Father’s Day is this Sunday.
To celebrate this year, we’re highlighting the stories of two fathers who have been deeply impacted by last year’s passage of transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections—and whose families would be worse off if these protections are repealed next year.
Here are their stories:
Like most fathers, Vann Snyder says being one is a continual learning experience. That’s especially true when your child is transgender.
“Before Ella was born, I thought I knew everything—but boy I knew nothing,” he says. “She has taught me so much about gender, priorities and life. It’s been a long strange trip, but it’s been beautiful.”
Vann says their family is blessed that Ella has always been articulate, and not shy about sharing her emotions. That skill was important when, at four years old, Ella began to express to her parents that she was a girl, not a boy.
“She was crying in the bathtub, ‘I know I’m supposed to be happy with who I am, but I’m not happy with what I am,’” Vann says, “And she told us she was a girl.”
From there, the Snyders immediately took steps to affirm Ella as the girl she knew herself to be, and have been with her every step of the way. Now, she’s grown up, and headed off to college in New York City.
As her father, Vann knew that he would support Ella no matter what. But finding support outside of the family was less of a given.
“Before Ella was born, I thought I knew everything—but boy I knew nothing,” he says. “She has taught me so much about gender, priorities and life. It’s been a long strange trip, but it’s been beautiful.”–Vann Snyder
Vann says he and Ella likes to say that she’s a “success story”—an example of how transgender children can thrive when they’re given the space to be themselves. Vann has heard the horror stories: transgender children who don’t have their parents’ support, who can’t get medical treatment, or who can’t even go to the bathroom at school.
Before she entered Boston Arts Academy, Ella was bullied at school and online, but because of the strong support system the Snyders fostered at home, she flourished.
“We often joke that she should write a book about being trans—but she says, “Dad, being trans is just a chapter in my book.’ She’s got her sights set high.”
The law was not always on their side either, but now that it’s caught up, Vann says it’s a huge relief. Laws are usually the last thing to change, he says, and the fact that Massachusetts is one of 18 states in the country to lead makes him, and Ella, proud.
Robbie Samuels is a mover and shaker in Boston’s social justice scene. For 10 years he worked at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and while working there in 2006, he founded Socializing for Justice (SoJust), a 3,000-member strong grassroots, volunteer-run, cross-cultural, cross-issue progressive community and network. He is also an author, professional speaker, podcast host, and coach.
Last year, he embarked on a new mission—being a dad. Robbie and his wife, Jess, are the proud parents of Grant who is now 18 months old and they are expecting again—another son this December.
This summer, Robbie is immersed in a juggling act familiar to most parents: balancing his role as a work-at-home dad with his busy life as a solopreneur business owner. Another change in his life that’s currently making these bigger changes easier, however, is the transgender-inclusive public accommodations protections that became law in Massachusetts last year.
“Knowing that I’m protected from discrimination when I’m out in public has taken some of the stress of becoming a new parent off my shoulders,” he says. “This is especially true when I’m out with my son. I can really focus on the joy of being with him, and being present, without worrying about us being harassed or refused service.”
“Knowing that I’m protected from discrimination when I’m out in public has taken some of the stress of becoming a new parent off my shoulders. This is especially true when I’m out with my son.”–Robbie Samuels
When Grant was born in December 2015, these protections weren’t in place yet, though the final push to pass them was gaining steam. Robbie, whose first instinct is always to raise his voice to support marginalized communities, knew that he had to be a part of that push, not just for himself but for his son.
“Of course, these protections are important to me as a trans man,” he says, “But when we had Grant, it became about something else too—the message that our state would send to my son as he was growing up. I wanted him to grow up in a community where all people are respected, and that’s what this law is about.”