JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Brandon Boulware wanted to make it clear to Missouri lawmakers that the decisions they make in Jefferson City have far-reaching effects to families all over the state.
He knows because he said one of the bills they were considering – House Joint Resolution 53 – would threaten his daughter’s happiness and future.
Boulware spoke before the Missouri House of Representatives during a committee hearing on March 3, which also happened to be his daughter’s birthday.
“And I chose to be here. She doesn’t know that. She thinks I’m at work,” he explained in the now-viral video shared on social media and seen by millions of people worldwide.
Boulware introduced himself as a lifelong Missourian, a Christian and son of a Methodist minister. He also said he’s a father of two boys and two girls, “including a wonderful and beautiful transgender daughter.”
He told lawmakers that for years he didn’t understand why his daughter wanted to wear dresses or have long hair. He forced her to wear boy clothes, have short haircuts and play on the boys’ sports team. Boulware said he did it to protect his child, her siblings and himself.
“I wanted to avoid those inevitable questions as to why my child did not look and act like a boy,” he told lawmakers.
Boulware said he and his wife went against the advice of teachers, therapists and other experts in forcing his daughter to be someone she wasn’t, he said.
“My child was miserable. I cannot overstate that. She was absolutely miserable,” he stressed, saying she had no confidence, no friends and no joy. “I can honestly say this, I had a child who did not smile.”
In a moving speech to lawmakers, he recounted the day that all changed.
You can watch Boulware's full speech in the video below:
Boulware said he got home from work to see his daughter and her brother on the front lawn. She had secretly put on one of her older sister’s play dresses. The siblings wanted to go across the street to play with some neighbors. Boulware said no.
Then, his daughter asked if she put on boy clothes, could she then go play.
“And it’s then that it hit me. My daughter was equating being good with being someone else. I was teaching her to deny who she is. As a parent the one thing we cannot do, the one thing, is silence our child’s spirit. And so, on that day, my wife and I stopped silencing our child’s spirit,” Boulware said.
They started allowing her to grow out her hair and wear whatever clothes she wanted.
“She was a different child,” he said. “And I mean it was immediate. It was a total transformation. I now have a confident, a smiling, a happy daughter.”
She now plays on the girls’ volleyball team and also participates in dance and tennis, which is what brought him to Missouri’s Capitol building.
Representative Chuck Basye, a Republican who represents an area just west of Columbia, introduced HJR53, which would force transgender students — like Boulware’s daughter — to only play on teams that correspond with the gender that’s on their birth certificate.
Here is the bill’s summary:
“Upon voter approval this proposed Constitutional amendment requires that students who participate in sex-separated athletic contests only be allowed to participate in those for the biological sex found on the student's birth certificate.”
Boulware said he felt compelled to tell lawmakers his story as a parent, that they should not pass the bill.
“I need you to understand that this language, if it becomes law, have real effects on real people,” he said, saying this change would force his daughter to leave the teams and activities she loves.
“I ask you, please don’t take that away from my daughter or the countless others like her who are out there. Let them have their childhoods, let them be who they are. I ask you to vote against this legislation.”
Missouri is one of more than 20 states considering bills that ban transgender athletes from competing on girls' or women’s sports teams. Mississippi recently became the first state to enact such a ban.
As for Missouri's bill, action was postponed on March 11. There are no hearings scheduled at this time and the bill is not on a House calendar for discussion.
Boulware’s impassioned plea to lawmakers caught the attention of organizations and celebrities, who’ve been sharing his speech on social media.