I stand before you as the mother of 4 children who graduated from the Williamsville Schools. One in 2015, one in 2016 and twins in 2021.
I came tonight after reading with interest and great sadness the comments, criticisms, hatred, misinformation and opinions I have read on social media from parents of this district on the topic of transgender students. A copy of an email sent to Mr. Swatland after the last board meeting from a mom was posted on facebook and it read: I demand to know how you are going to protect my daughters from those people.
I am here tonight because I have a child who is one of “those people.” I have a child who is transgender.
Our story begins over 10 years ago when our oldest was a freshman at East and came out as being gay. I reached out to the school social worker at Wville East and she agreed to meet with me because I was scared as to what my child’s life would and could be as a gay adult. I didn’t know how my child would be treated in schools, in the work force, in relationships and how to help my child handle rejection and judgement growing up gay in elite Williamsville.
During our meeting the social worker informed me that there was another mother who she was working with who has a daughter who was transgender and transitioning to which I instantaneously replied “if that ever happens to my child you can put me in a box”.
So I, like most of you, never in a million years believed it would be my child who would be transgender. I never thought in a million years my happy but confused, sweet but unassured, loving but guarded child would turn our family, and our perfect Williamsville life upside down.
But actually, it didn’t turn our life upside down after all. It brought our immediate family, our extended family and our friends together. Our child taught all of us the true meaning of acceptance, tolerance, and a greater understanding of LGBT and the differences that make all of us special. Our child taught us that living your true life, allowing and supporting others to live their true life and being loved and accepted for who we are is really all that matters in this life.
I have read many comments recently from Williamsville parents on social media who describe their fear of transgender students as “gender pretend,” “gender fantasy” and “gender faking”. These are hurtful, inflammatory and downright inaccurate terms.
I can assure you a transgender life is not pretend. It is not an easy life and transitioning is not an easy journey for the child or their family.
As a family we have spent tens of thousands of dollars on counseling, surgery, medication and support because when our child transitioned – health insurance covered none of it. And although it has been difficult at times the journey has been worth every penny.
Before I close, I want to commend this Board of Education, Dr Brown-Hall and the administration for taking on this sensitive topic and for caring about the transgender students of our school district.
And I want to remind all of the parents that should it be your child or your friends child or your childs friend who informs you that they are transgender and you chose not to accept them or believe them let me share some stark statistics with you.
In 2020 52% of all non-binary and transgender youth in US considered killing themselves and 35% of trans youth in WNY alone are homeless or live in foster care.
Sadly, many transgender students don’t have accepting families and households and the least a student can hope for is to find a safe place at school.
So as you can see, I am not in a box but more importantly, my transgender child is not in a box.
My son is college educated, successfully employed, handsome as hell, donates his time and money to causes he cares about. He is kind, compassionate and forgiving and if he knew I was here tonight he would say “Mom, its ok. Those other parents, they just don’t understand.”