So, here's something important to remember for conservatives who might see transgender issues as a "liberal" issue: Children are not liberal or conservative. They just... are. And they need to be loved because of who they are. Take young Kai Shappley, a transgender girl born to a Christian, Republican mother, for example.
Kai's mother, Kimberly Shappley of Pearland, Texas, told The Huffington Post that she was raised Republican. While she didn't really consider herself a political person, she always voted Republican. Because that's how she was raised, and she never questioned anything. When her church told her that members of the LGBTQ community had made a lifestyle choice, she believed it. When she was told Satan "had a hold" of them, she believed that too.
Until Kai came along. Even before the ago of 2, Shappley noticed her child was different. As she told Equality Texas, "I knew the mannerisms were different, the temperament was different." Kai was born a boy, but at 6 years old, identifies as a girl. Shappley told The Huffington Post that accepting the new status quo wasn't an easy process for her as a mother:
I’m a really strict southern mom. It was a process. It took me three or four trips to Walmart to buy girl panties. I would go pick them up, and I would leave them in the store. I would leave crying. I would be so upset, and then I’d feel bad about not getting them.
Shappley admitted that she resisted Kai at first, disciplining her when she continuously insisted that she was a girl from the age of 3 years old on. But Kai's will was strong — she would even take t-shirts and turn them into skirts. As her mother told The Huffington Post:
It got to the point where Kai would wait until your hands were full, or you were busy, and she knew that you couldn’t come after her and she would march into the room and say, "You know I’m a girl!" just so that she could get her point across.
It took a secret Facebook group of other Christian mothers of transgender children to help Shappley find a way to accept her daughter while keeping her own faith alive:
Having a transgender child, and loving her, has made me a much better Christian. I am less judgmental, and I am more empathetic. As Christians, I don’t know how we’ve gotten separated from compassion. Where did we lose that?
While Shappley eventually embraced her daughter's identified gender, unfortunately Kai's school was not so accepting. Kai was forced to use the washroom that coincided with the gender listed on her birth certificate in May. Despite President Obama's executive order that allowed children in schools across the country to use the bathroom of their identified gender, the district superintendent for Pearland, Dr. John Kelly, refused to comply. In an interview with the Pearland Chronicle he wrote:
It is astonishing to watch the flip flop by leaders who 10 years ago strongly endorsed traditional marriage. A hostile vocal minority now rules in America aided by an apathetic, unengaged majority. What’s next? Legalizing pedophilia and polygamy? Unless we return to the Biblical basis on which our nation’s laws were established, we are in serious trouble - and cannot expect God’s continued favor.
The LGBTQ community that was once scorned by Shappley has come to her child's defense in this fight. As she watched relatives, friends, and church members slowly turn away from her family once she went public with Kai, she has been amazed at the inclusion and warmth she found within the LGBTQ community. Kai has found role models, or "aunties" in transgender women. She continues to go to church, and continues to hope for an easier, brighter future for her daughter.
Because at the end of the day, love is just love. No matter what.