Dad-of-4 Goes Viral with Speech About His Transgender Daughter: 'Let Them Be Who They Are'
Earlier this month, a Missouri man decided he had to speak up for his daughter.
Brandon Boulware's resulting testimony, delivered during a March 3 meeting of the Missouri state House, has drawn much attention as some states debate restrictions on trans athletes competing in schools.
One clip of Boulware has been seen more than 4 million times.
Introducing himself as "a lifelong Missourian, business lawyer, Christian and the son of a Methodist minister," Boulware spoke during a hearing on a resolution that would ban transgender high school athletes from participating in girls' sports in Missouri.
"I'm a husband and father of four kids — two boys, two girls — including a wonderful and beautiful transgender daughter," he said, adding that he came to the hearing on his daughter's birthday and without telling her. "She thinks I'm at work."
As Boulware went on, he said that many people simply "don't get it" when it comes to transgender rights — including himself, when his daughter was young and began to come into her own.
"For years, I would not let my daughter wear girl clothes. I did not let her play with girl toys," Boulware said. "I forced my daughter to wear boy clothes and get short haircuts and play on boys' sports teams."
Boulware did this, he said, in part because he did not want any of his children to be teased.
"And truth be told I did it to protect myself, as well. I wanted to avoid those inevitable questions as to why my child not look and act like a boy," he said.
Ignoring the wants and needs of his daughter, Boulware said, ultimately made her "miserable" and did not change the fact that she was transgender.
"I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable. Especially at school — no confidence, no friends, no laughter," he said.
Still, Boulware continued, he turned a blind eye to his daughter's own interests, forcing her to act like a stereotypical "boy."
Until, one day, "everything changed."
"I had gotten home from work, and my daughter and her brother were in the front lawn and she had sneaked on one of her older sister's play dresses. And they wanted to go across the street and play with the neighbor's kids ... I said no," Boulware said.
Growing emotional at the hearing, he continued: "She asked me if she went inside and put on boy clothes, could she then go across the street and play. And it was then that it hit me. My daughter was equating being good with being someone else."
After that, Boulware stopped forcing his daughter to be someone she wasn't, he said. The change was almost immediate: She grew her hair, she began dressing the way she wanted, she started having friends and she joined a girls' volleyball team.
The passage of Missouri House Joint Resolution 53, which affects public secondary schools, would mean that Boulware's daughter would no longer be able to play on a girls' team as it would require students to play sports based on the sex listed on their birth certificate.
The sponsor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Chuck Basye, told local TV station KTVI that the bill was intended to support cisgender girls.
"Women or young girls, ladies in that matter, after they work hard in a competitive sport and then lose that opportunity to go on to the next level to get a college scholarship," Basye said.
Speaking directly about the bill being considered by the Missouri House, Boulware said in his testimony that if it becomes law, the measure would hurt his daughter's own opportunity to play sports.
"It will affect my daughter. It will mean that she cannot play on the girls' volleyball team, or dance squad, or tennis team," Boulware said. "I ask you: Please don't take that away from my daughter or the countless others like her that are out there. Let them have their childhoods. Let them be who they are. I ask you to vote against this legislation."
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The Missouri resolution passed a committee hearing on March 10 and was referred to the state's Committee on Rules - Administrative Oversight.
If it eventually passes both chambers and is signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson, it will be up to Missouri voters to determine the measure's fate on the 2022 ballot.
Similar measures are being deliberated across the country.
Earlier this month, Mississippi passed a similar bill banning transgender athletes from girls' and women's sports. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who has been vocal about his stance against allowing transgender athletes in women's sports.
In Arkansas, state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has also proposed a bill — known as the Gender Integrity Reinforcement Legislation Sports Act — that would ban transgender athletes from playing on women's school sports teams.
The Arkansas measure would ban transgender girls from athletics from kindergarten through college. Though she said she didn't know of any transgender athletes currently playing on school sports teams in Arkansas, Rutledge said on Feb. 22, "We don't want common sense to be overshadowed by so-called political correctness. ... This bill will ensure the integrity of girls and women in sports."