“I’ve Been Proud So Many Times”: A Texas Family Fights the Anti-Trans Laws

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Hey, y’all it’s Brit. So there is a woman in Florida named Tiffany Justice. She has four school-aged children and she’s the founder of a group she calls Moms for Liberty. She has used that network of around 80,000 parents to push for a new law that the Human Rights Campaign says is discriminatory and dangerous. It seeks to silence teachers from talking about LGBTQ plus issues or.

Further stigmatizing and isolating LGBTQ plus kids. The legislation is HB 1557, the so-called Parental Rights and Education Bill, and it was signed into law last week. You probably know it as the, Don’t Say Gay bill and Tiffany Justice says the law will and I quote, “fight transgender contagion in America.”

Now it will be easy for me to get snarky about Tiffany Justice because the only contagion I see sweeping the nation is unabashed, unashamed, bigotry, and hate parading as prophesy. Because from Florida to Texas to school libraries across the country, this bullshit is catching. The rights it seems only belong to the white conservative Christian parents and never the parents of color, the queer parents, the trans-parents, or the parents who very simply give a damn to raise better children.

Then I think of her four school-aged children and I can’t be snarky. I think of all the children of those 80,000 parents committed to dragging us back into the dark ages, one school board meeting at a time. And I can’t be snarky about that because I’m afraid for them. I’m afraid for those among the 80,000 families who are queer or trans themselves potentially unsafe and unable to live their true lives.

And I’m afraid for all our children learning the language of hatred who will grow up prepared only to dominate and never to love the children who didn’t ask to be here by the way, and are very simply trying to find their way. They are the ones paying a very dear price for our sins. I won’t ask what we are becoming because in parts of many places, we’re seeing an emboldened version of who we’ve always been.

But it’s not who we have to be because we are UNDISTRACTED.

On the show today, I’ll be talking to Willow and Owen Edgerton, a daughter, father pear that live in Austin, Texas, 

Willow Egerton: specifically with trans non binary kids. Trust me when I say your child will be a million times happier. If you support them, if you respect them as a person and help them out, sometimes they will.

So much happier as themselves than as a lie.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: That’s coming up but first. It’s the news.

Oh, listen, a law that would make performing an abortion, a felony passed the Oklahoma legislature Tuesday and is headed to the desk of a governor who will undoubtedly sign it under the law abortion providers could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and face a fine of up to $100,000. This law does not just affect Oklahomans.

According to data collected by the university of Texas at Austin, 45% of patients who can’t access abortion care in Texas because of its new strict laws, travel up to 10 hours to receive care in Oklahoma. And now they won’t be able to. Now there is a backup. The law will likely be blocked by the courts because for now, thanks to Roe vs. Wade abortion is legal in the U.S. But I want you to listen very closely. Roe is not permanent. We’re waiting on that ruling from the Supreme court on Dobbs versus Jackson women’s health organization. That case is very likely to overturn Roe. That means without Congress coming to the aid of pregnant people everywhere and protecting the right to control our own bodies, all the laws that state legislatures have passed to outlaw abortion constrain when you can access it, to punish doctors and pregnant people, to allow random people, to sue an Uber driver for taking you to a clinic, all that shit becomes real.

And the worst part is. We’re kind of playing a waiting game. Like we’re just twiddling our thumbs, trying to find out if the conservative majority on the Supreme court is really going to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent. The vote on the Oklahoma bill was thrown onto the agenda of the legislature on Monday night and voted on with nearly no debate. 

Like I said, practically a suppressed. This is why we have to stay on state legislatures. They are down there in their capitals, scheming to ban a procedure that nearly two thirds of Americans believed should be legal without Roe the right to choose your destiny comes down to where you live. And that simply is not what freedom is.

Let’s move on to some good news. First of all, I know you saw that huge victory out of Staten island, right? A group of workers has created the first ever union at an Amazon warehouse. This is huge. They’re calling it the biggest labor victory in a generation. It’s absolutely epic and it has to be celebrated.

And I want to shout out another victory that happened this week. That didn’t quite trend as hard, but it meant a lot to me. In Sacramento, California, the teachers’ union has reached a deal with the school district to return to classrooms. They’ve been on strike for 12 days protesting the fact that their healthcare benefits were being reduced and that they continue to be overworked in light of the ongoing pandemic shortage.

One of those striking teachers is the cousin I was just connected with after Finding Your Roots, Morgan Coble Garrett, and she made the case quite clear. 

Morgan Coble Garrett: I’m a single mom of three. And when my pay is getting docked, it’s very hard to be present. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: That’s what I’m talking about, cuz tell them the truth.

Thanks to the thoughtful organizing of you and your fellow teachers. They won! Sacramento teachers secured an ongoing salary increase of 4% and the reinstatement of a policy, which pays for 100% of health coverage as it should be. The Sacramento strike was one of several that have happened in the past weeks.

