WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of various groups braved the cold Tuesday to stand outside the U.S. Senate with one demand: “Stop Mateer.” Jeff Mateer, whom President Trump has nominated for a federal judgeship in Texas, has claimed that transgender children are evidence that “Satan’s plan is working,” connected marriage equality to bestiality, and openly boasted that his church discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.
Among the speakers at Tuesday’s rally were Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), representatives from various LGBTQ and pro-choice organizations, as well as two moms of transgender kids, Sarah Watson and Lori Woehrle. In September, both Watson and Woehrle joined over 270 other parents of transgender children in signing a letter asking Mateer to either apologize for his past remarks or withdraw his nomination. He did not respond to the letter.
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) November 14, 2017
Watson told the gathered crowd that her son, Jay, had struggled with his identity through much of his youth — in stark contrast to his identical twin sister. Watson said that she, herself, was a victim of sibling suicide and she was very worried she might see the same thing happen with her children. Last summer, Jay got out of bed and joined her to watch the Human Rights Campaign’s Sarah McBride become the first transgender person to address a national political convention, which inspired him to be honest that he was trans too.
Jay transitioned over the rest of the summer and returned to school as the boy he always knew he was, and Watson said he’s a happy and healthy young boy. Woehrle’s son Sam is a few years older and has been happily living in his true gender identity for several years.
Both moms feel particularly hurt by the language Mateer has used to describe their families. “The truth is, it hurts,” Woehrle told ThinkProgress. “It makes me cry. I can’t believe I have to utter the words that my son is not part of Satan’s plan.”
Watson told ThinkProgress that even being at a rally full of allies, it was hard to listen to the speeches reiterating what Mateer had said. She repeated them herself during her remarks, “My son is not evidence of how Satan’s plan is working, and let me be clear, no child is,” but explained afterwards, “I’m still denying it happened.” She said that she gets Jay’s consent to speak at these rallies, but she tries to protect him from hearing such negative language.
Like the rally’s other speakers, these moms recognize the long-term consequences of appointing someone with Mateer’s beliefs to a lifelong position on the bench. “We can do better than this with federal judges,” Woehrle said.
In addition to protecting their sons from people like Mateer, they’re both committed to helping others to understand and respect their kids. Watson said that she’s constantly correcting people who try to refer to “when Jay was a girl” and talk about him in the past using female pronouns and his previous name. “Jay was never a girl,” she insists, and explains why it’s important to distinguish that he wasn’t “born a girl,” but was “assigned female at birth.”
Likewise, Woehrle is constantly having to correct others who believe that Sam chose to be trans. “It is who he is, part of his makeup,” she said. Transitioning, she explains, is about “stepping forward to live an honest life.”
The fate of Mateer’s confirmation is unclear. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) had initially supported Mateer’s nomination, but after his litany of anti-LGBTQ comments came to light, he admitted to having some doubts about his confirmation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), unfazed by the remarks, is standing by his support for Mateer.