What do I tell my daughter, Mr. President?

Dear President Trump,

Last week your administration announced that it was withdrawing the guidelines that President Obama issued in support of transgender students in American public schools. You said preventing discrimination wasn’t really in your wheelhouse. You said the states should decide where all those trans kids should pee.

As the mother of a young child, I have a question for you about this:

What do I tell my daughter, Mr. President?

You see, she’s nine years old. Do you remember when your daughters were nine? If you don’t, or you were too busy just then ripping off American workers to spend time with your children, I’ll remind you what age nine looks like:

Third grade. Finally reading well enough to devour Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia.  

Long hair. Knee-length cotton dresses. Shirts with kittens and sparkles embroidered on them, to differentiate themselves from icky boys (like you).

Gathering in clusters at recess to giggle and share secrets, jump rope, and pretend they’re a family of unicorns.

That’s what my nine-year-old looks like, Mr. President. It’s a pretty picture, isn’t it?  It’s the Goldilocks zone of childhood, the short span of years parents wish they could bottle up and store forever, when your child is old enough to wipe her own bottom and ask interesting questions (“Mama, what does air weigh?”), but young enough that she still (kind of) believes in unicorns and the inherent goodness of all people. Amazing, isn’t it?


I was really enjoying age nine, Mr. President.  But then you had to go and spoil it this week by revoking support for my daughter’s right to pee with the other little girls.

Just how do I break this to her, Mr. President?  How do I tell her that the federal government (“That’s right, honey, the federal part is the very tip-top of the government, more powerful than the states and cities and your school principal.”) has turned its back on her?

How do I tell her that we’re on our own now, that our ability to participate in our community is now subject to the whim of our neighbors? If they like us, we’re probably going to be OK. But if the neighbors get spooked and decide to outlaw us, the President is cool with that, too.

Skeptical reader: “That sounds awfully dramatic.  No one’s outlawing your weird ‘daughter.’ Just have the kid use a separate bathroom. Sheesh!”


My daughter and her best friend. Which one gets to use the girls’ bathroom? 

In theory, dear reader, that’s a fine idea. But in practice, this is how it works: My daughter and her new best friend skip hand-in-hand down the hall, heading back to class from recess.  They’ve just bonded on the playground over a shared passion for Steven Universe.  Uh-oh! They both have to pee sooooo bad!  They rush to the door of the girls’ bathroom. The new best friend starts to walk in and tugs on my daughter’s arm.  Why isn’t she coming in?  Doesn’t she have to pee?  

My daughter crosses her legs. She’s been told not to go in there. It’s a law or something. (Could they send her to jail?) Her new BFF gives her a weird look. My daughter holds it the rest of the day. Or she’s late to class because she has to walk to the other side of the school to use the nurse’s  bathroom. Or she pees her pants, and has to have the school secretary call me to come get her.  “Where did you go?” the new bestie asks the next day.  Word gets around third grade that there’s something strange about that girl who is scared of the bathroom and peed herself. The new BFF keeps her distance. The bullying begins. Then the nightmares start, and the panic attacks. My daughter refuses to go to school.  

Goodbye, Goldilocks zone.

Knock on wood, this hasn’t happened to us. Yet. (Although it’s happened to every trans kid I know who can’t pee with their peers.) For now, local laws protect my transgender daughter’s access to the girls’ bathroom. But since I heard the news that the President was washing his tiny hands of my daughter’s fate, nothing feels certain and I’ve been weighing my options.

Do I keep her in the dark, hoping no one else spills the scary beans? Or do I give her some warning of what might be coming? Do I clue her into the fact that we now officially live in the new Wild West, where the biggest bullies in town get to make the rules? Do I tell her that people are trying to pass a bathroom bill in our state that would not only bar her from entering the girls’ bathroom, it would also put a $2,500 price on her head every time she did so? (That’s right, kiddies, each documented instance of peeing in a stall next to a trans kid nets you $2,500 in cold hard cash. The hunt is on!)  

How exactly do I break it to my 9-year-old daughter that her fellow third-graders may soon be her bounty hunters?  (And that the President of the United States is OK with that.)

I nearly had to tell her everything yesterday, Mr. President. That’s because it’s all over the news, and when I suddenly flip off the car radio during yet another debate about the politics and perils of peeing, she gets curious.

I keep it vague. “Some people are scared of transgender people.”

“But why, Mama?’ she asks. “What’s scary about me?”

The car gets very quiet. I don’t have an answer.

Do you, Mr. President?

Eagerly awaiting your reply,

Marlo Mack


120 thoughts on “What do I tell my daughter, Mr. President?

  1. There will always be people who misuse power. Wouldn’t surprise me if they post national guards at restrooms. Horrible situation no matter what gender is being bullied. We need a new system, don’t we?

