Equality Texas Joins a Dozen DFW Parents of Transgender Children Who Are Speaking Out for the First Time About the Safety of Their Children; the Dangerous Rhetoric by Some State Officials and the Federal Lawsuit Filed by the Texas Attorney General
While State Officials Try to Minimize the Number of Transgender Texas Students — A DFW Transgender Parent Group Has Over 135 Members in North Texas Alone and These Parents Fear for Their Children’s Safety as They Head Back to School
Dallas, Texas – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBT Texans, today joined over a dozen North Texas Parents who have transgender children and are speaking out for the first time to protect their children’s safety as they head back to school and after a federal court hearing in Ft. Worth on Friday.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Texans across the state are in fear for their safety because of the false rhetoric perpetrated by the lt. governor and the attorney general as they continue to file lawsuits and hold news conferences to incite fear in the minds of Texans who have never met a transgender person. These fear tactics and false rhetoric have real consequences.
Today, a dozen North Texas families who were leading their private lives quietly and peacefully – now feel compelled to speak out to protect the safety of their children. Forcing transgender children to go to the bathroom based on their birth certificate is putting them in danger.
Ken and Melissa Ballard of Little Elm know the dangers firsthand. Their child, a 14-year-old transgender boy Ashur has attempted suicide twice while coming to terms with being transgender and the anxiety about telling his parents and being accepted. He is now living his authentic self and his parents love him unconditionally, but it has been a difficult journey.
Ash’s father Ken Ballard says, “I would rather have my son be alive than bury my daughter.” Ken found a suicide note while Ash was on suicide watch at a local hospital and reading that letter forever changed his life. He accepted his child as being a transgender boy and as a parent has given him the unconditional love every child deserves. His wife Melissa says Ash is a wonderful child and she wants other parents to know the real dangers about isolating transgender children because it puts their lives in danger, including her own son.
Some state leaders continue to minimize the number of transgender children in Texas and across the nation. In North Texas alone, there are more than 130 parents who are members of DFW parent transgender support group and there are an estimated 1.4 million Americans who are transgender. The suicide rate among transgender children is 41 percent, an alarmingly high rate.
“Do we as Texans really want to put the life of any child in our state at risk of suicide and bullying? The attorney general should stop targeting the most vulnerable segment of the population- transgender kids and focus on the well-being of all students, including transgender students. Instead, Attorney General Ken Paxton continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars to discriminate against his fellow Texans,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “Transgender Texans, and in particular transgender kids, must be afforded the most basic dignity to use the bathroom. Paxton’s actions seek to punish and harm transgender students who have done nothing wrong.”
The Ballards joined a dozen other families at a news conference in Dallas today.
“We did not start this fight. I am upset that I have to speak out to protect my child. I would rather live my life in the privacy of my community with my husband and children, but some of our state leaders have chosen to make my child a target and I am going to speak out to protect my child,” said Melissa Baize, the mom of a transgender son.
“I think our kids need to be treated fairly,” said Chelsa Morrison. “I think our kids need to be protected from discrimination, and I’m here today to make sure my child is protected under the law. We are not fighting about bathrooms. We are fighting for our children’s lives.”
“My son is a boy. He should go to the boy’s restroom with the other boys. There is a false visual image that a boy is going into the girl’s restroom. This is about a boy going into the boy’s restroom, like my son and a girl going into the girl’s restroom. There is no controversy here once parents understand what we are talking about,” said Jennifer Campisi, a Dallas mother of a transgender son who is urging leaders to sit down with parents and educate themselves about transgender children.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the first nationally representative study on the health risks and adverse health outcomes among LGBTQ students in high school. The study of 1.3 million students showed that LGBTQ youth are at a far greater risk for suicide, depression, bullying and rape, and calls for an “accelerated action to protect their health and well-being.” http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/disparities/smy.htm
Earlier this year, a letter signed by national organizations representing almost 5 million educators, pediatricians, counselors and other child welfare providers urged public officials like AG Paxton to stop their political attacks on transgender youth. These organizations include the American Federation of Teachers, the American Academy of Pediatrics; the American Counseling Association; the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Education Association. http://bit.ly/2aQyXUA.
The injunction hearing Friday, concerning the federal government’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, was an attempt to demonize transgender students. We believe that the litigation spearheaded by the attorney general facilitates hostile and intolerant environments in places where children should feel the safest and most supported.
The many moving pieces in the courts and multiple lawsuits underscore a critical need to ensure that transgender protections are permanently codified into state and federal law. Protection from discrimination is too important to leave to the discretion of individual judges or jurisdictions. Texas must continue to work to update our nondiscrimination laws to include transgender people and make those protections permanent through statute.