Editors’ Note: This piece was originally published in The New Hampshire Union Leader in February 2018 ahead of statewide discussion about dignity for transgender people in the Granite State. The editorial was written by Linda Fishbaugh, a conservative and the mother of a daughter who is transgender. Read the original piece here.
For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of having a family. I grew up in a close-knit, conservative Catholic home, and I always knew I wanted to have children of my own. What I didn’t know was that I would one day be advocating for my daughter’s basic freedoms in front of the New Hampshire Legislature, simply because my daughter Emily is transgender.
All parents want their kids to be happy and healthy. And when our child was young, she was deeply depressed and anxious. It broke my heart to hear my child, who the world saw as a young boy, cry and ask why God made her a boy when she was really a girl. She went to school every day dressed as a boy and would change into her Tinker Bell costume and jewelry as soon as she got home. She even resorted to attempting self-mutilation because she felt so strongly that her body should be female. Her depression weighed heavily on our entire family, and I was desperate for answers.
There’s no guidebook for raising a transgender child. It was a long journey of listening to our child and trying to do what we believed was best as her parents. At the end of the day, we love and support our kids no matter what. We all want our kids to have a fair chance, especially in today’s harsh world. Our daughter Emily transitioned in fourth grade and began living as the girl she has always known herself to be. There is nothing that brings me more joy than seeing Emily happy, now able to live her life as her true and authentic self.
As a proud conservative, standing up against discrimination is only natural — because I value individual freedom, hard work, and opportunity for all. Even though we may have different beliefs, what’s most important is focusing on what we have in common — taking pride in our work, respecting our neighbors and coworkers, and treating others as we want to be treated.
Right now, under New Hampshire state law, there are no measures that explicitly protect transgender people like my daughter from discrimination in the workplace, in housing, or in public spaces like restaurants, shops, and government buildings. New Hampshire lawmakers can do something about this. They can pass HB 1319 and affirm the dignity of transgender Granite Staters, making sure that my daughter and all transgender people are safe and protected in their communities.
It broke my heart to sit in the House Judiciary Committee meeting last week and hear opponents of HB 1319 talk about transgender people as if they are sick or broken.
The truth is, my daughter is exactly who God made her to be. What’s more, equal opportunity for transgender people would not pose any threat to anyone. Safety and privacy are important to all of us, including transgender people. And honestly, I would be afraid for my daughter if she were forced to use the men’s bathroom. HB 1319 is common-sense legislation that will make all of us safer.
My daughter is the bravest person I know. In many ways Emily is an average 16-year-old girl. She works hard at school and her part-time job, she’s a loyal friend, and she has a beautiful heart.
Love is love, and family is everything.
I am proud to advocate on behalf of my daughter and all transgender kids and I urge New Hampshire lawmakers to pass HB 1319 on behalf of equality and opportunity for all.