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Orlando Shooting Adds To The Burden Of Transgender Kids And Their Families

bill zeeble
Roxy, a 13 year-old transgender girl getting a hug from mom Angela Castro in their backyard.

The Orlando shootings have brought another layer of pain to transgender kids and their families. We hear from several of them about how they’re coping - and how the rise of the Texas bathroom issue has complicated their lives.

These families were already feeling the heat. Last month Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ripped into the Fort Worth school superintendent for accommodating transgender students. Then came Orlando. 

“I was absolutely heartbroken. Immediately my daughter’s safety came to mind,” says Angela Castro.  

Her child Roxy is a 13-year-old transgender girl. That means she was born with male anatomy, but for most of her life has embraced being a girl. Mom’s advice to Roxy, after the Orlando attack targeted the LGBT community? Be cautious, stay close to family, and when necessary, she says use stealth - hide that you’re transgender.

“It’s really difficult to tell your child that,” Castro says, her voice breaking. “But you also explain to them that her safety is at risk. And as a parent it’s heartbreaking to tell your daughter that.”

For many of these kids and their families, the bathroom issue is about civil rights. The Obama administration agrees, and says transgender children should be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Dan Patrick disagrees, and wants a state law insisting students use the bathroom of the sex they were born with. He told KERA it’s not about picking on transgender kids – it’s just common sense.

“No one should be harassed,” Patrick said. “No one should be bullied and people deserve protection. But that does not mean then you take the transgender population and allow a young student who’s a boy into the girl’s shower at a high school.”

Cytha Lacey agrees with Patrick, and spoke out at the Fort Worth school board meeting in May.

“I’m a Christian just like a lot of these other people who’ve stood up here. And Lord knows in the name of Jesus, and I’m using his name, he doesn’t like this at all. He does not like this, because a girl is born a girl and a boy is born a boy.”

It didn’t stay that way in the Teter house, in Fort Worth. Matthew is a trans 18 year-old who just graduated from Byron Nelson High School. For the past few years, he’s looked more and more like a guy. Mother Pati says that’ll continue  thanks to hormones.

“Eventually, Matthew will be full-bearded and a man,” Pati explains. “And wait until he walks into the girls restroom because that’s where they’re telling him to go.”

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
Dad and mom with Matt in the middle. He just graduated from high school. Those balloons are his.

Before Matthew went through what’s called social transition,  he felt stuck. Should he use the girls or boys restroom in high school? When he used the girl’s room, some girls freaked out.

“When I went to go use the restroom in the men’s room,” Matthew says, “I had a guy and he’s like, hey, you’re that trans kid, right? I said yes. And he looked at me and said if I ever see you in here, I’m going to kick your ass.”

So earlier in his transition, in 10th grade, Matt wrote a letter to his principal and recorded it.

“May I have a key to the staff bathrooms? These are the only gender neutral restrooms in the school other than the restroom in the nurse’s office,” wrote Matt in his recorded letter. “By using these restrooms, I would not be in violation of law or the student code of conduct. I’m responsible, I’m intelligent and I’m transgender.”

Some pictujres in the Teter house of Matthew as a child

The school accommodated Matt in a policy like Fort Worth’s. He just graduated and is headed to college. There was a time he stopped drinking water during school says Matt’s dad, Martin.

“He has all the right to go to the restroom as any other child. You shouldn’t have a bunch of dehydrated transgender children running around,” said Martin Teter.

Dr. Ximena Lopez, who founded the department that treats transgender kids at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, says “Many of our patients, they avoid drinking fluids. Many of them have urinary tract infections frequently because of not using, and withholding. I have patients that withhold their urine all day long. They don’t go at all to the restroom.”

Everyone agrees that’s not healthy.

For his part, Lt. Governor Patrick says if the state doesn’t act, parents will pull their kids from schools across the state. Roxy’s mom Angela Castro has an answer for that.

“If it honestly becomes a law here in Texas, we would move back home to California. I would leave. I would not put my child in a position where she’s going to be discriminated (against) and put her safety at risk,” Castro says.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.