We should always try to learn from parents who have had it harder than us, who have really been through the ringer. If you haven’t watched Brandon Boulware’s deeply moving testimony—which we talked about a few weeks ago—about his struggles with his transgender daughter, you should really take the time to see it. Because it teaches us some very hard won lessons that can save us untold pain. (And to suggest something on this topic is not to make a political point. In fact, if just hearing the word “transgender” makes you feel something political, then you should definitely watch the video. Because it has something to teach.)
Boulware is the son of a minister. He’s a lawyer, an avowed Christian man, a husband, and the father of four children. He tells the lawmakers that he’d long tried—out of fear and love and a desire to protect—to keep his child from wearing girl clothes and playing on girls’ teams. Then one day, he came home and saw his kid in a dress, asking to go play with the neighbors. It’s time for dinner, he said. But if I go out in boy clothes, can I play with them? came the reply. Then it hit him: He’d accidentally taught his child that not being who they were was a way to be rewarded. She thought that silencing her spirit was what her father wanted…and she wasn’t totally incorrect.
What Boulware so beautifully communicates in his brief testimony is a lesson for all parents, no matter their child’s gender. “Let them have their childhoods,” he pleads. “Let them be who they are.” Maybe your kid is hyper. Maybe your kid is artistic. Maybe you’re artistic and your kid is not—maybe you’re athletic and your kid is not. Maybe you’re not religious and your teenager is. Maybe you’re liberal and your kid is not.
Whatever it is, let them be who they are. Let them have their childhoods. Let them try things. Let them experiment. Let them make mistakes. Let them discover themselves—let them discover their truths. You might not like the results of these explorations. They might challenge your deepest held assumptions. But guess what? That’s a YOU problem.
Your job is to help them become who they are. It’s to believe in them. It’s to support them. It’s to encourage their spirit, not to silence it.