How a family is affected by Texas law targeting transgender students in sports

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When Lori Edwards told her transgender teenage daughter that Texas House Bill 25 had been adopted, the 14-year-old turned away and started flipping through her phone.

“Oh, that sucks,” Emily said, and she fell silent.

During the Texas regular legislative session this spring, a wave of anti-trans bills tabled by lawmakers in the Republican state had sent Emily’s sanity, along with her grades, is soaring. What was the point of studying, argued Emily, who was assigned male at birth but identifies as a girl, if they were just to leave El Paso for another state?

When the Texas regular legislative session ended in late May without any anti-trans measures becoming law, the Edwards family sighed with relief. But in July, Governor Greg Abbott called a special session.

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Then another, and another. And in every special session, Abbott pushed lawmakers to ban transgender children from playing on sports teams that match their gender identities. HB 25 was the fourth attempt by Texas Republicans to enact the ban this year. At home, Edwards shut off the information.

Emily Edwards, right, and her brother Emilio played football when they were younger, but both felt estranged from the sport. They are shown with their father, Tyler. (Photo courtesy of the Edwards family)

On October 15, two months after Emily started her first semester at Coronado High School, HB 25 passed her final legislative hurdle at Texas State House. It was signed by the governor on Monday.

“Did you hear what I said? Edwards asked his daughter. “This pass. “

Emily hid her face behind her hair, a telltale sign that she didn’t want to talk. “What a difference does it make, mom. Anyway, I won’t be able to do any of that.

The Edwards are not a sporting family, but they used to be. Growing up, Edwards participated in volleyball and cross country; she studied kinesiology in high school and briefly specialized in sports medicine. “I loved being with the football players and helping and being a coach,” Edwards said.

Emily was at a youth running club, practiced karate and played soccer.

But long before lawmakers cracked down on trans student athletes, years of discrimination and bullying based on Emily’s growing sense of her gender identity led Edwards to remove her daughter from sports.

“My kid doesn’t play sports anymore (anymore) because it was never offered as an option,” Edwards said. “It wasn’t an option because we had to protect her.”

Five years earlier, on the sidelines of a youth football match, other parents heckled her child right in front of her. “Why is this little boy like a little girl?” They said in Spanish, thinking she couldn’t understand. “He’s just a sissy. He can’t even hit very hard. And why, they wondered, was the boy’s hair so long?

Edwards said nothing, comforted that the comments never reached Emily – who loved football and loved having long, shiny blonde hair. It was one of the few ways for Emily, who then introduced herself as a boy and used the pronouns “he”, to outwardly express what he soon realized as her true gender identity.

At 8, Emily had started to say: maybe I could be a girl someday.

Soon, however, the insults of the parents reached their children. At Emily’s Elementary School in Phoenix, the kids would laugh at “you suck for being a boy” and not let Emily into the boys’ bathroom.

Emily Edwards attended Kids Excel El Paso, an after-school program that uses dance to teach children determination, discipline and excellence. (Photo courtesy of the Edwards family)

The family moved from Phoenix to El Paso. There, in gym class, another sport gave Emily a word on the issue that had been around for years. The 9-year-old came home from school to say the PE football boys would not let Emily play football with them, saying, “This is for the boys only. No transgender people.

Emily asked her mother what the word meant.

Edwards released a series of YouTube videos of teenage transgender girls that explained the meaning of the term – someone whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth – and how they felt growing up. in the body of the boys, knowing that they were girls.

“Oh,” Emily said. “It’s me.”

“I hate that the first time she heard that word it was an insult,” Edwards said. “Like it’s a bad thing.”

As soon as Emily had that word, Edwards saw his daughter become a new person. When someone told her she sucked at being a boy, she said, “Of course. I am transgender. I am a girl. Thanks for noticing. “

Like many parents, Edwards agonized over past parenting choices. And while she was determined to let Emily come up with her gender identity at her own pace, on her own terms, she now thinks she should have given her daughter the vocabulary sooner; Perhaps knowing the word “transgender” could have avoided some suffering.

