2021-10-21

Parents of trans kids on fighting transphobia in Texas


Parents of LGBT+ kids open up about the impact that anti-trans legislation has had on them and their families. (Provided)

Texas lawmakers are mounting relentless legislative attacks on young trans people, but parents and activists aren’t backing down from the fight.

Last week, lawmakers heard public testimony about House Bill 25, a draconian measure that targets trans athletes. The bill passed through a House select committee on Wednesday (6 October) by an 8-4 vote and is being debated on the House floor Thursday (14 October).

If passed into law, the bill would ban trans students from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity in Texas.

This year has seen record numbers of anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures across the US, and Texas alone has considered over 50 anti-trans bills since January.

The repeated bombardment of hateful legislation has taken a huge toll, with LGBT+ suicide prevention charity the Trevor Project reporting a huge influx of calls to its helplines from queer youth in the state.

Amber Briggle, the Texas mum of a trans son, told PinkNews that she’s been to several rallies and driven several hours to testify against anti-trans legislation. She described how she’s “done what I can” but “got so burned out” and “emotionally exhausted” as a result of the prolonged battle.

“I’m gonna work my ass off every single second to do as much good as I possibly can, and it’s exhausting and terrifying,” Amber said. “Last spring, I was getting death threats and rape threats, and then none of those bills passed.”

She felt “still so bruised from the spring”, and the waves of anti-trans bills have traumatised her whole family. Amber said she’d even had to see a specialist because she’s losing her hair, adding she’s “not the only mama bear” going through this.

Ultimately she wants right-wing advocates and politicians pushing these bills to “just leave us alone”.

“If I could wish for anything, it would be to pass the Equality Act because this isn’t a Texas issue,” Amber said. “This is happening across multiple states, hundreds of bills have been filed and if it hasn’t come to your state yet, it’s coming soon.”

Hillary Moore-Embry is a proud “sixth-generation Texan”.

“My whole family – my aunts, cousins, my mom, my husband’s parents – all live here,” Hillary told PinkNews.

Their grandpa made the windows in their family home, they know “the birds the plants and the names of them, and every state park”. So moving to a new state is a terrifying idea – but the continued attacks on trans lives means they have no choice but to up sticks for Colorado.

Hillary Moore-Embry says their family is moving out of Texas because of the anti-trans bills. (Provided)

“It’s been horrible,” Hillary admitted. “It has affected my son’s mental health greatly. He doesn’t even play sports – it’s just the continuous nasty vitriol that’s been legitimised by airing the ‘both sides kind of argument’ in the Capitol.”

It’s been a “crushing” blow to their family. “But people are more important than places so my kid feeling safe is so much more important to me.”

Mandy Giles is the proud mum of non-binary twins.

Mandy Giles and Indigo attend a trans rights protest in Texas. Mandy holds up a sign calling for equal rights for trans people while Indigo holds up a right that reads 'leave us alone'
Mandy Giles stands alongside her child Indigo at a trans rights protest in Texas. (Provided)

Mandy said the bills don’t technically affect her children who are both college age, but “hearing the humanity and reality of transgender people being debated” constantly is “devastating to them”.

“Every time anti-trans legislation is made a priority in Texas, it’s like a punch to the gut,” Mandy told PinkNews. “Just the act of these horrible bills being filed – whether they get a hearing or not – is damaging to trans kids’ mental health.”

“It’s pretty much the definition of bullying – the exploitation of an imbalance of power,” Mandy continued. “It’s hard on us as parents, too, to hear people call us child abusers or psychopaths.”

She compared testifying and rallying against anti-trans bills to being at a funeral.

“You hate the reason you’re there, but you enjoy gathering with friends and family – definitely emotional whiplash,” Mandy said. “Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re making a difference, but I have to lend my voice and speak for those who can’t.”

She wished lawmakers and the general public would just “realise and truly understand” that trans people are just people, and that trans kids “don’t transition to trick anyone or gain access to spaces or win trophies”.

Rebekah Bryant will do whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe.

Rebekah, who lives in Houston, has been to the Capitol several times this year to advocate against anti-trans bills alongside her young daughter, Sunny, at great expense.

“I’ve spent close to $3,000 this year driving back and forth to the Capitol, buying meals on the road and then sometimes nights in hotels,” Rebekah told PinkNews.

The seventh-generation Texan said the bills have affected her “chipper and goofy” daughter, who she says now has “big waves of anxiety”.

Sunny was among dozens who testified at the House select committee against HB25. She asked why legislators were “attacking me” with the hateful bill.

Theirs is another family considering leaving the state, as the wave of attacks is “weighing us down” as a state and “hurting actual Texans”.

“Whatever it takes to keep us safe,” Rebekah told PinkNews. “We will give up our dream careers, we will move away from grandma if that’s what it’s gonna take.”

 



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