Teachers in California, Minnesota, and Illinois have also hit the picket line to demand better from their district. And I get it. Teachers are going through it. Folks want to act like teachers should never strike, but in addition, so the threat of illness from COVID-19 teachers have spent the last two years stretching themselves to make up for the fact that many of their colleagues have had to leave.

And that’s on top of the reality that teaching, you know, because it’s historically, how do we like to put it, women’s work, has been underpaid and under-resourced, since the turn of the century. Teacher salaries have been on the decline in much of the country. As a former member of the Washington teachers union myself, I love to see teachers standing up for the profession that everyone needs and everyone should value. So it’s a good week for workers. That’s us. Let’s keep it going.

From one building block of a thriving middle-class to another home ownership. Now while redlining, which is the practice of denying mortgages to people who live in certain, usually Black neighborhoods may have officially ended in 1968, its effects are still plaguing us today. New research out of the university of Washington and UC Berkeley shows that areas that were redlined in the 1930s had higher levels of pollution in 2010, 80 years later. The study shows that residents who live in neighborhoods where banks refused to lend to buyers in Seattle Tacoma and Spokane Washington still to this day are exposed to a higher level of air pollutants. That’s because their neighborhoods are closer to the sources of pollution, like highways and industrial facilities. And historically residents have had a harder time fending off those industrial polluters. This research is both astounding and not at all surprising because here’s the thing we’ve been knew. 

Black Americans are 40% more likely to have asthma than white Americans. And the predominantly Black residents of Louisiana so-called cancer alley are 50 times more likely to develop cancer than the average American and those polluters look, our systems of oppression are deeply interconnected. Follow me on this, the presence of a polluter, like a chemical plant means that banks divest.

The pollution drives up the rates of illnesses and the cost of medical bills. While low home ownership rates make it hard to bring in enough property tax revenue to tackle any of those issues and countless Black and brown communities across the country. Industrial facilities have closed up shop, but they have refused to clean up their.

That was 80 years ago, but people made those decisions about whose life has value and whose doesn’t. And 80 years later, those folks are still being written off. So I ask you, who are we writing off now? Who have we forgotten? Whose pain have we decided is just the price of doing business? Who do we need to be organizing with and doing mutual aid beside, in order to divest from those interconnected systems of harm.

That’s what the story made me wonder. That’s the work we got to do.

Coming up my conversation with Willow Edgerton, a young activist for trans rights in Texas, right after this short break.

And we are back. So. The kids are safe. A judge in Texas has blocked an order from governor Greg Abbott to take effect had that not happened. The directive would have required mandatory reporters like family doctors, teachers, and school nurses to report when children are receiving gender affirming medical care.

And that’s because the governor of Texas and the state attorney general think that that care is child abuse based on a memo written by the AG back in February. Let’s be very clear. It is not. Let me tell you what gender affirming care is though. It’s so that a child has more time to understand their gender.

It might be laser hair removal. It might be speech therapy. It might be therapy therapy, but no matter what it looks like it is care and not abuse. And it is most certainly private. It is not the purview of state politicians looking to score political points by demonizing children. Children like Willow Luna Edgerton.

I spoke with her and her father Owen. They live in Austin, Texas, and watch out Greg Abbott because you, are not about to score a single point. Willow Owen, thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and talk with us here at undistracted. I’m so excited to talk to you both. 

Owen Egerton: Thanks for having us.

Willow Egerton: I’m so excited to talk to you. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: So I really want to get a sense, first of who you are, do you mind introducing yourselves? Willow we’ll come to you first. 

Willow Egerton: Yeah, so, uh, my name is Willow Luna Edgerton. I appreciate compliments about it because I picked it myself.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: It is beautiful.

Willow Egerton: I am a 13 year old trans. That lives in Austin, Texas, and, uh, you know, trying to speak up for my rights. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, we’ll get the chance to do lots of that. And we always appreciate folks that do it. Owen how about you? 

Owen Egerton: I’m Owen Edgerton. I didn’t pick my name, but I like it too. And I accept compliments and I’m the very proud parent of Willow and, uh, and another daughter who’s 16. Um, my wife and I, Jody, and we live here in Austin, Texas, and I’m a novelist in a film.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, it is more than a pleasure to meet the both of you. Both of you have fantastic names. I didn’t pick my name either, but I feel like I’ve grown into it. We are so grateful to you all for joining us all the way from Austin, Texas. Um, there is plenty for us to get into, but I really want our community to get to know you all.

I’d love to know a little bit more about you all’s family. Are there, are there particular traditions that you all have? That are different from other families? I know for my family growing up in St. Louis, Missouri in the summertime. No matter what was happening in the world. Every Monday, our family got together, our extended family got together for catfish and spaghetti.

Like, I don’t know, just because it was Monday. Are there any traditions that are unique to you all?

Owen Egerton: Yeah, I think we, we got a goofy little family, you know, we’re we got this little house in south Austin and, uh, we make a lot of movies as Willow was saying. And, uh, so we’ve got like props leftover from horror movies that like around our house, which is kind of strange.

