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Speaking Against Anti-Trans Legislation, This Dad Describes the Day He “Stopped Silencing Our Child’s Spirit”

At a protest for transgender rights, a person holds a sign reading "Protect trans kids"

More than 20 states have introduced anti-transgender legislation this year. Earlier this month, Missouri residents showed up to give testimony to state lawmakers regarding a proposed constitutional amendment that would require student athletes to play on teams that match the sex listed on their birth certificate, regardless of their gender identity. Nearly every person who showed up was there to speak in opposition to the bill.

Brandon Boulware is one of those residents, and his testimony has been getting nationwide attention.

“One thing I often hear when transgender issues are discussed is, ‘I don’t get it. I don’t understand.’ And I would expect some of you to have said that and to feel the same way,” Boulware said. “I didn’t get it either. For years, I didn’t get it.”

Speaking before the Missouri House of Representatives, Boulware described how he came to accept and fully embrace his trans daughter. He said that he and his wife refused to let her express her identity, forcing her to cut her hair short, to wear “boy clothes” and play on boys’ sports teams, against the advice of everyone–teachers, therapists, and all the other experts.

“Why did I do this? To protect my child. I did not want my daughter or her siblings to get teased. And, truth be told, I did it to protect myself as well. I wanted to avoid those inevitable questions as to why my child did not look and act like a boy.”

“My child was miserable,” he continued. “I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable, especially at school. No confidence, no friends, no laughter. I can honestly say this: I had a child who did not smile.”

“I remember the day everything changed for me,” Boulware says. He describes coming home to see his children playing in their yard, his daughter wearing one of her sister’s dresses. They wanted to go play at the house of their neighbor’s kids but it was dinner time, so Boulware said no. His daughter kept asking and Boulware kept saying no until finally, his daughter asked if she could go play with the neighbour if she changed into “boy clothes.”

“And it was then that it hit me,” he says. “My daughter was equating being good with being someone else. I was teaching her to deny who she is. As a parent, the one thing we cannot do is silence our child’s spirit. So on that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child’s spirit.”

“The moment we allowed my daughter to be who she is, to grow her hair, to wear the clothes she wanted to wear, she was a different child,” Boulware says. “And I  mean it was immediate. It was a total transformation. I now have a confident, smiling, happy daughter. She plays on girls’ volleyball teams. She has friendships. She’s a kid.”

The issue of trans athletes and student athletes in sports is often framed, especially by politicians, as if it will absolutely destroy girls’ and women’s sports and hold cisgender women and girls back. Yet actual instances of problems arising from trans inclusion in school sports are incredibly rare. The Associated Press recently reached out to two dozen lawmakers and conservative groups nationwide who are currently sponsoring these anti-trans bills and in almost every case, they could not name an instance of a trans athlete causing a problem in their state.

Instead, the default is to point to one specific lawsuit brought against Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, two transgender sprinters in Connecticut, while claiming their own bills are merely “proactive.”

The Kansas City Star writes:

Supporters of transgender rights say the Connecticut case gets so much attention from conservatives because it’s the only example of its kind.

“It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B — absolutely none,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney.

The multiple sports bills, he says, address a threat that doesn’t exist.

Meanwhile, this means everything to a lot of transgender kids.

“I need you to understand that this language, if it becomes law, will have real effects on real people,” Boulware told the Missouri lawmakers. “It will affect my daughter. It will mean that she cannot play on the girls’ volleyball team or dance squad or tennis team. I ask you, please don’t take that away from my daughter, or the countless others like her who are out there. Let them have their childhoods, let them be who they are.”

(via ACLU on Twitter, image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.