Each of us is the father of a transgender daughter. While our families have gone through this journey separately, our experience as fathers handling transgender issues has been remarkably the same.
A common refrain we hear from others when discussing any transgender issue is, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand.”
We can empathize. For a long time, neither of us quite understood either. And when the issue landed in our own homes, we did not handle it well. One of us required his daughter to wear boy clothes, get boy haircuts, and play on boy sports teams — for years and sometimes against the advice of experts and teachers. Only by the grace of God, and the sage advice of the other, did the second of us avoid those actions.
But both of us had the same feeling. We wanted our daughters to look and act like boys.
Why? Our rationale was the same. Neither of us wanted our daughters or their siblings to get teased by other kids. And truth be told, we did it to protect ourselves as well. We wanted to avoid uncomfortable questions from other adults as to why our kids were different.
Our daughters’ responses to these fatherly attempts to “protect” them were the same. They were miserable. You could see it in their eyes. There was no laughter. They had no self-esteem. This was not a childhood.
But, thankfully, we changed. Though the triggering events were different, each of us experienced a powerful awakening and came to understand that we were teaching our daughters to deny and hide who they truly are. We were suffocating the unique spirit that God has instilled in each of them.
So we stopped. We showed our daughters that we loved seeing them in dresses, wearing longer hair, and fully expressing themselves. The change was dramatic — the least of which was physical. The girls almost immediately went through an emotional transformation. They became happy, confident, and outgoing. They flourished at school and socially.
Those kids who we feared would tease them? They embraced our daughters. Virtually without exception, our girls’ classmates and friends have not questioned the transition, let alone had a problem with it. We have learned that for kids, at least, transgender issues are really non-issues. It is adults who seem to struggle.
It is understandable if you struggle with the discussions about gender. We did too. But don’t get stuck in that place of not understanding. Take the time to meet a transgender child and talk to the parent of a transgender child. You will find that, as parents, we are no different than you and our daughters are no different than yours. We promise that if you spend 10 minutes talking with somebody from the transgender community, you will come away with understanding and the desire to support.
We are writing with urgency because, at this moment, there are a number of anti-transgender bills snaking their way through the Missouri General Assembly. These bills expressly target transgender kids. Kids who want only to do what every other kid does. Play, run, laugh, and learn.
One bill is a constitutional amendment — a Constitutional Amendment! — that would prohibit transgender kids from participating on sports teams, unless they play on a team that matches the sex on their birth certificate. This ensures that transgender kids, like our daughters, will not play sports at all. Imagine telling your own child that they cannot participate. That they do not belong.
Another bill would criminalize parents and doctors for providing the medical care our daughters need to be true to themselves and make informed decisions about how they will face puberty. For that, the legislature would take our kids away and imprison doctors.
There is a role for government, but the politicians pushing these bills are abusing that role. And they are doing so not based on any studies or empirical data, but rather, because of a transparent desire to score cheap political points. We need these politicians to stop targeting our families. We love our daughters, we worry about them, we teach them. They have our hearts in their hands and we will stand in front of anyone, including any politician, who seeks to do them harm.
Join us. You can pick up the phone today and call your state legislator to ask them to stop hearing these bills that harm our kids. You can tell them what we would: “I am a parent. I love my kid. Stop what you are doing and vote ‘no’ on any bill that targets Missouri’s transgender community.”
Brandon and Nate are Missouri parents of transgender children. They have chosen not to share their last names to protect their children’s privacy.