Austin, Texas – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBT Texans, today joined forces with Texas parents who are speaking out to protect their children’s safety.
The lt. governor continues to hold news conferences on a weekly basis to incite fear in the minds of Texans who have never met a transgender person. These fear tactics and false rhetoric have real consequences.
Last week, several Arlington teenagers were arrested for possible felonies for scrawling derogatory ‘Trans only” on a bathroom door, much like the segregationist ‘Whites only’ over a water fountain. Nineteen gay men have been attacked in the Oak Lawn area, many beaten and almost killed, including Michael Dominguez of Dallas. 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.
Today, four 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.
Meet Kimberly Shappley. She is a Houston area mom and the mother of a transgender child, who was born a boy named Joseph Paul, and who identifies as her daughter, Kai. Kai is five years old.
“From my earliest memories, I noticed the nature and temperament of this child was more similar to my daughter than to my sons. Around age two, a family member asked me if my child was gay because of her flamboyantly feminine mannerisms and love for all things girly. I asked our daycare to put away all girly toys. When my child consistently and persistently insisted “I am a girl”, the adults in her life would get down on her level and look her in the eyes and firmly tell her, “no. you are a boy.” My child went into depression. It is very difficult to witness depression in a formerly joyful toddler. Haircuts became a nightmare of horror movie screams of, “Stop. Stop. Please don’t mommy. Please don’t let them cut my hair.” But I was adamant this child was going to have a flattop. This child would never get a single toy that she wanted, nor the birthday party theme she asked for. My sweet child began praying for Joseph to go to Heaven and live with Jesus. Kai was begging the Lord to let her die. Moments like these helped me to realize transition was necessary. I didn’t know how to do it. I just knew I needed to help my child,” said Kimberly Shappley, mom of a transgender child from Pearland.
“We are private people. We are lifelong Republicans, we are Christian. We are a Houston family who only want to protect our daughter and live quietly. We did not want to speak out publicly, but the lt. governor has forced us out of our private lives and into the public arena to protect our daughter. This is the face of a transgender child in Texas. I want Texans to look at my little girl’s photo. Do we as a state really want to force her to go into the boy’s bathroom? Why are we targeting innocent children for political games? The Superintendent of the Pearland school district, who is listening to the direction of the lt. governor and attorney general, wants to force my little girl into the boy’s bathroom. My number one job in life is “a mom” and I am speaking out today to protect my little girl,” said Shappley. “I urge Lt. Governor Patrick and other leaders to sit down with me and families like mine and educate themselves about transgender children.”
Kimberly Shappley from Pearland, Ann Elder of Friendswood and Amber Briggle of Denton are moms of transgender children. Bob Meier is the father of a transgender son. They never expected this to happen in their lives and it took years for these everyday Texans to come to terms with having a transgender child. But, after educating themselves and working with doctors who are experts in the field, they accepted their children for who they are and are now speaking out to educate Texans to protect their children.
Ann Elder says, “I am a mother and I have worked so hard to be a mother. I have put all of my heart and soul and energy into being a mother and nurturing my child and helping him grow up and it kills me to think I can do all of this work and he goes out and tries to get a job and no one will hire him because he’s transgender.”
“I am a father of a transgender son. We live in Beaumont and our top priority is the safety and well-being of our son,” said Bob Meier, father of a transgender son from Beaumont. “I am a licensed psychologist and it took me two years to understand that Colt had always been a male. We are here to speak up and protect our children. Every Texas child deserves to be safe.”
“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 the lt. governor has chosen to make my child a target by sweeping into a local school district and demanding a superintendent be fired for doing the right thing. We cannot stand silently by and allow our children to be targeted because of who they are,” said Amber Briggle, a Denton mom of a transgender son. “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 like Kimberly Shappley’s daughter. There is no controversy here once parents understand what we are talking about.”
“Transgender Texans, like all Texans, need to use public restrooms without fear for their safety or security. Recent proposed laws and litigation would roll back decades-old policies and laws that ensure that transgender people have access to restrooms appropriate to their gender. Every parent fears for the safety of their child. These proposed laws exploit that fear to attack a vulnerable community, subjecting transgender children and adults to harm. The laws are unenforceable without massive police intrusion on privacy rights and create an expensive liability for businesses,” said Lou Weaver, the first statewide transgender programs coordinator for Equality Texas.
Recently, the lt. governor has said he wants to bring the North Carolina bathroom bill to Texas despite the huge economic fallout in that state and a civil rights lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice.
“The lieutenant governor has decided to pick on an already bullied group of kids. It’s shameful and it’s despicable. We believe Patrick is grand-standing, expressing fake outrage and misrepresenting the facts to try and manipulate Texans who have not met our fellow transgender Texans,” said Steve Rudner, Chairman of the Equality Texas Board.
“It is the responsibility of all of us to educate ourselves so these false attacks can be exposed for what they are, a solution where there is no problem in order to perpetuate discrimination against LGBT Texans,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “Lt Governor Patrick appeals to the worst chapters of our history, in which discrimination runs rampant and understanding and compassion are absent. Transgender students, like transgender adults, don’t want to cause any problems. They simply want to use the bathroom when the need arises. The lt. governor’s proposal would cause Texas to put billions of dollars of federal school funding at risk and threaten the Texas economy.”
We urge the lt. governor to focus on the immense needs of our state that need a real focus from our state leaders, like a severely underfunded education system, a foster care system that is killing countless innocent children, the need for roads and many other issues.
Overwhelmingly, Texans believe that everyone throughout the state should be able to live without fear of discrimination or fear of being a victim of crime.
Link to the American Values Atlas study on public opinion about LGBT nondiscrimination laws and religious exemptions: http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AVA-LGBT-Report-FINAL.pdf
Broadcast Quality Video of Ann Elder’s Story- Houston Family: https://vimeo.com/163940953
Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working solely to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.