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COLUMN: How a fortuitous meeting opened my mind

Being transgender is not something a person chooses. Their son, Drew, was frightened, confused, scared; uncomfortable in his own skin and bullied because he was different from other kids. He attempted suicide. He sought comfort from and confided in strangers in forums online; those people helped him engage in conversation with his parents. They told him he had worth. He was not alone. Hang in there. Be strong. You are loved.

The transition took years. Neither Terri nor Vince nor Drew knew he was transgender for quite some time, even after sinking into a deep depression. It took a village — many allies and angels — to bring him into his own person — who he is and was always meant to be.

The last thing Terri and Vince wanted was to lose their daughter. They hoped and prayed it was a phase. But when they realized it wasn’t, they had to accept it or deny it. They chose to accept their child and gained a son. They chose to educate themselves, advocate for his safety, as well as his physical and emotional wellbeing. They lost some old friends and grieved for their old life, but at the same time continued to push forward with open minds and inviting hearts. Former Lockheed Martin employees, they now have the drive and determination to share their very personal, delicate and insightful story with others, in hopes of bringing light to what is still a dark topic to many. They seek understanding, love and support. They have been guests on Anderson Cooper’s talk show. They want to dispel the myths and fears of what it is to be transgender, as well as minimize the risk of discrimination and violence that their son is subjected to at the hands of ignorant individuals.

It is paramount for our government to recognize this small but significant percentage of people as real human beings who deserve the same rights, not special rights, in order to live in peace and prosperity — just like everyone else. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, also known as GENDA, is a bill that would outlaw discrimination in New York state based on gender identity or expression. It would also expand the state’s hate crimes law to include crimes against transgender people. This bill has been at a standstill for quite some time. Although the bill has passed in the NYS Assembly six years in a row, the leadership in the NYS Senate has refused to allow the bill to be brought to the floor for an open discussion and vote. It only seems reasonable to me to grant people who are transgender the same — again, not special — rights that everyone who breathes has. My plea to the government, to the Senate leadership, which includes Senator John DeFrancisco, is to provide the opportunity for these people to have a fair shake at life. Consistently denying the ability for the bill to progress gives no chance for the Senate to deliberate the bill. This is a selfish and uninformed way to handle an issue one may be at odds with.

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