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!