Edwards is sometimes struck with guilt for the decision she and her husband have made about the sport. The last day of fifth grade was the last time Emily attended school dressed as a boy. From that point on, “we were very, very, very discouraged from the sport,” Edwards said.

She and her husband worried about the uniforms; they worried about the changing rooms.

“It’s a fine line between being able to pursue things that are extracurricular, like volleyball, track and field or football, and showing up continuously every time and having to fight for everything. As if that doesn’t necessarily turn out to be worth it at this point.

More than anything, they worried about the parents of the other children.

“Parents can be crazy as they already are, when it comes to sports,” said Edwards. “Usually you go around and you’re like, ‘Wow, this person is going to have an aneurysm right here next to me’, because they’re so horny, right? But when you take the extra context of their kid competing with someone who is transgender, then add fear. … These parents can be absolutely vile and abusive.

Family evenings watching football have become rare. Emily’s younger brother joined the group and “now has this opinion that all athletes are fools,” Edwards said. “It makes me so sad that he thinks this, but he definitely formed that opinion watching them bully his sister.”

Emily did not push back.

“The love she had for the sport has been clouded and very destroyed by this machismo thing,” her mother said.

And at that age, Emily trusted her parents’ choices. “Whether or not sport was part of his life, we’ll never know. Because I took it, ”Edwards said. “I had to.”

Emily Edwards first wore a dress in public in 2018, when she saw a performance of “The Lion King” at the Plaza Theater. (Photo courtesy of the Edwards family)

Emily has stayed active through dancing and has found other interests “that absolutely enrich her life,” said Edwards, such as choir, acting, acting and anime. She volunteers at Borderland Rainbow Center, the nonprofit for LGBTQ + rights where her mother works, and is studying to become a veterinarian.

“We really pushed her wholeheartedly into things that were mixed where it wouldn’t become that big of a deal. … But the fact that she doesn’t have sport as an option breaks my heart.

As a mother, Edwards tried to project herself in at least five or ten years. Planning the family’s move to El Paso while Emily was still in elementary school, Edwards chose his new neighborhood based on the middle and high schools he would enroll in. She wasn’t necessarily looking for the best schools. She was looking for schools that would keep Emily safe – and found them, she said, at Hornedo Middle School and Coronado High School.

But even as Edwards tried to predict the future, she never imagined that the social issues they encountered in sport would attract the attention of state lawmakers.

“I really thought it would be a social issue,” Edwards said. “I never thought that there would be bills that would be passed that would give these people fuel for their social problems. That’s the difference, no. When they have legal backing, it gives them the power – more power than they need, that’s what I’m saying – to discriminate and put their safety at risk.

The mother and daughter spent much of last spring fighting the onslaught of Texas bills that targeted trans youth, triple the number introduced by any other state. Trans children and their families have flocked from all over Texas, including El Paso, to deliver passionate testimony against the bill.

But as the fight continued into the summer, Emily grew suspicious. Adri Perez, an ACLU policy and advocacy strategist who lobbies against bills targeting Texas’ LGBTQ + community, has seen the same effect occur with the children who have come to Capitol Hill.

“They go up there and talk into a podium and a microphone that’s bigger than them,” Perez said. “It’s heartbreaking to know that the morale of these children is indeed shattered every time these hearings are held.”

Edwards still doesn’t know what to make of Emily’s seemingly calm reaction to the new law. Perhaps the reaction she expected from Emily was something closer to hers: “This bill passed here in Texas has absolutely destroyed my ability to believe we can make a difference,” he said. she declared. She fears that the sports ban is just the beginning.

Edwards hoped that after months of preparing for the worst, Emily was doing really well. But the other day, in the queue behind the wheel of the Dutch Bros., a construction cone blocked their way and Emily exploded.

“Everyone wants to tell you what you can do,” said Emily, more angry than Edwards had imagined. “Now they tell you you can’t play sports, you can’t get married, you can’t have children – now you can’t even drive your car anymore.”

It was Emily’s way, her mother said, of “communicating something that hurts so badly.”

This item first appeared on El Paso Questions and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


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