After A Photo Of Her Trans Son Crying Went Viral, A Texas Mom Is Speaking Out

"There are plenty of days when I ask myself whether I'm a good mom, but this was not one of them."

After a Facebook photo she posted of her transgender son crying on the floor of the Texas capitol building went viral, Amber Briggle received mixed reactions. Some were supportive of her and her 9-year-old Max's efforts to protest their state's anti-trans legislation, while others questioned her parenting decisions. 

"This is my transgender son in TEARS outside the Office of the Governor Greg Abbott," Briggle captioned the photo, which was reportedly taken by Bob Owen of the San Antonio Express-News during Trans Texan Lobby Day in March. "Can I just admit for a second how effing tired I am of having to comfort my baby and protect him from bullies in Austin?"

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Since Briggle shared the photo last week, the post has received over a thousand comments. One user's response, which was bumped up by hundreds of reactions, questioned, "Why would she take her child to the Governor's Office if she knows it will upset him? She could have gone alone. I find it hard to believe Gov. Abbott would bully a child. Something doesn't ring true here."

At the time, Briggle responded that Max "wanted to go," but he "hit his breaking point that day," adding that they chose to leave early for ice cream and swimming. "Teaching self care and balance is important too!"

However, Briggle had more to say in response to the backlash, which she expressed on Monday in an essay for Refinery29. As she explains, Texas has a history of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Recent controversy surrounds Gov. Greg Abbott's order for a special legislative session — currently taking place — which includes the revival of a "bathroom bill" that would require transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate.

On the day the photo was taken, Briggle writes that she and her son were "among the hundreds of transgender Texans and allies who had gathered from across the state to raise our voices and show that we exist, that we matter, and that our representatives are responsible for our rights, too."

She admits in the essay that she would usually "fight from home," and she grappled with concerns about Max's privacy and safety in deciding to go to Austin. "But I also know that if we don't speak up and put a face to this, nothing is going to change, and that Max would be at a very real risk of self-harm and dying by suicide because of it," she explained, citing statistics showing that 41 percent of trans youth have attempted suicide.

Briggle also made it clear that Max wanted to be there at the capitol to speak to the legislators, and she wasn't about to discourage him. "So I proudly brought my baby with me, to show him that it's important to stand up to bullies, even if some of those bullies work in marble offices in your state capitol."

She recalls the long day Max had, and "the frustration of having to articulate to grownups that the only people who are bothered that he's transgender are the very people who swore an oath to protect him." And although some have called her a "bad mom" for everything from accepting her son's gender identity to even posting the photo on Facebook, Briggle makes it clear that she doesn't regret it.

"Like most parents, there are plenty of days when I ask myself whether I'm a good mom, but this was not one of them," she writes in closing. "I will always teach my son to stand up to bullies, even at the highest reaches of government. I will always remind my son that he is just as miraculous and beautiful today as he was on the day he was born. I will always expect my son to protect the vulnerable among us. That doesn't make me a bad mother — that makes me a mom, doing my best."

Fortunately, the trolls don't have all the say, and the positive takeaways from Briggle's story — the unwavering support of a mother for her child, and the courage of Max and other kids like him for standing up for their rights — were not lost on many commenters.

"Keep up the great work!" one user commented on Briggle's essay. "Our job as parents is to be sure our kids are happy, healthy, safe, and become productive members of society. You're killing it on all fronts--don't let haters tell you otherwise."

On Briggle's Facebook page, she calls herself "the 'mama bear' of a transgender child and a tireless advocate for his rights." We'd say that's a pretty perfect description.

You can read the rest of Briggle's essay on Refinery29.

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