My Son Is Trans. I Want Texas Politicians to Stop Attacking Him—and Me.
“My love for my son isn’t a radical political act,” writes Amber Briggle. “It’s what moms do: Love our children unconditionally, and support them to be happy, healthy, and whole.”
“You make me sick. You’re a sick child abuser. You should die. You should die.” (The caller lists all the ways I should be killed while I frantically try to turn down the volume on my speakerphone so my children won’t hear.) “I hope you die, you fucking child abuser.” And on. And on. And on.
Multiple calls. From the same number. Threatening to come to my small business and “set this bullshit straight.” Of course I filed a police report.
I have no idea who called me. Nevertheless, he dialed me up, left me threatening messages, and called me names too offensive to print. The reason? I’m the loving mother of a transgender child who dared to speak before the Texas legislature.
The bills in Texas include HB1424 (Tom Oliverson—R) that would allow a doctor to refuse care (even in an emergency) to an LGBTQ-identified person due to a “sincerely held religious belief,” SB29 (Charles Perry—R) that would ban transgender kids from being able to play on sports teams that align with their gender identity, and SB1646 (Charles Perry—R) that would label loving parents like me as “child abusers,” place our kids in foster care, and throw us in jail for 2-10 years for doing nothing more than providing our trans kids the support they need to be mentally and physically healthy.
SB1646 received initial approval in the Senate Tuesday; a final Senate vote is expected today, Wednesday.
As a mother, it’s heartbreaking to see my son exploited by far right politicians and anti-LGBTQ hate groups to raise money for more legislation, and candidates that are actively and intentionally harming him.
It’s frustrating and infuriating to hear lawmakers call me a child abuser and to claim that my son is mentally ill, when studies show that trans kids who are supported in their gender identities have statistically the same level of mental health as their cisgender peers.
My son doesn’t have a political agenda—he’s just a teenager loving his gymnastics team, counting down the days to summer vacation, and enjoying sleepovers with his friends after a year of quarantine. My love for him isn’t a radical political act, either. It’s just what moms (should) do: love our children unconditionally, and support them in ways that make them happy, healthy, and whole.
I’ve been intentionally vague about what that support looks like for my son, because it’s no one’s business. The fact is that my kiddo is intelligent, confident, healthy, compassionate, and strong. He is literally the most perfect child on the face of the planet. If politicians truly wanted what is best for kids (all kids), then they should find ways to keep that support going—not ways to criminalize it.
Yet that’s exactly what SB1646 and HB68 (Steve Toth—R) aim to do here in Texas. When I saw that these bills were up for a public hearing, I knew I had to fight back. I opened my testimony with the words “I’m terrified to be here today”—because though it’s no secret that I have a trans-inclusive family, it feels extra scary to attend a Senate hearing and state that publicly on the record. Could my words be used against me if these bills pass? Could they be used against me even if they don’t?
I had never testified in Austin before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after witnessing it firsthand, it was absolutely gross. The bills’ authors are allowed to bring in “invited witnesses”—who, predictably, were just as transphobic as the people who invited them.
Sitting in the Senate chambers and listening to people who want to rip my family apart and deny my son the life-saving support he needs was infuriating. Since screaming in fury and/or burning the entire capitol building down wasn’t allowed, I took to Twitter to rage-tweet. What else could I do?
By the time I got to speak nearly five hours later, only two senators were still in attendance. Beautiful trans youths begged for their lives and sobbing mothers pleaded to stop attacking their children, all to a mostly empty room. One transgender child, 10-year-old Kai Shappley, delivered her powerful testimony and invited questions when she was finished. “Seriously? Y’all don’t have any questions for me?”
The committee’s cruel task was to debate the very existence of transgender children. Here before them was a literal trans girl inviting them to get to know her better, yet not a single senator dared (or cared) to speak to her. My stomach turned and my heart hurt. They had already made up their minds.
Finally it was my turn. The Senate Committee didn’t care, the room was empty, and I was about to go on record as being the parent of a transgender child. I had everything to lose.
But before Texas could ruin my life, bigots and bullies from across the country got to me first. My heartbreaking testimony was followed by countless attacks sent to me in a variety of ways, including the voice messages previously mentioned. All because I’m doing what any loving parent should do: fight for my son’s life and my rights to raise him the way I (and numerous professional medical associations) believe is best for him.
But I’m not scared, nor am I intimidated. Instead, I’m mad. I’m mad at the legislators who are wasting my tax dollars on something that doesn’t affect them. I’m mad that anyone would question my love for my child and call me a child abuser.
Mostly, though, I’m mad as hell that the very people who were elected to make life good for Texans (safe neighborhoods, strong public schools, clean air and water, a stable economy, vaccines for all) are instead making life dangerous for trans kids like my son and placing a target on moms like me and sweet, spunky trans kids like Kai Shappley.
Politicians should be working to protect the vulnerable and keep families together, not rip us apart. Attacking loving parents over issues they know nothing about threatens the future of transgender children everywhere, and puts parents like me in the trans-misogynistic crosshairs of people that think I’d be better off dead than safely at home tucking my kids in at night. What they have done is shameful and disgusting.
I’m hopeful that these bills will fail and that trans kids in Texas (and across the country) will be spared the cruelty that these adults are trying to inflict upon them. But damage has already been done—after all, both Kai and I have received multiple death threats, and I’m certain we’re not alone.
My friends ask me why I don’t just move out of Texas to a state that’s more accepting. Someplace safer. But when I see the barrage of anti-trans bills sweeping across the country, I ask them: Show me on a map where my family will be safe. No place is safe until every place is safe. And if your state doesn’t have similar legislation pending there yet, that doesn’t mean that it won’t tomorrow, courtesy of anti-LGBTQ hate groups like the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom.
I’ve filed a police report about those threatening voice messages. I’ve pressed charges against the bully who thought he could scare me into silence. I’ve testified against these bills, and I’ve comforted my children who fear that their parents will be ripped from them. I can only do so much, though. So instead of asking me “Why don’t you move?” I’m asking you “Why don’t you help?”