  2. Keeping it vague by saying “Some people are scared of transgender people”? Yes, that’s vague alright.

  3. This is was beautiful… Hope the system resolves, the other day we were having a chat with a fellow classmate who is a transgender and we really did not understand why this discrimination exists. The government gives us laws that we begin to fear. People for the most part seem accenting

  4. “People fear what they don’t understand, and you, sweetheart, are as intricate as the mosaic of a kaleidoscope. You are beautiful and colorful and anything but black and white. It will take people time to understand you, but that doesn’t stop you from shining.” There. Say that. 🙂 Best of luck to you and your daughter.

  5. I had to share, I hope you don’t mind. I had a friend growing up that was/ is transgender. I remember the torture he went through growing up in South Texas, before the legislature was presented by the Obama administration, before people began to open their minds–just a little–only to have them shut once again a few years later.

  6. Seriously? There’s a very simple answer – Girls use the ladies room and boys use the men’s room. Period. God created man and woman. Male and female. Period.. Your daughter is a GIRL in case you didn’t know. Think back to when she was born, didn’t you have cards and announcements saying “IT’S A GIRL!” Well, she is still a girl, nothing can change that. You need to teach her to accept the role that God gave her as being a girl so that she can one day grow into a lovely , healthy, young woman with no question about what her gender is. Society has placed this unnecessary stigma of ” transgender ” when really, there is no such gender as transgender. Raise your daughter to be confident in the woman she is to become. Teach her to be proud to be a girl. God made her that way, and that’s all there is to it. Teach her to be happy with who she is, and to accept herself the way God made her, no matter what the world may try to change about her.

    It’s not that people are “scared” of transgender people, it’s just that God did not design us that way. You misled your daughter by telling her people are scared of transgender people. The truth is, there is no such gender as transgender. Society has tried to make us believe that it’s “okay” to be neither male or female, but somewhere in between. That is the lie we are trying to fight against. God made us male and female – beginning with Adam and Eve. That’s it. That is the truth you need to help your daughter to understand. It’s very sad to think that someone could become confused over such a simple matter. Your daughter is a girl. Help her to become feminine and she will grow into a lovely lady.

      • That’s good to know that you are in agreement with that. So, then why the big fuss? Who told her not to use the ladies room ? Sorry, but I just don’t get it.

      • If you read the rest of my blog, you will understand. My child is a transgender girl. That means that when she was born, we thought she was a boy. So, I suppose you would say that she still is a boy. If you’d like to understand a little bit about this, you could read some of the earlier entries to my blog. I assure you that transgender is a very real thing. It is not a game, or a joke, or a phase, or a left-wing political agenda. If you met my daughter, or any other transgender person, I think you would see that. I hope you can open your mind a little to consider this. And there are many religious people who acknowledge and embrace transgender people.

      • Whoa! Wait a minute – are you saying that your daughter has a penis ? Oh, your poor son! His life must be so confusing for him! Am I getting this correct ? You have a son but you wanted him to be a girl, so you decided to raise him as “transgender” and tell him that he’s really a girl his whole life ? Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only asking you this, not accusing you of anything. I would like to understand more. I’m not trying to start a debate or falsely accuse anyone of anything. I just want to understand a bit more. As I see it, if a child is born with a penis, then it’s a boy. I mean, she wsn’t born with ovaries, was she ? Please help me to understand your situation better. I will read more of your blog in the meantime. Thank you, and I’m sorry if anything I said was offensive, it wasn’t meant to be, I am just trying to understand better.

    • Wow. You really need to step out of the vacuum that you’re living in and meet the rest of the world, Joy. And while you’re at it, welcome to the twenty-first century.

      Gendermom, this was a thoughtful and emotional post that pulled at my heartstrings tightly. There is so much good that he is undoing so quickly. Know though, that you and your daughter are never alone and that the progress we’ve made as a country can’t be reversed with the stroke of a pen. Minds and hearts are open and forward thinking is where we are going. Her struggles and challenges may be many, but they will not be permanent. Much love to you both.

  7. That is really sad…

    Wish there was somethin’ we all could do to help : /

    Keep your daughters head up! She should now feel down because of who she is!

    • There is! Raising our children far from discriminating ideas. Keeping ourselves far from discriminating ideas and not remaining silent when we witness injustice or discrimination. You have more power than you think 🙂 believe in it!

  8. I’m so sorry you and your daughter have to face this issue. Maybe it sounds hollow, but I’m a parent and a teacher, and know that children are so sensitive and their parents yearn to protect them. I hope a resolution comes soon.

