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A father with a transgender daughter appeared before the Missouri state Legislature recently to plead with lawmakers who want to block her from playing sports with other girls. And his heartfelt words are now going viral.
Brandon Boulware—who introduced himself as “a lifelong Missourian,” “a Christian,” “a business lawyer,” and “the son of a Methodist minister”—testified on March 3 in front of a House committee to try to convince lawmakers not to pass House Joint Resolution 53. The bill seeks to amend the state constitution to force students to play on the sports team that matches the sex listed on their birth certificate. A wave of similar bills, aimed at restricting trans kids’ lives, are now sweeping across state legislatures.
One of his four kids, Boulware said, is a trans girl. He spent years forcing her to wear male clothes, cut her hair short, and play on boys’ sports teams. Although he hoped his actions would protect her from teasing, Boulware also admitted he was trying to protect himself from “those inevitable questions about why my child did not look and act like a boy.”
“My child was miserable. I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable. Especially at school. No confidence, no friends, no laughter,” Boulware recalled. “I can honestly say this: I had a child who did not smile.”
It wasn’t until one day, when Boulware found his daughter wearing her sister’s dress, that his attitude changed. He had forbidden her from playing with a neighbor’s kids—so she asked him if she could play if she changed into boys’ clothes. That question, Boulware said, made him realize that he was in the wrong.
“My daughter was equating being good with being someone else. I was teaching her to deny who she is,” Boulware said. “As a parent, the one thing we cannot do, the one thing, is silence our child’s spirit. And so on that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child’s spirit.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, which is working to stop the onslaught of anti-trans bills, shared a video of Boulware’s testimony on social media. As of Tuesday, it had garnered nearly 300,000 likes on Instagram and more than 3 million views on Twitter.
“Didn’t expect this from how he started. Beautiful story,” one person wrote on Instagram. Another added, “I thought this was gonna go in the other direction. I’m so glad it didn’t.”
Other Missouri residents, including some trans children, also spoke out against the bill during the committee hearing. A trans boy, Cory Hyman, told the legislators, “Sports is a place where kids should feel comfortable.
“It’s not only confusing to them but the team around them and others in the school, to go to school all day as one gender and then go play sports as another gender,” Hyman said, according to KPLR 11, a local news outlet.
Legislators in more than 20 states, including Missouri, have now introduced bills that would block trans kids from participating in the school sports teams that match their gender identity, according to the ACLU. Last week, Mississippi became the first state to sign such a bill into law in 2021—despite the fact that the law’s main backers had no evidence that trans athletes are even participating in school sports in the state. South Dakota’s governor also has a similar bill on her desk; she has said that she plans to sign it.
In at least 17 states, lawmakers have also introduced bills that would ban trans kids from accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
“This language, if it becomes law, will have real effects on real people. It will affect my daughter. It will mean she cannot play on the girls’ volleyball team, or dance squad, or tennis team,” Boulware said. “I ask you, please don’t take that away from my daughter or from the countless others like her who are out there.”