Dear Gov. Kim Reynolds — I’d like to tell you about a teenager I know who is suffering and needs your help. We’ll call her Abby, to preserve her privacy.
I direct children’s theatre plays and Abby tried out for one of them a few years ago. I cast her in a small role. She thrived on stage. She found confidence and courage that she didn’t know she had.
The following year, she auditioned again. When she came to the audition, she was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. She had a boyish look to her. We didn’t have enough boys auditioning (we never do) and I had to cast Abby in a boy’s role and hoped that would be OK with her. She was perfectly fine with it and excelled in the role.
Little did I know that Abby was coming out as transgender during this time period. The truth was he was thrilled to be cast in a boy’s role. He allowed his mom to tell me shortly before we went to print with the programs, when he asked he be known as Tom (still not his real name) in the program.
The following year, I cast Tom in a third play, this time in a pretty important role. He was amazing, handling both the humor and the very serious moments with ease and understanding.
I cannot begin to tell how proud I was of him. I have watched him grow in confidence and self assurance each year. He is strong and knows who he is. If you could meet him, you would see what I see. A boy who is working to find his place in this world. One who is often serious, but also quick to joke around with his friends. A boy who works so hard to do things right. He’s just a great young man.
But the truth is, despite having a strong family, good friends, and activities that give him a sense of belonging, Tom is struggling because his body is not what it was meant to be. He struggles with self doubt and self harm. He’s 15 and next year, with the recommendation of his doctor, he can undergo top surgery to begin to correct the body he was born with. He is living for this opportunity to begin to correct this disease.
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There’s only one catch. His mom is an employee of a public institution and, last week, an amendment to a budget bill passed the Iowa Legislature which would effectively eliminate any surgery related to transgender care paid for by public funds.
You have the opportunity to help Tom. Only you can save his life. And that’s what we’re talking about here. More than 50 percent of transgender kids attempt suicide. Tom is not part of that statistic yet. I pray you will do what’s right and veto that amendment to the budget bill.
Look, I get that the idea of transgender people is new to us. Growing up in the 80s, I’m from a generation that is leaning about this now. It’s uncomfortable and I wasn’t even sure if it was real when I first heard about it.
But I know it’s real now because I know Tom. He’s a boy — there’s no doubt about it. Transgender people are real and these children are suffering. Only you can save Tom and so many other children. Thank you.
• Matt Falduto lives in Coralville.