At least 155 anti-transgender bills have been proposed in state legislatures in 2022, up from 19 bills in 2018. In Texas, where I live with my husband and two children (one of whom is transgender), our state legislature mercifully meets only during odd-numbered years. Which means we should have had 2022 “off” to rest and recharge after the cruel 2021 session that dragged on for over 10 months and saw 76 anti-LGBTQ bills filed (a majority of which attacked trans kids like my son). We had planned on spending this year preparing for the 2023 session by resting up, strategizing, and helping pro-equality candidates win in November.
At least, that was the plan.
Our hopes for a quiet 2022 were trashed barely 50 days into the new year, when criminally-indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion that equated my love and care for my son as child abuse. Days later, Governor Abbott signed a mandate stating that the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS) must open an investigation if they receive a report of a transgender child. Less than a week later, we had a DFPS caseworker on our couch, interrogating my children while my husband and I were forced to sit in another room, leaving them alone with just their lawyer (one I had scrambled to find at the last second) and a state agent who was tasked to terrorize my family.
I’m originally from Minnesota, and my husband hails from Colorado. We moved to Texas in 2009 for his job as a university professor, and ever since, our families have asked us why we’re here. These days, I ask myself that too. It’s not just the DFPS investigation that we endured, it’s the constant trauma of waking up every single day wondering what Gov. Greg Abbott is going to unleash on trans-inclusive families like mine. I feel like I’ve aged a decade this year alone. And remember: this was supposed to be our “off” year.
Raising a kid is hard work. Raising a trans kid in Texas is even harder. And yet I grimace when people ask me, “Why don’t you just move?” The better question is, “Why don’t you just help?”
Placing the blame on me, a mother who has endured death and rape threats just for daring to confront Texas lawmakers on their cruelty towards my son, is hurtful, irresponsible, and quite frankly, privileged. Though we are middle-class, we don’t exactly have the means to leave the state easily. My husband is a tenured college professor – few are hiring for that position these days. Is he supposed to give up his job (the one that provides health insurance for our entire family) and work as an underpaid adjunct somewhere? I own a small business with a team of 25 people who count on me to help them pay their bills. It’s not like I can transfer to another branch out of state. It’s unfair to expect me to sell the business I built literally with my bare hands over the course of a decade and walk away from everything, just because Gov. Abbott thinks that attacking trans kids and their loving families is a winning political strategy.
Family will always come first. We already have our escape route planned out if we have to leave the state in order to stay together short-term. But long-term, show me on a map where it’s safe for trans kids. States like Massachusetts have protections for the trans community, but even Boston Children’s Hospital has endured numerous bomb threats in an extreme attempt to close down their gender affirming care program. It’s not just about legislation. Indeed, the legislation feeds – and is in turn fed by – anti-trans violence and rhetoric, which aren’t confined to Texas. Attacks on transgender people are everywhere.
And while the Republican “Red Wave” (thankfully) didn’t even make so much as a splash last month, it’s possible for a currently “safe” state to flip to a party that has made “oppos(ing) all efforts to validate transgender identity” and support for conversion therapy part of their official GOP platform, ushering in politicians like AG Ken Paxton – a man who once broke bread with my family, only to claim now that families like mine should not exist at all.
It is unfair and un-American to ask my family to uproot ourselves, give up our livelihoods, our home, and everything we’ve built as a family, expect my children to leave their friends, activities, and school, and move to another part of the United States – essentially becoming political refugees in our own country – only to risk having to repeat ourselves every 2-4 years. Even if we do move to a “safe” state, no one can guarantee that the school district, neighborhood, or county we move to is safe as well. As the shooting at Club Q in Colorado tragically shows, transphobia doesn’t just exist in red states.
It hurts that my love for my son has become a radical political act here in Texas. And yet, I love this state. I love the hardworking, bootstrapping attitude of my fellow Texans. I love the food, the diversity, the incredible sunsets, and even the heat. My son is thriving in school, sports, and activities. He’s loved and supported by his friends, our church, his coaches and teammates, and our community. We would lose more than we would gain by moving now. For all its faults, we love the life that we’ve built here and want to enjoy it for years to come. Most importantly, my son’s rights should matter regardless of his zip code. Last I checked, he was still an American too.
Don’t ask me to move. Ask yourself what more you can do to protect trans kids.