This week Equality Texas is proud to release a brand new video featuring the story of Ann, Jim, and Ben Elder, a family living in Friendswood, Texas. In the video, Ann and Jim, who have been married for 19 years, talk about raising their son Ben, who is transgender – meaning he was born a girl but always knew himself to be a boy.
The video, beyond introducing viewers to the story of one transgender Texan, is a celebration of parenthood, so it’s particularly fitting that this Sunday, May 8, the country celebrates Mother’s Day.
So much of Ann Elder’s life is shaped by her role as Ben’s mother. She and Jim adopted Ben nearly 10 years ago, and he brought great happiness to the couple, who had wanted to grow their family for several years.
“The journey of wanting to become a mother – and then becoming a mother was tough for me, and heartbreaking, but when I finally had a child, I was going to do everything in my power to be the best mother I can to this child,” Ann says in the video. Watch the full video:
When Ben began to show signs at a very young age that deep inside himself, he knew himself to be male, Ann and Jim were open-minded and supportive, allowing Ben to be his authentic self. Following expert advice, they permitted their child to socially transition from female to male, adopting a boy’s name and using male pronouns. He couldn’t have been any happier.
“There was so much joy in his being that I knew there was no way I was ever going to squelch that,” Ann said.
Ben leads a happy life in Friendswood, where he is supported by his friends and family members. But Ann and Jim know that in Texas, LGBT people have no state-level protections from discrimination – and that discrimination is all too common an occurrence for LGBT people, especially transgender people. Under current Texas law, when Ben grows up he has no codified state protections from being fired from a job, denied an apartment lease, or refused service at a restaurant or business just because he is transgender.
Ann explained how much this pained her. “I am a mother, and I have worked so hard to be a mother,” she said. “I have put all of my heart, and soul, and energy into being a mother and nurturing this child and helping him grow up. And it kills me to think I can do all of this work and he can go out and try to get a job, and no one will hire him because he is transgender.”
That’s why it’s so important to share the reality of who transgender people are – they are our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and yes, our children. And they should not face legal discrimination simply for being who they are.
“My dream for Ben is that he will grow up, go to college, get a good job, have a family,” Ann said. “In my mind, his future is unlimited. He should be the only person dictating how far he can go in life.”
Happy Mother’s Day to Ann – and to all mothers in Texas and across the country.