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When Amber Briggle, the mother of a 14-year-old transgender son named Max, learned that her state of Texas declared gender-affirming medical care for trans youth to be “child abuse,” the possible real-world repercussions were almost too much to bear.
"The way we debate and legislate trans lives out of existence can absolutely cause depression and suicidality," Briggle tells Yahoo Life. "A common misperception," she adds, "is that trans kids are delusional and that we as parents are not helping our kids because they really need psychiatric care instead of affirmation. Nothing could be further from the truth."
And Briggle is not backing down from her message: After finding her family under investigation as a direct result of her state's order, she and her husband and two children are now part of a PSA that will be viewed by millions of Americans nationwide.
"Do you want to meet a family with a transgender kid? Here we are," it begins, with Briggle sitting at a table and looking directly into the camera.
Produced by GLAAD as an effort to spread humanizing stories about LGBTQ youth and their families, the PSA directs viewers to the new informational site Equality Now, which calls on the public to show their support.
"By airing this PSA, the biggest media companies are sending a message that all families deserve to be heard and valued, a message that speaks volumes to employees, customers and voters who don't think families should be discriminated against," Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, tells Yahoo Life. "Seeing the Briggle family's emotional story will open eyes and hearts. There's a real and personal cost to anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans bills, and each of us can do our part to speak up against them, as individuals and as the biggest media companies in the world."
The PSA comes at a time when a growing number of states across the country are proposing and passing bills (over 225 this year alone) that could cause harm to LGBTQ youth — such as in Texas, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee and Oklahoma. It's being widely shown through donated air time on channels owned by NBCUniversal, Paramount, WarnerMedia — even the Walt Disney Company, which is notable, given the recent uproar Disney faced over the company's silence and inaction leading up to the approval of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. (Disney has since come out against the bill, saying last week that it "should never have been" passed.)
Regarding the situation in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion last month likening gender-affirming care to “child abuse,” urging the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate such cases statewide. Days later, Gov. Greg Abbot doubled down in a letter calling on state agencies, teachers, doctors and the public to report parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children — insinuating that there would be consequences for those who don’t report.
Abbot and Paxton made true to their promise when Family and Protective Services was sent to Briggle's home to investigate her family. Though a Texas court has since placed a temporary block on the state from investigating parents of trans children, Paxton fought back by asking the Texas Supreme Court to block the lower court’s order.
Briggle, who wrote about the situation in more detail on her blog, "Love to the Max," said onstage at the GLAAD Media Awards last weekend that she "was sure they were going to take my kids away, and I have never been more terrified."
Now, she tells Yahoo Life, "My biggest concern now is how to keep my family together. Our CPS case is still technically open. The current injunction in Texas hasn’t closed our case — it’s just paused it."
And despite the temporary ban, Briggle says families like hers continue to be under attack across the state.
"Who knows how long that injunction will last or what the next political attack will be?" she adds. "What’s stopping the Texas Legislature from trying to actually pass this as a law in the next legislative session? They’ve already shown that the law and constitution don’t matter in any of this — nothing that my husband, Adam, and I have done is illegal, yet we are being investigated anyway. This has all happened outside the law, and I fear for what that means not only for my family, but for our democracy as a whole."
Briggle says the PSA is an opportunity to use her family's story to help others understand that the love she has for her child is no different than the love any other mother has for her own.
"Once you get to know a trans kid, you’ll see that they are literally no different from any other kid," she says. "They want to play, have fun, hang out with friends, and just be a kid. They don’t have a political agenda. They’re just kids, just like anyone else."
Of her son, she adds, "Max has always been a responsible, mature, wise kid. I joke that he could have raised himself because he always knew right from wrong and kept himself out of trouble. He’s basically only ever needed me to give him rides and make him dinner — he’s always had this whole 'life' thing figured out."
Looking ahead, Briggle tells Yahoo Life she hopes more parents like her can share their own experiences to help drive change.
"When the nation sees that my family is no different than theirs, my hope is that more people will take a stand for trans kids," she explains to Yahoo Life. "I think a lot of folks just haven’t thought about this issue, because trans kids are a minority in this country. But that doesn’t mean that they matter less. By watching this PSA and seeing how normal and loving and non-threatening we are, I’m hoping that people will put themselves in our shoes and imagine what that would feel like to have an agent of the state come into your home, interrogate your family and threaten to take your children away."
"This is not a hypothetical political ploy anymore — this is really happening, and we need the nation to wake up, stand up, and fight back," she adds. "If I could ask for just one thing to come out of this PSA, it would be that."