Living in Georgia, I have been conditioned to expect the worst during our state’s legislative session. Those of us who have been organizing around progressive policies know that we can’t breathe a sigh of relief until the chambers gavel out at midnight on the last official day of session. This session proved to be no different, and in fact was maybe a little worse than normal.
You see, during this year’s legislative session, bills were introduced — and came close to heading to the Georgia governor’s desk — that were a direct attack on my family and, more specifically, my trans daughter. This year, state legislatures across the country were ravaged with anti-trans sports bills, which were introduced under the guise of protecting girls’ sports, and Georgia was no exception.
Unfortunately, there was nothing in any of the bills we saw that would actually protect MY girl. In fact, these bills sought to keep her off the playing field.
I did what mothers do every day for their kids — I fought.
Testifying at the Georgia Capitol during committee, I sat and listened as ignorant lawmakers described trans children — children just like my daughter — as a threat. The idea of my beautiful girl being a threat is preposterous.
She just clears 4-and-a-half feet, barely weighs 70 pounds. She is trim and lithe, toned and tiny. She has a peaches-and-cream complexion with thick, long eyelashes and small, delicate features. She has flowing strawberry hair and carries her little frame with grace and sprite-likeness.
My daughter has struggled during the pandemic, her access to friends and fresh air diminished, creating a vacuum of solitude and hours spent behind her computer completing schoolwork alone in her bedroom. The spring sports season brought a promise of normalcy, a glimmer of hope, an opportunity to socialize and exercise safely.
Yet, according to some, she’s not only a danger, but she also doesn’t deserve a spot on the team because there are apparently far more deserving girls whose biological sex merits a place on the field.
I can tell you with absolute certainty, the boys’ team would not be safe for my teen for many reasons, the least of which is that her petite size would be overpowered by the boys on her team. Aside from her physical safety, she would undoubtedly be heckled by players and, dare I say, parents on the sidelines, wondering what a girl is doing competing against their sons.
The threat doesn’t lie with trans youth. Quite to the contrary, in fact. The threats these bills create far outweigh whatever falsely perceived threats trans athletes present. The real threat that we are facing is the threat of harassment of trans athletes and students. The real threat is the threat of suicide when trans youth feel abandoned and rejected by their community. The real threat is the message that we are sending to trans youth that they simply don’t belong.
Because truly, if my daughter doesn’t belong on the boys’ team and she doesn’t belong on the girls’ team, where exactly do these lawmakers think she belongs? Unfortunately, we know the answer. They don’t think she belongs anywhere. And this is what we are left with. We are left with the exhausting and insurmountable task of having to convince people — people who have been elected to serve their constituents — why trans lives matter.
We will continue organizing and working and fighting against these hateful bills. In the meantime, I know my daughter is NOT a threat. Rather, she is a teenager that has worked for the last decade trying to help people understand who she is really is. It’s a travesty that this work will continue for decades to come.
Jennifer Slipakoff is a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Governors and a former member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council.