Throughout most of my adult life, I’ve been a Republican. I consider myself to be an honest American who believes in family, honor, hard work and the country I love. I volunteered to serve my country not long after the Vietnam War, a time when many young people were not ready to do so.
Family is everything to me. I’m blessed to be married to a wonderful woman and, together, we share the joy of two children. Our son, Jonas, is a compassionate young man just starting college. Our daughter, Nicole, is a strong, smart and beautiful young woman who just started college as well. She is also transgender. Transgender children and adults are the strongest and most courageous people I have ever met. But I worry about my daughter’s future every day. I worry because, to this day, transgender people are denied the same rights as their peers. I worry because transgender people face significant fear and discrimination. And I worry because—despite the fact that transgender Americans also believe in family, honor, hard work and the country I love—some Republican politicians have decided that it’s good politics to target a vulnerable group of people that includes my daughter.
This struggle was on my mind when I saw that this week that the Republican Convention delegates adopted the most anti-LGBTQ platform in the party’s history. For the first time, they included a plank endorsing discrimination against people like my daughter. After years of Republican politicians mocking the dignity and humanity of transgender people, I have had enough. Four months ago, I left the Republican Party and registered as a Democrat for first time. I stood in line for hours with my 18-year-old transgender daughter as she registered, too.
This has not been a popular decision with some of my conservative friends, but they respect me because they know me. They know that my wife was forced to quit her job because to protect our children we had to live somewhere else, in hiding. I’ve asked them what they would do if their child faced a 50-percent chance of attempting suicide because adults were uncomfortable being around their baby. I cannot share these stories without tears running down my face. I have lost thousands of hours of sleep because I feel that too often I failed to protect my daughter from bullying, harassment and discrimination from adults, from peers and, yes, from politicians.
It saddens me that anyone might support a platform that hurts any family. If I was in Cleveland, I would tell them that even when my family had nowhere to turn, my wife and I encouraged our children to be proud of who they are. We promised them that we would do everything in our power to make sure they have the same rights as their classmates. And we fought for them in the courts—for years—until Maine’s highest court said that my daughter had the right to be treated by her school as the young woman we all know she is.
But I remain heartbroken that my child had to spend her teenage years worrying about her safety, pleading for her dignity, and fighting for her rights in court.
That is why I stood with the Human Rights Campaign and other fathers of transgender children to be part of a new video released this week that highlights our stories.
All we’re seeking is kindness and respect everybody deserves. We spoke up in this video so that our children—and other children like them—know they aren’t alone. And neither are other dads out there. Those whose instinct is to ridicule and bully my child—in schools or in party platforms—must realize that transgender people, and their families, feel the pain and hurt.
I know there are many Americans who are still learning about transgender people and their identities. But as we continue to learn, we must not let our ignorance or misunderstanding lead us to discriminate or hurt real people.
Unfortunately, that is what the GOP is endorsing in Cleveland. It is too much for me. Until the Republican Party and conservative politicians open their hearts to the humanity of my precious daughter and others feeling marginalized and unsafe in the country we love, they will not be able to count on support from this proud dad.