Open letter to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on his anti-transgender bill signing

Dear Ron,

I saw the picture of you smiling as you held up the newly signed legislation that bans transgender children from participating in sports. I couldn’t tell if your tight smile was just forced, or if you were feeling smug to have taken such a decisive stance in the culture wars. Unfortunately, that signature and upturned lip also sealed your fate staunchly on the wrong side of history and humanity.

The signed bill, ink not yet dry, was posed for impeccable photo ops in your left hand. Poignantly, in your right hand was the tiny and impressionable arm of your child, your four-year-old daughter Madison.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that your daughter wasn’t smiling. Maybe she didn’t find your attacks on children, particularly those most vulnerable including transgender and gender nonbinary children, something to smile about. Maybe she was wondering why you would smile as you signed away opportunities for kids like her, kids who are just starting out in their lives and just want to be treated like everyone else. She may be thinking about why you would make a move to hurt the LGBTQ community on the first day of Pride Month. She may be wondering if you are cruel.

Your daughter might have been wondering why any adult, especially her own flesh and blood, would reject children who don’t fit into the gender they were assigned at birth. Because she knows that awful things happen to kids who are rejected by the adults in their lives, including depression and suicide. She might be suddenly and perpetually really scared about what she should avoid doing so you don’t sign something that unilaterally rejects her.

With rising waters that are burying southern Florida with terrifying speed, a looming economic quagmire in your state, and one of the worst responses to the pandemic where 2.32 million people suffered from Covid-19 and nearly 37,000 died, maybe your daughter is wondering why you are spending your precious time and power signing bills to solve for make believe problems.

Maybe your daughter was grim-faced because she couldn’t quite grasp why her beloved father would sign away the bright futures of children she might one day be friends with, be lovers with, even she herself become.

Indeed, Ron, has it ever crossed your mind that your beautiful child flanked at your side as you signed this egregious and harmful bill, might one day come out to you as transgender or nonbinary? She might be one of the increasing number of kids who believes that there should be more than two options when it comes to gender. Or she might one day be one of the one-in-ten teens who identifies as gender diverse, as a recent study out of Pittsburgh showed.

Your daughter may be thinking about the science, because she’s smart and she’s been taught that science teaches us about so many different aspects of life. She may know that the science points to more gender diversity than we socially allow for in our rigid, binary model. Like, who cares if someone has ovaries or testicles? As long as they can be a good friend, we’re good. Madison may be wondering why you are so obsessed with kids genitals.

Or maybe Madison has actually learned the facts about this particular bill and the rash of coordinated attacks on transgender kids across the country, that the issue of transgender kids winning sports competitions is actually completely fabricated. She might be wondering why you don’t know better than to fall for the right-wingnuts think tank brainwashing. Most four-year-olds believe their parents know everything. You have already let her down.

Maybe Madison is smarter than you, Ron. She may know that what rests between a child’s legs is none of our business. That forcing children to use a bathroom, play a sport or do anything else that brings their genitals into focus, is actually a bit perverse. That our ability to achieve is inherently gender agnostic, or at least it should be if politicians stopped legislating our bodies and stayed out of our private parts and private lives.

I have a four-year-old child, too, Ron. My child is being raised in a home where he is free to express himself. We teach him that he is only a boy if he feels he is a boy, that he may sometimes feel like something else and that’s perfectly fine. He knows that some babies are told they are a girl or boy only to find out later they aren’t. We teach him about loving thy neighbor, regardless of who they are or how they identify. We also talk about standing up to bullies who try to hurt our friends. I bet Madison wouldn’t want you to hurt her friends. My child doesn’t either.

Or maybe your daughter was stone-faced because she just didn’t understand why they were so many cameras and eyes on her.

But, rest assured, she will one day.

When she does, you will be forced to reckon with the heinous and narrow-minded ways in which you swung your sword for ill rather than healing. She will want to know why you wielded your power to earn the loyalty of people who believe in mythical problems and why you used the most marginalized children in our society as a scapegoat to gain single-digit points on murky public opinion polls.

Your daughter deserves better, Ron. All our children do.

Writer and native New Yorker who favors humor over sadness, travel over television, and coffee over sleep. @bubballie

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