This Mom Became a Lawyer After Her Daughter Came Out as Trans

Katie Jenifer never thought she’d go to law school. But when her daughter came out as trans as a young child, the North Carolina mother of two knew her child would need an advocate.

Now, eight years after her daughter Maddie first came out, and five years after enrolling in North Carolina Central University’s law school, Jenifer has acquired her bar card. She knows that as a record number of anti-trans bills being introduced in the U.S. continue to grow, trans kids need advocates now more than ever. Speaking about Maddie, she tells them., “I think she’s proud of me… I think she knows that I’d do anything to protect her.”

Maddie transitioned socially around five years old, between kindergarten and first grade. On her first day back at school, a local news crew showed up to interview other parents, asking how they felt about their children going to school with a trans kid. Jenifer says this was the first moment she realized she might need a lawyer: “It set off a firestorm,” she told the Guardian.

“One of the things that made me want to do law in the first place was that fear that somebody would not like how we were raising Maddie and report us to social services,” she tells them. “That was one of my biggest fears. How would I protect her from getting taken from us?”

While she isn’t currently working as a lawyer, she hopes to someday work full-time on cases involving trans health care. In the meantime, Jenifer serves on the board of the Conversion Therapy Dropout Network, an organization that supports survivors of conversion therapy. She is also on the board of (and runs an online support group for parents of trans kids with) Genderbands, a non-profit that helps raise money to cover transition-related expenses.

She also accompanied Maddie when she appeared in front of the state legislature earlier this year, speaking against North Carolina’s proposed bill banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. The state is one of at least 30 that have introduced bills intended to bar trans people, and often trans girls in particular, from playing on sports teams that align with their gender. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), six of these bills have been enacted in 2021.

At the hearing, Jenifer’s mom instincts were in full gear, checking in on her daughter and the other trans kids who’d come out to speak against the bill.

“I just kept checking with her to make sure she was okay,” she tells them. “I was sitting next to another trans individual, and I was checking with them to make sure they were okay. There was a mom behind me with her trans daughter, and I just gave her hand a little squeeze when there would be something really hard to hear.”

Maddie said that while she was upset by the lawmakers’ blatant transphobia, she was glad that she could be there to fight back. “It was difficult to hear them say trans kids aren’t real boys or girls,” she told the Guardian. “It’s hard to hear them contemplating my existence.”

“I know it can be scary for parents. But our job is to love our kiddos, and to provide them with all the information they need to make informed choices.” -Says Katie


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