Texas Dad Gives Emotional Speech To Legislature On Behalf Of His Transgender Son

"I didn’t have this kid to fulfill my dreams, I had this kid to help him realize his."

When Ken Ballard's transgender son, Ashur, now 14, came out to his family, Ballard was determined to support him in any way he could.

That's why the doting Texas father spoke during Texas' 85th Legislative Session this past winter and told the a roomful of politicians about his son, who has attempted suicide twice. Ballard's speech was shared on the Equality Texas Facebook page earlier this week, and is now going viral in large part because of Ballard's unwavering commitment to, and love for, Ashur.

As Equality Texas's Transgender Programs Coordinator, Lou Weaver, tells A Plus, the organization "works through education and advocacy to protect the rights of LGBTQ Texans." 

Weaver also notes Ken Ballard first became involved with the organization when their team met with a group of parents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who had come together to support their transgender young people.



In the video, below, Ballard says Ashur came out as transgender two years ago via a letter explaining how he had attempted suicide. 

"Was I going to be his bully?" a visibly upset Ballard said in response to his son's coming out. "Was I going to try and put him back into a box that fit the rules of my world at the time, or wait it out and see if it would just pass and go back to the way it used to be?"

"I didn't have this kid to fulfill my dreams, I had this kid to help him realize his," Ballard declares. "So I did what a dad does — I loved him. I still love him."

Though Ballard acknowledges the pair have had their "struggles," he says Ashur is fully supported by both of his parents. "As a result, I have a relationship with my son, and I'm not mourning at a headstone," the dad explains.

Ballard goes on to say that even though speaking to a group makes him uncomfortable, he's doing so in an effort to protect his son's rights. "I'd like to believe we're at a point that in civilized society, none of this no longer matters — the color of skin, how a person identifies, what's on their birth certificate — but these are not those times."

"These are times when they want to tell my kid what bathroom he can go to," Ballard concludes. 

Weaver echoed his concern about the anti-LGBTQ policies favored by some in the Texas legislature.

"Many of the bills filed this session were intentionally targeting the LGBTQ community, and others target the community due to the intersections we all live in," Weaver tells A Plus. "For example, supposed privacy bills, reproductive justice and sanctuary cities."

According to Upworthy, Texas is one of many states still attempting to pass legislation that can be harmful to the transgender community, particularly transgender students. The site notes a recently proposed Texas "bathroom bill" — which would have forced transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth, not the gender they identify with — was rejected by House Speaker Joe Straus.

A transgender student in Wisconsin scored a similar win last month when a court in that state ruled students can use the bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity. "A policy that requires an individual to use a bathroom that does not conform with his or her gender identity punishes that individual for his or her gender nonconformance, which in turn violates Title IX," Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote in her ruling.

There are currently similar cases being argued in Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to USA Today, but, as Upworthy notes, a handful of states, including Montana, Virginia, and Minnesota — as well as local school boards spanning the country — are deliberating harmful bathroom bills similar to the one that failed in Texas.

On a federal level, the current administration withdrew Obama-era protections for transgender students in public schools that let them use bathrooms and facilities corresponding with their gender identity back in February.

Still, the Ballard family is living proof that understanding and inclusion can save lives. 

"I've watched a kid go from someone who, 26 months ago, was in despair. Now, [he's] flourishing," Ballard concludes to Upworthy.

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