Earlier this week, a federal judge sided with Texas' request to block a federal directive for schools to accommodate the bathroom choices of transgender students. Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was pleased – but not surprised – by the court's order, and subsequently filed suit to remove discrimination protections against health insurers.
The Human Rights Campaign, among others, blasted that move as shameful, cheap and political. Others have been far more harsh in their assessments – both of Paxton and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who says he's not sure he's ever known a transgender person.
— Mary Tuma (@TumaTime) May 31, 2016
But a few months ago, Amber Briggle, the mother of an eight-year-old transgender boy from Denton, spoke at a news conference. She directed comments at Paxton and Patrick, taking a markedly different approach and tone. She called it an opportunity, and invited Paxton to dinner.
Ken Paxton told a Dallas TV reporter he's up for it, and dinner plans are now in the works. Briggle says she hopes the dinner will show the attorney general that transgender children like her son are kids trying to be normal kids.
"We want to put a human face behind all of this, and show Lt. Gov. Patrick and Attorney General Paxton that they probably have a lot in common with my son, who is eight years old," Briggle says. "I'm sure when they were eight-year-old boys, they they probably loved fishing and basketball too."
On putting her family in the media spotlight:
"We didn't choose this fight, but when the politicians choose to use my child as a literal pawn in a pissing contest, I think any mama bear is going to stand up and do what she thinks is right. Transgender people have always existed. They have always been among us and it's not like they've suddenly realized how to use a public restroom in the last six months."
On her plans for the dinner:
"I'm proud of the community that surrounds [my son], his friends, his teachers, our church – nobody thinks [being transgender] is a big deal, except the politicians. So I really have no agenda for this meeting. I have a freezer full of local beef that I bought from a farm just north of town, and I'll have friend bake a pie and we're just gonna kind of sit down and just meet each other."
On learning and accepting her son is transgender:
"I think unfortunately, in the age of quick media clips, it's too easily overlooked how long of the discernment process this was for my family. No parent chooses this for their child. I did not choose for my child to live a life that is going to single him out, treat him differently, discriminate against him, harass him. Forty one percent of transgender youth attempt suicide – don't contemplate it, actually attempt suicide – because they feel so unloved and unsupported by the people that should matter to them most."
On the importance of having these conversations in person:
"In the age of social media, it's so easy to just troll and just flame and just be cruel to each other online in our comments, saying things to each other that we would never say to each other's faces. My husband and I have worked really hard in our community especially to get people to try and find some common ground and speak with each other face-to-face, because when we can get together as neighbors and fellow Texans, we're going to realize we have a lot more in common than we thought we did."
The Standard reached out to Paxton's office for an interview. His office sent this statement: "The Attorney General regularly meets with families around the state of Texas, and the details of such meetings will not be discussed in the media."