Trans parents have always existed

OPINION: Today’s panic over transness and kids is largely driven by the overactive imaginations of people who have never met a trans person in their lives

This time last week, I was sitting on a dock looking over a remote pond in rural Maine, watching my kids frolic in the crystal-clear water below me. Overhead, the sun shone hotly on my shoulders, but relief came every time my younger daughter screeched and shot me with her water gun.

It was a rare moment of bliss for me, someone who has been fully immersed in covering trans politics for the better part of the last decade. It was a nice break from the awful red-state legislatures I spend most of my time writing about and their screaming hordes of online bullies who gleefully insult me on Twitter 24/7.

While I was experiencing this idyllic family trip, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker was likely polishing off a draft of her latest column, in which she called people like me a literal danger to children. The column appeared in the Washington Post, which I have always regarded as remarkably fair-minded toward trans people in an age when even the Gray Lady has seemingly become obsessed with meddling in the lives of trans people and our healthcare.

In her piece, Parker took aim at Budweiser for their partnership with trans TikToker Dylan Mulvaney, calling the influencer “a real-time identity crisis.”

“Here’s what I’m phobic about—the manipulation of innocents through sophisticated targeting, and the political exploitation of issues that are intentionally misleading, unconstructive or hurtful,” she wrote, seemingly accusing trans people of targeting children outright.

She doesn’t say what we’re allegedly targeting them for, instead choosing to let cis imaginations run wild on the matter. It’s a skillful bit of propagandist messaging from Parker, leaving unsaid the insinuation everyone so clearly can pick up on.

With this language, her column implies that Washington Post readers should be afraid of me, should be concerned about my presence around children, maybe even my own children. As a parent, I take umbrage with her accusations about people like me. Parker is gleefully exploiting the ongoing irrational moral panic over trans kids, likely for views and to drive outrage. But this type of rhetoric ultimately stokes societal transphobia and makes the world less safe for people like me.

Her words of warning would come as a surprise to my kids, with whom I’ve always had nothing but a close relationship. They would likely be surprised that many people consider me a danger to them simply because I’m trans.

I’ve already had to explain to my older daughter that hundreds of trolls have targeted me online throughout my career, making up a ton of lies about me personally. I’ve had to explain that the world does not love or appreciate people like me, generally. 

Imagine trying to unpack all of that with your own kid before they’re a teenager. But I couldn’t delay these conversations: it was necessary for me to explain this to her as she took her first fledgling steps on to the internet.


“Kids discover things about themselves all the time, sometimes those things conflict with parental expectations. That used to just be called ‘growing up.’”

Anyone who knows a trans person understands how ridiculous this all is. Trans people are not harmful to anyone, much less children. If our existence—if seeing us as happy, healthy adults— causes more kids to realize something about their own gender identities, well, that’s just how life works. Kids discover things about themselves all the time, sometimes those things conflict with parental expectations. That’s not inherently harmful; that used to just be called “growing up.”

Today’s political discourse on trans issues is largely driven by the overactive imaginations of people who have never met a trans person in their lives. They’ve been manipulated by conservative politicians and talking heads to imagine trans people lurking in the shadows, attempting to “recruit” kids into being trans, into transitioning.

That’s, of course, not how any of this works. Kids are either trans or they’re not. Most of them aren’t, in fact. But some of them are and deserve to live their own lives free of government interference. 

I can’t even get my own kids to brush their teeth every night—and these clowns think I can somehow influence them to transition? To attend dozens of therapist and doctor appointments and subject them to school bullying, and to what end? 

It’s a ridiculous notion on its face and the sentiment must be countered by all who have sympathy for the often brutal lives trans people are routinely subjected to.
In other words, people like Kathleen Parker and those who agree with her should simply grow up and accept that the world includes trans people—some of whom will be kids—and there’s nothing they can do about it. It doesn’t matter how much brutal oppression we face, trans people will always exist.

And existing as a trans person, and a parent is just how I’ll fight back. Detractors can rail on and on in the press or on social media about people like me and the supposed “danger” we are to kids, and I’ll just keep on hanging out with my kids, watching them enjoy a cool Maine pond on a hot summer day with all our loved ones surrounding us. Living is the best revenge, and they can’t take that from us yet.

Katelyn Burns is a freelance journalist and columnist for Xtra and MSNBC. She was the first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in U.S. history.

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