Being a grandparent is the one thing in life that isn’t overrated. If you’ve ever spent any time around me, you’ve likely heard me repeat that phrase. I love being Grandpa John to six wonderful kids. I love our little family and celebrate every member.
Nonetheless, families are complicated. Every family is different, and each comes with challenges along with immense joy.
These days, when I enter the Capitol as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, my main source of anguish is dealing with bills that bring harm to my family. It’s personal.
In our family, one of my father’s brothers was gay. We have a daughter in a same-sex marriage. We have a granddaughter who identifies as gay and another who is transgender, Savannah. Sav for short. We’re just your average American family.
Savannah came out to our daughter at age 13. When she first came out, she was unsure about telling her mother. Our daughter had noticed a big difference in her behavior and could tell something was bothering Sav. When she finally told her mother, she just listened to what Sav had to say. Our daughter assured Sav she was loved no matter what and asked her how the family could support her. She offered to set her up with therapy.
Nothing changed right away, and the family followed Sav’s lead on when and how things went. She started using she/her pronouns at home and we dropped old nicknames that did not support her true gender. It was a process and took time, but we all worked together to support each other. After a few months of therapy, she asked to go by the name Savannah/Sav/Savvy. Again, another adjustment, and we supported her.
Sav continued with therapy and eventually she got an appointment to see a pediatric endocrinologist. After both parents signed off, she met with the doctor a few times before it was decided to start puberty blockers at 14.
Three years later, Savannah was almost 17 when she began hormone therapy. Again, a letter from Sav’s therapist was required and both parents had to sign off on treatment.
Sav’s transition has been a process. A process that involved consultation with doctors, therapists and parents. A private, complicated matter that would not have benefited from intervention by legislators.
Thankfully, Savannah received the care she needed. Had she not, I fear she might not be with us.
Transgender youth, like all youth, have the best chance to thrive when they are supported and can get the health care they need, when they need it. Because every family is different, the last thing anyone needs is the threat of penalty, creating barriers to access the comprehensive health care that is critically necessary. Denying such health care can be life threatening.
Six-tenths of a percent (0.006) of all Americans identify as transgender. About 300,000 teenagers, across the entire country, identify as trans. Why would such a private matter become so political all of a sudden? Seems like someone is running out of people to discriminate against and target.
The N.C. General Assembly should not be getting between medical professionals and their patients, and in between a patient and their parents. Families and medical professionals work together to identify what care will be in the best interest of a transitioning patient. If this was about any other medical treatment, our legislature would not be considering this kind of intervention. I’d be hard pressed to identify a more colossal example of government overreach — plain and simple.
Denying kids the care they need is dangerous and will cause high rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Let’s be clear, these bills are cruel and will prolong children’s suffering. Using children as a political football to enrage voters is despicable and beneath the N.C. General Assembly.
Sometimes I wonder if Republican leaders would have been willing to run their HB2 playbook again, had a certain defection in Mecklenburg County not handed them supermajorities. But perhaps the cruelty is the point.
Rep. John Autry is in his fourth term in the N.C. House, representing Mecklenburg County. He served on the Charlotte City Council from 2011-2016 and lives in Charlotte.