  9. I cant tell you how refreshing it is that you and your daughter are standing up for individualism and personal freedom. We all have a right to decide what we want to make of our lives. It is sad that politics interferes in our freedom of expression, identity and heritage. The basic fundamental values that make us who we are. Our personal rights that ONLY belong to ourselves. They try to control, dictate and divide. The simplicity from governing right from wrong is now a grey mass. Paintbrushed with generalisation and a failed logic. Is this what we want to pass on to our children? the alternative facts ….Long time ago the visionaries, scientists, leaders and philosophers dreamt of understanding the world we live in, went beyond the eye to see and imagined as far as time could travel. They gathered facts, postulates and with logic pieced the very existence of our beings. They gave us science, reason and answers to the earth we live in and the planets beyond. They did all this because they thought outwards. Now, those that call themselves leaders are herding us into caves, asking us to be silo’d cavemen, doctrine to only think black or white. As much as the world’s global reach is so networked and intertwined, with immense knowledge we are still the fools. Seized to think outwards and now, preconditioned to think inwards. I am in fear of the fools who will make our next generation foolish.

  10. Donald trump is truly the president from hell….. he is turning his back on community after community, and this is a really scary thought! When will he understand that humans are humans and have the right to enjoy their freedom. This was a wonderful article, I recently wrote about the bathroom bill changes on my blog…. perhaps you could check it out? https://syncopatedstateofmind.wordpress.com/2017/03/01/flushing-down-the-bathroom-bill/ Thanks

  11. HI, I’m new to blogging. I was curious how your daughter, decided he new inside he really was a she? How he expressed himself toward becoming your daughter! Would you mind sharing or do you have other post to refer me too. It’s a big topic today and I like hearing people’s stories no matter different perspectives! We should all respect each other and always look out for number one, our children! Thanks for posting and giving us insight on this issue!

    • I can’t speak for this particular child, but perhaps it will help you to consider how you knew inside that you were female (if that is how you identify). It was probably very much the same for gendermom’s daughter, except really hard because people keep telling her that she’s wrong about her own identity. Which is a pretty arrogant thing for someone to claim, if you think about it. “No, you’re wrong about who you are, I’m the expert in you, you’re an idiot who needs protecting from yourself.”

      Children tend to be pretty good at expressing themselves if their adults are any good at listening to them, I’ve found.

  12. Great post! It is stories like this that need to be told so that politicians and policy makers realize that they are not just dealing with some abstract concept, but they are actually playing with lives. I doubt though that the bomber jacket wearing draft dodger will see or note anything beyond the edge of his nose that will make him change.

  13. Such a heart wrenching post to read. There is such a lack of empathy, compassion and kindness within politics, particularily in the US, and children are awfully often the victim of this incompentancy. I hope things change for your little girl and that the world becomes a safer place for her.

  14. Thank you for sharing this amazing struggle with all of us. It pains me to reflect on my own youth growing up gay. Knowing that some detested and cursed me for simply being who I was. I cannot imagine the frustration your daughter and you must face daily at this point. What a sad sad commentary on our Nation’s psycho-social state. What ever happened to simply treating one another with decency and respect regardless of our differences?

  15. I just don’t see how any parent could do such a cruel thing to a developing young boy. If he was born with a boy’s anatomy, then guess what, HE IS A BOY! Not trying to be mean or disrespectful, here, but really! Why on earth would you put your son through this ? Talk about CONFUSING! So what if as a toddler he told you that he “feels” like a girl. If he told you he “felt” like a dog, would you then treat him as one??? Of course not. Talk to him, get him counseling if needed, but don’t try to change his gender ! Guess what, if you don’t start treating your son like the boy he was created to be, then he is going to have a very TOUGH life. For the sake of your son, stop this transgender nonsense before it’s too late! Of course there is nothing scary about your son. No wonder he feels so confused. By telling him that he is a girl and treating him like one, you have put this confusion into his mind, and it’s only going to get worse if he continues to think he is a girl. HELP HIM! You are his mother, for goodness sake, PLEASE HELP YOUR SON!

    When I referred to him as a girl earlier, I was going off of the fact that you said he was a girl, without having read the rest of your blog. I am horrified that a parent would do such a thing. He needs help. If you don’t believe that, then you also need help. I will definitely keep you and your family in my prayers.

    • Think about what I said, and get your son the help he needs. If you truly love your son, and I know you do, then for goodness sake treat him as the boy that he is. This confusion he is going through now will only grow into a much bigger problem as he grows older. Is his father still in his life ? He needs a male role model now more than ever. This problem has nothing to do with Donald Trump, but rather this is a problem that you created, and you are the only one who can resolve this mess by telling your son the truth ! Yes, it will be difficult to admit to him that you made a mistake, but it will only get more difficult as he grows older living his whole life under the delusion that he is a girl. You are making his life difficult for him by teaching him a lie and raising him to live that lie. What are you trying to accomplish by doing this horrible thing to your son ? Teach him to be proud of who he is – PROUD TO BE A BOY!

