night it took EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING, not to walk up to that microphone, tell them to all go to hell, and run out of there with my middle fingers flying high.  This was my BABY.  How DARE you.

But for the Grace of God, it was actually Kathleen’s turn to take the microphone first.  And for as long as I live, I will never forget what she did next.

Kathleen Wazny calmly approached the microphone and said, “This isn’t a local issue, this is a state issue. And quite frankly, I think Texas has bigger issues to deal with than trying to figure out what bathroom people should be using.”  And then she sat down and saved the day.  I got up and simply said “I agree,” and when the debate ended I ran to the car, shouted every expletive I could think of, and went home to drink a bottle of wine and curse the person who tried to out my precious child in a room full of strangers.

But here’s the beautiful, optimistic thing about all of this: I know that Kathleen read that article. She’s smart, and she does her homework. I’m certain someone shared that piece with her in the hopes that she’d use it to destroy me.  She’s their local hero, after all, and there were apparently some people in that room that wanted her to win at any cost.  I can’t say I blame them – it’s politics, after all. But I also don’t have to forgive them for what they did that night.

I won every precinct that year, except for Robson Ranch. But that wasn’t enough – not by a long shot. Though Kathleen mopped the floor with me on Election Day, I know it had nothing to do with the fact that I have a transgender son. She had an opportunity to capitalize on something that was, and in many cases still is, a taboo subject among her core supporters – but she refused to take the bait, and the question never came up again for the rest of the campaign season.  My family has since spoken publicly about our transition, but we did it on our terms, when we were ready.  To her enormous credit, Kathleen stuck to the REAL issues facing our community, and left the bathroom debate to the people who could best make that decision: parents, kids, and educators.

I regret that I’ve never thanked Kathleen for standing up for my son that day. She didn’t have to do that. She could have thrown my whole family under the bus and no one would have blamed her. Politics is funny that way. But she recognized that some things are more important that politics, and reacted like a real human (and not a politician) would: with kindness, integrity, and grace.  I can only wish that our Texas Legislature would take a lesson from Kathleen Wazny, who won that race not by turning my son into a political pawn, but by sticking to the issues and leading with her heart.

 

Baby Shower 2.0: Celebrating My Transgender Son’s New Identity

The blue jellybeans were assembled in pint-sized mason jars on my kitchen table. My husband was about to head to the store to pick up the balloon bouquet while I put finishing touches on the decorations. The kids and I had made a batch of homemade chocolate ice cream, and the giant, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie was frosted in blue with our son’s new name: Max Grayson. “It’s A Boy!” read the banner across the wall and on the sign in the front yard. We were thrilled to welcome so many excited guests to our home for “Baby Shower 2.0.”

We had already thrown our child a baby shower back in 2008, back when we named him Mary Grace and thought he was our daughter. Our son is nine years old now and has been telling us he is a boy since he was two. Once we were able to finally recognize that he was transgender…

 

… Read the entire post online at the amazing storytelling website and blog TueNight.