Respect a transgender person's desired names, pronouns and identity: Readers sound off

USA TODAY

Readers respond to Jay Keck's column, "My daughter thinks she's transgender. Her public school undermined my efforts to help her," about his child's transition.

Letters to the editor: 

Keck's column would have you think that only he can know whether his son is transgender or not. But the reality is, transgender people come to terms with their own identity in a journey that only they can walk.

When Keck denies his son’s identity and criticizes his son’s school for affirming it, his behavior not only harms his son but also harms transgender children around the country. Survey after survey has shown that one of the greatest preventatives of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth is family acceptance of their child's identity.

Respecting a transgender person's desired names, pronouns and identity is key to their happiness and mental health. Likewise, attempts at changing a youth's gender identity have been discredited at large by the medical community; many states have banned the torture known as conversion therapy.

I hope Keck can one day learn to unconditionally love and accept his son for who he is.

Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán, J.D. , senior policy counsel, National LGBTQ Task Force; Washington

A march to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York on June 28, 2019.

As a parent who has addressed these same issues in the last year, I have real concerns about the extent to which Keck went to usurp his child's wishes at what is a critical phase of any teenager's life.

I don't profess to understand how someone is transgender, although I believe it is an inherent part of who they are and not a choice, because why would someone make that truly difficult choice in this society? But as a parent, one of our jobs is to support our kids, to work with them and to get them ready to be adults.

Maybe Keck is unhappy with his son's choice, maybe he is confused, maybe he is angry — I understand that. But by denying his son the ability to make his own life decisions, and by denying the possibility that his son is transgender, Keck is effectively calling his child a liar or fraud.

Parents should act rationally in the face of the hard or shocking things our kids do.  When we don't, we are telling them we don't believe in them and we don't trust them. In fact, we should be supporting them almost unconditionally.

I would hope that even in the face of disagreement on this issue, Keck could've made better choices in how he dealt with his child, and not become a child himself.  Our kids expect more from us.

Scott Sitner; Birmingham, Mich. 

While I’m sure Keck genuinely believes he is doing what is best for his son, he is actually stripping him of his agency and right to explore his gender identity. 

Keck expresses anger at the school, suggesting it confused his son, but school officials did what he had failed to do: be there for his child as he explored something deeply personal. They supported his new pronouns, his new name, his right to explore his gender.

Keck considers his son a victim of the system, but he doesn’t speak of any attempts to understand where his child is coming from. Keck decides that he knows better. His son is an adult now, but Keck seems to still view his son as incapable of understanding himself. 

There is no line in the sand in the trans experience that says you can't turn back if you change your mind. People who respect you are willing to refer to you as your preferred pronouns, however many times you change them. 

If someone decides to explore their gender identity, and then decide they’re trans, they have found a comfortable identity. No matter the situation, their lives are that much richer, and they understand themselves that much better. To act like it's "just a phase" is to ignore that there are very few pieces of ourselves that last from birth till death. We grow, we change, and the human experience is phases. 

Jasmine Groom; Hinsdale, Illinois

At the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015.

 As a teacher, I’ve seen parents reject many of their children’s choices. Funny enough, the same explanations for why their child shouldn't go against their wishes usually is that they're "too young to know," "someone put ideas in their head" or "it'll ruin them," the same sentiments Keck suggested. But we forget that being a young adult means they are discovering themselves beyond the family unit.

If Keck’s son has known for years that this is his identity, especially with the affirmation from his school, he is not misguided. He knows exactly who he is, more so than any of us. 

Lastly, as someone that is autistic myself, it wasn't kind that it was used as a reason why Keck's son couldn't understand himself and his actions. Autism makes it harder for us to communicate to others and read social cues, but it in no way hinders how we see and understand ourselves.

Aden Wilke; Norcross, Ga.

I am autistic and transgender. Being autistic comes with real challenges, but we are real people. Keck seems to suggest that capable autistic people should be denied agency over their own health care, just because their parents disagree with them. There is no "national policy epidemic" of schools calling kids by the name they request. The real epidemic is trans-autistic youth who are made homeless and suicidal by hysterical parents. I hope this parent reconsiders before he permanently destroys his relationship with his son.

Elizabeth Fischer; Valley Cottage, N.Y. 

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I am a transgender woman. When I was 13 years old, I knew that I was a woman trapped in a man's body. But not knowing that I could go on hormones, I moved on. I am now 37 and only transitioned two months before my last birthday. Since then, my life has completely changed. Throughout my entire adolescence and adult life, I've suffered from anxiety, depression and an inability to function in society. I have tried multiple medications to deal with these problems: None worked.

Then I went on hormones. I was terrified. I didn't know how exactly I was going to change, but I didn't want to live the way that I was living. Since then, I feel that I am now running on all cylinders. My anxiety and depression are largely gone. I have my good days, I have my bad days, but I feel more even-keeled than I ever have. I entirely attribute this to my transition.

My transition helped me become the person that I always wanted to be, always knew I could be, a fully functioning member of society.

Jessica Stallsmith; Middletown, Pa. 

It was heartbreaking to read this fearmongering masquerading as a parent's love for his child. Nothing in the piece suggests there was an actual problem with his son transitioning — for anyone other than the parents. 

Letting kids transition may seem counterintuitive, but studies suggest it is a way to prevent suicide or a lifetime of depression. I struggled for decades to come to terms with myself and to come out. I wish so much that our society and institutions had been able to accept and support me when I was a teenager. I lost many years to mental health issues that have been largely resolved thanks to my transition. I have the support of my friends, family and colleagues, and I am happy.

This young man who has been publicly insulted and humiliated, in a materially dangerous way, is so much braver than I can imagine for being himself, despite his father's refusal to accept him. He has a chance at the life that I and many, many others wished we had, and he will be an inspiration to the next generation of trans kids.

Trans rights are human rights.

Olive Cooke; Kansas City, Mo. 

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What online readers have to say

This entire issue is inconsequential to the mission of the school, and schools shouldn't have to deal with it. The public school system exists to educate the children and young adults who use it. 

— Dave Meyers

It is worrisome when children are given untested, potentially hazardous treatments without seriously considering what is going on. Changing one's gender is not a panacea, and it should not be sold as such.

These parents are clearly speaking out of concern — not bigotry.

— Kathy Jacobson

The schools are there to teach and nothing else. It might be time to refuse paying school taxes in retaliation.

— Lorraine O'Flaherty

This is a perfect argument for home schools, parochial schools and neighborhood co-op private schools. Our public school system has become a manipulative laboratory where children are no longer brought to learn but to be molded. 

— Charles Baker

The root cause of the problem is that we let government control our schools. 

— David Toland

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Respect transgender people's identity: Readers sound off