"Let them have their childhoods. Let them be who they are."
A father's impassioned testimony to Missouri lawmakers in support of his transgender daughter has gone viral.
In a video shared by the American Civil Liberties Union, parent Brandon Boulware urges his local lawmakers to reject legislation that would ban trans kids from competing alongside cisgender students in school sports. House Joint Resolution 53 (HJR 53), a bill that would require students to play sports on the team that reflects the sex on their birth certificates.
Speaking before the Missouri House of Representatives, Boulware introduced himself as a father of four who didn't understand transgender issues—until his daughter began her own journey.
"One thing I often hear when transgender issues are discussed is, 'I don't get it—I don't understand,'" Boulware said. "I didn't get it either. For years, I didn't get it."
Boulware told the hearing that for years, he forced his daughter to wear boy clothes, get short haircuts and to play with toys marketed to boys, even though she didn't want to.
"Why did I do this? To protect my child," Boulware explained. "I did not want my daughter or her siblings to get teased. And truth be told, I did it to protect myself as well. I wanted to avoid those inevitable questions as to why my child did not look and act like a boy."
"I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable," Boulware continued. "Especially at school. No confidence, no friends, no laughter."
Boulware then shared a story about the moment when he realized his parenting decisions were harming his daughter. One day while his daughter was wearing a dress, she asked if she could go play with her friends. When he said no, his daughter asked if she'd be allowed to go play if she first changed into her "boy" clothes.
"It was then that it hit me. My daughter was equating being good with being someone else," Boulware said. "I was teaching her to deny who she is. As a parent, the one thing we cannot do is silence our child's spirit. So, on that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child's spirit. The moment we allowed my daughter to be who she is, to grow her hair, to wear the clothes she wanted to wear, she was a different child. It was immediate. It was a total transformation."
Speaking of the proposed legislation, Boulware explained, "This language, if it becomes law, will have real effects on real people."
"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."
"I ask you please don't take that away from my daughter or the countless others like her who are out there," he pleaded. "Let them have their childhoods. Let them be who they are."
The video of Boulware's testimony was shared by the ACLU on Twitter and Instagram, where it's gone viral.
NBA star Dwyane Wade also shared the video on his Instagram. Wade is the father of 12-year-old daughter Zaya, who is transgender.
"I don't know Brandon Boulware at all but I do know we have something real in common," Wade wrote on Instagram. "Here's the one thing we can't do 'SILENCE OUR CHILD'S SPIRIT' Thank you for using your platform and sharing your family's story!"
"Our kids are more than bedrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms," Wade added.
As parents, we just want to protect our children. We want them to be happy and know that they are safe and loved.
We just want them to be allowed to be who they are.
If passed, HR 53 would not only bar trans girls from competing alongside cisgender girls in school sports, it would also write the ban into the state constitution.
Missouri is also considering a bill that would prevent minors from receiving gender-affirming medical procedures.
There's a reason why Brandon Boulware's testimony is going viral. It's important. His honesty and deep love for his daughter are moving. By sharing his family's story, he's telling the world that his daughter's identity shouldn't be up for debate. Her humanity shouldn't be up for debate.
That type of unconditional, powerful love? That's resonating with parents around the world.
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