      • What you look like and what your are inside are different. When I was young my friend and I had to buy medical books for her cousin abroad. Of course we read and looked at the photo’s and it was an eye opener.
        When babies were born with two genitalia in the 50’s they made them all boys. The brain,DNA, etc still remain a girl the flesh that hangs between your legs does not make you a boy. What angers me is when we get righteous bible groups who don’t believe in medicine in our evolution from stone age to tech, they still believe in the dark ages and God made us all to evolve to outgrow to become better than we are , not that it is working right now with ISIS. We have a free will it was given to us and yet we throw it back in God’s face.

    • Joy, if you read more of Marlo’s blog then you would understand it would be far more harmful for her daughter to be forced to be raised as a boy. You are right that it is confusing to be told you are not the gender you know you are. You are right that it is scary to be treated as a gender you are not. Marlo’s daughter is a girl and it would be very harmful for this child to be treated otherwise just because society would judge her based on her genitals.

  16. Hugs, mama! No matter what the subject or viewpoint is, you need to be told that you’re doing a great job. Oh the struggles of raising our babies in such a complex world…Xoxo, from one mom holding on for dear life each day to another.

  17. More people need to hear opinions and stories like your’s. It is unfortunate that we live in such a close-minded society where people don’t even stop to think about transgender children and how making the choice of which bathroom to use can effect their lives. Your little girl has a strong support system behind her, no matter what kind of bs laws the government wants to make. May she and your family stay strong, the fight will never be over until we win!

  18. This is wonderful. So beautifully written and quite touching. We have to show trump he isn’t going to ruin the simplicity and innocence of children.

  19. The only thing you can do is to fight for your rights Trump policies are all about discrimination and racism but the thing which matters is that in democracy people can defeat president like trump You all have to be by each others side Americans

  20. Well, I would say that telling a 9 year old that people are afraid of her is the one thing you shouldn’t tell her unless you want her to grow with unnecessary guilt and anxiety.
    Perhaps explain conservative politics and the arguments for decentralisation of power, that would be less damaging and infinitely more useful 🙂

  21. What’s happening is horrible. Mr. (I refuse to call him president) Trump refuses to realize that this is like someone forcing himself to use the girls bathroom, another non-designated bathroom, and spend his public bathroom life without the use of a urinal.

  22. I just listened to your podcast featured on The Heart, the part where you said that you were never political before ‘because nobody was coming for you’ struck a chord in me. I felt the same until I met different issues in my family and what I realise is that we must all stand together to fight all prejudice, not just fight our own battles, because I think we are essentially fighting the same people. I do not live in the US but I will speak out & stand by all those who face prejudice, children
    In particular deserve their childhoods, not have to navigate all these complications. Strength to you
    and your daughter, you are changing our world into a more conscious one, a more educated one, a more open one, your daughter is the future, her voice is the future.

  23. I have no words of hope or solace or palliation, if that’s a word, for you, except that there are people like me who care about what happens to your daughter and to your family and to so many like her. I’m not alone. I pray there are enough of us that you and your daughter will always find allies standing between you and the bullies and haters. And I’ll do what I can to see that better people are elected to our state and national governing bodies. May you and your darling ever be protected and blessed.

  24. The easy answer is that it is not the Federal Governments job to dictate these rules to the States. State sovereignty is a real thing. And, while you are asking others to be understanding for your daughter’s situation, try to be understanding to the other 97.7 percent of the population that is not already dealing with this. I’m sure you’ve noticed this is a terrifying world to raise children in.
    What do you tell your daughter? “Honey, there are people who are confused and afraid because they don’t understand. You’re going to have to be strong for your entire life. You will have to do hard and sometimes painful things. People are going to be afraid and hate you for who you are. You have to decide how best to deal with that.”
    The truth is no law about where she gets to go to the restroom is going to change hearts and minds. The more people feel forced to address their fears the more anger and resentment will grow. Living is not for the faint of heart.

  25. Wow, this is so well-written, and it actually made my shed a tear… I feel so endlessly sorry for your daughter and all the other people, who cannot be 100% themselves because others get their knickers in a twist over the smallest and most insignificant of things. However I continue to have faith in the world and in humanity, for without hope, we’ve already doomed ourselves. Love, Unyx X

  26. I am currently living in New Zealand, my university recently introduced gender neutral restrooms. I don’t know if the society is accepting or scared of transgenders but I know this, we are slowly becoming accepting.

    I hope that the state your daughter lives gets there. I can’t tell you the anger I felt while I read this, and I have no clue how you didn’t loose your composure while replying to some insensitive comments here

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