I can still hear Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” rippling loudly in my headphones. It was very early morning and the dark sky was my view outside the car window. My parents and I were making my long awaited 3 hour journey from Albany, NY to Boston, MA. My heart was pounding with excitement and most of all hope. “I could feel it coming in the air tonight, I’ve been waiting for this moment all of my life.” These powerful words couldn’t have been truer. I grew up in a wheelchair after being crippled as a baby with Rheumatoid Arthritis. My parents found an amazing surgeon in Boston who promised to perform joint replacement surgery when I stopped growing. This surgery would not only allow my legs to be pain free but would allow me to walk. In essence it gave me freedom. I feared that this moment would never come true but it did. My hips would be replaced first at age 13 then both of my knees at age 16. After both surgeries were complete I walked my senior year of high school, got my driver’s license and my first car and my life truly began. I didn’t know then that the moment of freedom I felt in that car would come again over 30 years later but this time for my son.
I prayed when my son, Chris, who was assigned female at birth came out as transgender at age 12 that one day he would be able to experience a life of freedom as I had been given. I worried for his safety and delved into a comfortable role of advocate. I became my son’s bullet proof vest. I was in the front lines taking the bullets before they even dare look his way. I fought the bathroom battle with his school and with the help of the NYCLU I won. He has been using the boy’s room at school for almost 4 years without incident. As his senior year approached he obtained his driver’s license, got his first job and his first car just like I did at his age. I had hoped we were home free but freedom was just out of his grasp. He decided to go to a local community college next year in part because he feared how a college would handle the roommate, bathroom and locker room situation with a transgender student. I wanted to put his mind at ease but fear kept me from doing so. I would no longer be his comfortable bullet proof vest if he were to live away from home. We both have watched the anti-LGBT laws coming about this year with angst in our hearts. What if my son wanted to travel and was unsure of the latest bathroom bill along the way? Would my son’s life be put at risk when he needed to perform a basic human function? Instead of being excited for his future I began to fear his safety more and more when he was out of sight.
My fear dissipated a bit when the Federal government and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch took action and sued NC’s anti-LGBT HB2. My heart was filled with gratitude when Ms. Lynch spoke directly to transgender people and assured them that the government would not stand for discrimination of any kind. But, I also knew this was only one state. I knew we needed sweeping action to protect transgender people in every state and I worried with my son very quickly becoming a young man it may not come soon enough. I would soon breathe a sigh of relief when a hero brought me another life changing moment of freedom, as that early morning trip listening to In the Air Tonight did and that hero was: President Obama.
Dear President Obama,
You could have chosen to do nothing. You could have taken the next 6 months and floated to your own freedom knowing you had done right by our country. You could have rested as I am sure you must be exhausted and no one would blame you one bit. You as in the mark of a true hero did the opposite. You instead chose to continue to fight for the citizens of our country and do what is right.
I have admired your dedication and integrity over the past 8 years and still would have even if you hadn’t stood up for my son. You have shown over and over again your strong need to protect our citizens, from your support of gay marriage to your tough stance on gun violence. You didn’t need to prove anymore your concern for us but you did anyway.
On May 13th 2016 you issued a guidance directing public schools across the country to allow transgender students to use the bathroom they identify with. You didn’t have to fight this battle. You could have stopped by suing North Carolina but you forged ahead. You, by directing all schools to treat transgender students the same as every student have helped to give my son freedom. I don’t know how to properly thank you, sir. I wish for you to feel the huge relief that is for me. The burden I have felt has been eased because of you and therefore my bullet proof vest has loosened a bit. This will help set precedence for all states going forward and not just for schools but will give everyone guidance as to how to treat transgender people with respect.
I will continue to do my part. My son and I speak every year at the Philly Trans Health Conference with our dear friends: Jeanette and Jazz from the TLC docuseries: I am Jazz. I am honored to have been asked to speak at the ACLU and NYCLU’s LGBT annual reception this coming June. I’ll continue to write this blog in hopes of helping parents and transgender kids in need. I’ll continue to moderate my Facebook group for parents of transgender children so they know they are not alone.
Myself, Chris, Jeanette and Jazz in Philly in 2015
I will now be able to do this with less fear in my heart and more hope in its place all thanks to you, Mr. President. How do I thank you for this gift? I do not feel this letter does you justice. I wish I could do more. I hope in a small way this letter eases your tiredness and lifts any doubt you may have of your greatness. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and say job well done, sir.
Mary J. Moss
Feisty single mom to a terrific 17-year-old boy who just happens to be transgender.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tweet me at: @MsMaryMoss
Author: Mary J. Moss