What mother on earth doesn’t want equality and health for her child? I certainly do.
I gave birth nearly two decades ago to a healthy, beautiful, intelligent child, who cried more than I thought she would and whose tutu-wearing terrible twos persisted into her tiara-wearing terrible threes. This willful nature turned out to be both her most challenging and her finest quality.
She skipped kindergarten because her mind was so sharp. She built fairy houses during recess and enlisted the whole school in creating a moss-covered, magical twig town. She wrote poems about springtime and belted out preteen pops songs about cute boys. She was popular among her girlfriends.
But she wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. She had shoes thrown at her head when she wore leggings and lacy tops. She endured public school teachers making the sign of the cross and running off when she walked between classes.
All because my daughter was born transgender.
In high school she became part of the solution. She became an advocate for transgender youth, who suffer discrimination and violence at alarming rates.
With the help of her mentors, she eventually brought her advocacy to Obama White House, where she helped Education Secretary Arne Duncan craft guidance making sure Title IX included nondiscrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming students.
Then came the Trump administration — and the equality that she and so many had fought for was cruelly ripped away. Almost immediately, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded the very guidance protecting her that my daughter had helped to craft.
My willful child was able to meet with DeVos. She explained what this would mean for children like her who would again be denied the use of the bathroom — and who would continue to be hit, suspended, and bullied by students and teachers alike.
But DeVos and Trump don’t care about my daughter’s welfare. They want her very human and civil right to exist in public spaces to disappear.
At the National Prayer Breakfast on May 2, Trump told an audience of right-wing religious leaders about a sweeping new rule that will allow medical professionals and employers to deny health care to transgender children and adults for so-called “religious reasons.”
He’s already banned transgender soldiers from serving in the military. He’s already rescinded protections for transgender students in schools. And he’s already stricken the very word “transgender” from any publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, a beacon in the storm came a day before the ominous Prayer Breakfast announcement: The House Judiciary Committee passed The Equality Act, and it’s expected to pass the full House.
This could be a historic victory — not only for my child and the LGBTQIA community, women, and people of color, but for principle of equality for all that must stand in any democratic society.
The Equality Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many subsequent civil rights-related acts so that they will explicitly and consistently, across all states, provide equal protection against discrimination for the categories of gender identity and sexual orientation.
So that my child can have the same health care as your child. So that my child can have the same right to education, housing, transportation, credit, employment, and existence as your child. So that my child may live freely and equally to others.
My child continues to use her voice loudly and effectively. She is not bowed. But her very right to exist is threatened even more now than when people were throwing shoes at her head.
All I want us equality for my child — and for other children and adults like her. Is this any different from what every mother wants?
Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.