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“I forced my daughter to wear boy clothes, get short haircuts, and play on boy sports teams,” Brandon Boulware said in a moving speech about learning to embrace his transgender daughter. "As a parent, the one thing we cannot do is silence our child's spirit.”

By Melissa Mills
March 16, 2021
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An image of a man holding a transgender pride flag.
Credit: Getty Images.

On March 3, Brandon Boulware, an attorney and father of four in Missouri, joined several others to give an emotional testimony encouraging lawmakers to vote against House Joint Resolution 53, a bill that would require student-athletes to play sports on the team that reflects the sex on their birth certificate. Since being shared by the American Civil Liberties Union, Boulware's moving speech quickly became a must-watch—and a lesson in LGBTQ acceptance.

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

Boulware admitted that he'd force his daughter to fit into the "boy" box by having her wear "boy clothes," keep her hair short, and play on "boy sports teams." What happened, he said, was that his daughter was miserable. "No confidence, no friends, no laughter. I can honestly say this—I had a child who did not smile."

After coming home from work one day and finding his son and daughter—wearing her older sister's dress—playing outside, Boulware learned to not only accept, but embrace, who his daughter is.

"She asked me if she went inside and put on boy clothes, could she then go across the street and play [with the neighbors' kids]," he explained. "And it was then that it hit me. 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—the one thing—is silence our child's spirit. And so on that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child's spirit."

Once they allowed their child to be her authentic self, she transformed into "a confident, happy daughter" who now has real friends and even plays on the girls' volleyball team. That's why Boulware urged legislators to reject the bill—one of at least 19 others just like it in the U.S.—that would limit opportunities for transgender students.

"This language, if it becomes law, will have real effects on real people," said Boulware. "It will affect my daughter. It will mean she cannot play on the girls' volleyball team, dance squad, or tennis team. It will mean she will not have the opportunity that all of us had to be part of a team."

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