My family has deep roots in Arizona. So why are Republican politicians trying to push us out?
Anti-transgender discrimination threatening our ability to keep our son safe and healthy
The story of my family — me, my husband Jose, and our 15-year-old son Daniel — is the classic story of a family who have intentionally created roots in Arizona.
I was born in Arizona, Jose came to Arizona as a child, and we had our son Daniel in Arizona because we decided to build our life here in Tucson. We are proud that Arizona is our home. We love going to events at the Rialto Theatre, getting fresh tortillas from La Estrella, and spending time with our friends and family who live nearby.
But because Daniel is transgender, some Arizona politicians have decided our family isn’t right for this state, and they’re trying to force us out.
Like any kid, Daniel is many things. He’s a good student with a solid GPA. He plays guitar, bass, drums and is trying to learn piano. He’s excited about getting his driver’s license when he turns 16. He’s into Legos, video games and Jurassic Park.
And Daniel is transgender.
From a very young age, Daniel knew he was a boy, even though we thought he was a girl when he was born. It took time for Jose and I to understand what it meant for Daniel to be transgender, but the underlying need to love and support our child has never changed.
And it’s OK if you don’t understand what it means to have a transgender child. Every child is different, and my lived experience with my child is not the same as you or your family. But that doesn’t give me the right to infringe on the rights of your child, and my family needs the same respect in return.
Unfortunately, too many Arizona politicians are refusing to respect Daniel and our family. Right now, there are Republican-backed bills in the Arizona Legislature that would come between our family and Daniel’s doctors, cutting off options for life-saving medical care (Senate Bill 1702), bills that would interfere with Daniel’s schooling and potentially require teachers to disrespect my son (House Bill 2711, Senate Bill 1700, Senate Bill 1040 and Senate Bill 1001), and more.
My son is not a talking point or a political strategy, he’s just a kid. These legislative attacks make him — and all kids like him — less safe, and make Arizona a hostile place for me and my family.
There is a lot of misinformation about what it means to be transgender, and what it means for a family to have a transgender kid. Some of the same bad actors who were pushing child separation policies and who push racist white-supremacist views are now attacking trans kids, too. It’s painful to live in a state that sometimes sees my family’s ethnicity and cultural background as something bad or scary, and now sees my trans son as something bad and scary and wrong, too.
But these tactics to control us aren’t new. When my parents went to school, kids got in trouble for speaking Spanish in class. Now, legislators are threatening kids who have decided to go by a different name or pronoun. These legislative bullies are savvy — they know that when you limit language and limit what can be talked about, you’re effectively erasing diverse people.
I worry about the future, too. What will the impact of this anti-trans rhetoric be 10 or 20 years down the road? What will happen when my husband and I are no longer around to protect our only child? Will he be safe? What will the impact of this type of legislation be on youth who don’t feel safe sharing the truth about who they really are with their parents?
And, perhaps above all, why do anti-trans forces continue to spend millions of dollars to target some of the most vulnerable people in our communities? Why distract us instead of focusing on issues that truly affect all Arizonans every day, like public safety or improving our schools?
There is so much bias and misinformation around trans people, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that my family should be able to make decisions about what’s best for us. Having a trans child isn’t a scary or negative experience — it has expanded my heart and my world in a way that has changed me for the better. I am honored to be Daniel’s mom, and anyone else would be so lucky to be his parent.
In the end, freedom means we don’t have to prove who we are, we just get to exist in this world on our own terms. Our family is no different than anyone else’s who loves their child, sees them fully, wants to do what’s best for them.
I’m doing what’s best for my child, but the state keeps threatening our ability to keep him safe and healthy — threatening our ability to stay in this beautiful state that we’ve grown up in and love, among our family and our community. And our Arizona family shouldn’t have to look to states for safety. We should be able to stay right here.
This guest opinion was first published by the Arizona Mirror.
Tucson small business owner and community advocate