Parenting My Trans Son is Easy, Changing Policies to Help Him is Hard

Yes, some things have been hard, but not because my son is trans. They're hard because of how others treat my son for being trans.

Erica Adams Kasper and Drew Adams

I have two teen sons. One is a foodie, and one is a picky eater. One practices free running, while the other has his blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. One aces his math and science classes, and the other is a compelling writer and sculptor.

They’re different in many ways, including this: One is transgender.

Few parents experience having a trans child. I’ve heard many questions over the years: How do you know this is right for your kid? What if you’re wrong in supporting him? Is it hard to parent someone who’s trans?

I’ve faced these questions before. I don’t get tired of them, though, because I’ve also faced assumptions, judgments, and ignorance. I prefer curiosity to bigotry. Curiosity means a desire to learn about transgender people, embracing education over ignorance and science over myth. Curiosity means people want to know my son and understand his experience, which gives me hope.

Regarding what’s right for my child, I’ve taken the advice of experts like his doctors and done more research than I can quantify. When it comes to whether supporting him is wrong, it’s never wrong for a parent to love their child unconditionally. It’s never wrong to support your child on a journey of self-discovery that harms no one and helps him grow and thrive.

The question that gets me, though, is whether it’s hard to parent a trans child. My sons are people, and while they might try my patience through inherent teenager-ness, it’s not generally any harder to parent one over the other. Usually, having a trans son doesn’t influence our lives at all. I buy the cereal he likes, remind him to work on his college essays, listen to him vent about his classes, and tell him to clean his room (I think there are dirty socks in there that have gained sentience).

But there have been hard moments. The first truly difficult moment was when his school district barred him from the men’s room at his high school. It was hard to meet with school administrators, expecting that educators would embrace a transgender student and support, but instead we faced resistance. It was hard to contact the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and it was hard to wait for months as that investigation played out, only to have it disappear after the 2016 election. Mostly, it was hard to watch my son struggle as his school treated him like the boy he is in every way except for the bathrooms.

Although we didn’t have many other options, it wasn’t easy to contact Lambda Legal and file a lawsuit in federal court. We wanted to work together with the school district for the benefit of all students, but that hadn’t happened. It was hard to watch my son prepare for a trial in federal court when his only stress should have been homework. It was hard to step into the courtroom for the trial, and it was hard to see my son take the stand as a lawyer tried to impeach him as a witness to his own experiences.

Yes, some things have been hard, but not because my son is trans. They’re hard because of how others treat my son for being trans.

Despite everything, it would have been even harder to give up. My son’s rights matter. Trans rights matter. When we learned in July 2018 that we won our court case, all those hard moments were worth it. Seeing a judge affirm my son’s rights was incomparable. Even though the school district has appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and even though the hard moments may not be over yet, I have hope that it will all be worth it.

In the current political climate, it can be easy to feel that it’s too hard to fight for what matters. I think that’s what people mean when they ask me if it’s hard to parent a trans child. But when it’s your son, a regular teenager with regular interests who just wants to live a normal life, it’s amazing how the hard stuff becomes an easy choice to make.

Erica Adams Kasper is the mother of Drew Adams, a male transgender student who is the face of a lawsuit challenging St. Johns County School Board’s discriminatory restroom policy in Florida. Adams v. The School Board of St. Johns County, Florida was filed in June 2017 by Lambda Legal and was the country’s first trial involving a transgender student seeking equal access to restrooms to come before the 11th Circuit.

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