Content warning: Discussion of suicidal ideation ahead.

I am the militant mother of 2 daughters, one who happens to be trans. This is how our family navigated and survived the process of overcoming societal and legislative barriers to come out thriving. But now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is preventing other families from doing the same. I hope my story highlights how harmful that is.

“Mom, I’m transgender.” What a relief it was when I heard those words from my teen! 

This child had been through so many trials and transformations. They went from a cheerful toddler nicknamed “Smiler” to a sullen and withdrawn student. 

Mackenzie* was labeled “quirky” at school. In first grade, at her school’s parents’ open house, her teacher proclaimed, “I can’t get this child to smile!” while pinching her cheek and tickling her armpits, actually laying hands on her. 

It was awkward and uncomfortable, and the first of many times I realized I needed to stand up for Mackenzie

But I couldn’t do it alone; I needed resources. 

Area counselors determined nothing was amiss; Mackenzie cocooned herself in a protective shell. She’d seen others in our small Midwest town ridiculed, ostracized and bullied for being different. 

Mackenzie barely survived high school, though I didn’t realize how literal that was until after graduation. She went from being a star student to barely passing classes. 

She is the smartest, most creative person I will ever know, but her plunge was insidious, slowly dragging her and our entire family into the abyss of unknowns over many years. Her rages became sudden and uncontrollable, and so were ours, in response. We were mad at each other, at ourselves, at counselors, at the world.

Self-denial was her shield, her protection. And we all went along with it, complacent and accepting Mackenzie’s quirks. Until we couldn’t overlook the problems anymore. 

Until the day I got The Call That Changed Our Lives. 

Mackenzie had attempted suicide. My sweet, vulnerable child was locked up and isolated from us, from everyone, for a week. We were not allowed to communicate. She was not allowed to have a phone or shoelaces. 

Unless you, too, have been in this situation, you likely cannot imagine the helplessness, the angst a parent feels when going through this. There was time for much self-reflection and many tears. That event served as the catalyst to finally begin our journey toward healing.

Our family was fortunate. Mackenzie was born into a household whose beliefs were rooted in love and acceptance. 

She was finally able to come out, knowing that she would still be loved and supported. 

We sought resources, this time with a fierce determination knowing that Mackenzie’s survival was at stake. 

We spent months researching healthcare providers who treat the trans population. We spent an equal amount of time researching insurance providers willing to supplement the cost of lifesaving healthcare. 

This was a very difficult process; there are not many healthcare providers or insurance providers willing to support trans kids. There still aren’t.

We traveled to other parts of the country to ensure Mackenzie was treated legally, appropriately and with respect. 

Finding gender-affirming healthcare was the step that transformed our child’s life and our family’s lives. 

Mackenzie is now a woman in every sense, gainfully employed, dating and enjoying life, thanks to the lifesaving, legal healthcare she received.

Denying trans youth gender-affirming care is dangerous

In Texas, the mother of a transgender teen sought potentially lifesaving treatments and medication for her child, just as our family did, just as any parent would do. 

For that, she has been the subject of a child abuse investigation. This mother is terrified for her child’s health and well-being, and she should be. 

Healthcare should be life sustaining, not life threatening. This is why Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s directive requiring the state to investigate parents who help their children receive gender-affirming care is dangerous. 

Families who risk losing their children for seeking medically-recommended health care should be praised, not reprimanded. 

We must come to our senses; our children should be nurtured, cared-for, and loved. Family values and beliefs are the foundation of ALL families, no matter which political party is in power. 

Thankfully, a Texas judge has now reviewed Abbott’s order and recognizes the imminent and ongoing deprivation of constitutional rights and loss of necessary medical care. But the ruling was limited, and the order still currently stands until a court will review it on March 11.

We have a responsibility to allow our children to be their authentic selves, no matter what the legislators rule. It’s time lawmakers realize they represent society, not their own outdated, unsubstantiated beliefs. Let’s elect lawmakers who protect our children and our society. Let’s not lose one more child or break up another family. Let’s stand up and be outraged. 

Our children can’t wait any longer.

*Names have been changed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.