And we have little names. I’m like, oh, there’s the murder table. And there’s the monster in the corner.

Willow Egerton: One specific tradition that is, uh, somewhat similar to what you’re talking about is every new years we take a loaf of bread. And throw it around like really hard until it’s like, just like mashed up bread bits.

And then the next morning we make French toast out of it. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Oh nice. 

Owen Egerton: That’s what we do the stroke of midnight. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Yeah. I might have to steal that because mostly just cause I love French toast. So if we borrow that tradition in our household, please know that I will give you all credit. 

Willow Egerton: But it is very challenging to make French toast out of mashed up bread bits. It’s not always exactly French toast. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: But it’s probably always delicious. 

Owen Egerton: Yes. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: I’m also just curious about your family’s priorities. Right? I can tell creativity, abounds. I can tell clearly like a lot of fun and laughter, um, is always at the forefront. What are kind of the most important rules in your family?

I know that at least once a month, my parents made me–my brother and myself do book reports at dinner, which was like, oh, well we got to pick the book. Right. But it was like an oral report. Right. So I would read, um, the autobiography of Frederick Douglas and I’d have to talk about that kind of stuff.

Are there rules or priorities that really, you feel like characterize your family?

Willow Egerton: We don’t actually have that much stuff. Uh, I would say my, uh, parents kind of raised us more like as a bunch of friends and less like we’re above you and we’re you’re like it rulers. And, um, I mean, if I ever have kids, that’s definitely how I’d raised them too.

Probably. Yeah. So that was, that’s not really a huge thing. I don’t know. No drugs. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, yeah. That’s important. Anything else? Owen, that you feel like when you really are thinking about, you know, the kind of children you want to raise, the kind of family you want to have, what are those, those priorities that you all have set.

Owen Egerton: Jodie and I, we talked a lot about like, what kind of parenting, what kind of family that we wanted to raise. And we, we learned a bunch from both our sets of parents, which we’re really, really grateful for. And I think the two things that kind of led our parenting have been number one would be kindness.

I mean, I think if there’s ever like a rule in our house, it’s be kind. And then the other one is play. Uh, you know, Jodie and I, we met doing improv together. We were in the same improv troupe back in the day. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Oh my God. I love that. 

Owen Egerton: And so we think it’s really important to, you know, do something silly. If it’s raining, let’s all run outside and jump around or, you know, let’s enjoy what we’re doing and take play really seriously.

And that leads into our careers and our relationships and definitely our household of how, how we spend a day. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Owen, I’m so curious. If at all, you had conversations about gender with your children. How did you talk about it when they were growing up? Where were you trying to nurture any particular values in them?

Owen Egerton: Jody and I’ve always had the idea of the value that we’ve nurtured is finding who you are. And growing into that, we were, I think really lucky also to have some great examples of some parents who were just a little ahead of us who had kids who identified as gender fluid or non-binary, and were already sort of dealing in thinking with these, some of these issues.

And then we had the great advantage of having Willow, who really early on starting around uh, younger than second grade, it was like, Ooh, I’m not into this boy or girl, or someone’s got to tell me the day I’m born. You know what? My gender was just not into that. And that led the way for us, like, oh, okay.

Let’s, let’s be open and, and, and learn and talk about all those things. And that’s been true actually for Willow and her friends. It’s, it’s just a cool generation of kids. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: It is the kids are absolutely. All right. Willow. Your dad’s talking about, you know, learning this word when you’re around age seven or eight, this concept of gender fluidity.

Tell us more about what was interesting to you about this and tell us more, just kind of about how you processed it, as you learned about this word, this concept. 

Willow Egerton: So pretty much before then, even right. I had always been like, I want to be a girl. No. And be a boy. Yeah. I don’t know. Right. And then I heard this word, gender fluid and it described me really well.

Cause I was like, oh yeah, I’m not, I’m not quite either. Right. So I started using that for awhile. I’ve always been pretty accepting of myself if you will. Because like, from a young age I was taught like this is super normal. Yeah. So definitely other people had a hard time adjusting, but I think learning about like the trans community and stuff really helped me be a lot happier.

Cause like for a while I went by non binary, right. Exclusive they, them pronouns. And then I was like, Hm, I, kinda wanna be a girl too. And then like the trans community specifically, some of my trans friends told me about a term called Demi girl, which is like, you know, kind of non binary kind of girl. And I was like, oh my God, that’s so much better.

And then I became so much happier afterwards. So really this whole thing has just made me a lot happier. 

Owen Egerton: Yeah. You know, of course you here in Texas, we’ve been having all this, uh, gosh, I dunno. Uh, from the governor down, uh, harassment, I would say of families of trans kids and trying to define gender affirming care in one way or another as child abuse.

And when some of the stuff was just breaking in the news, I got a text from a good friend of mine who lives out of state lives in California. And this friend was saying, oh, I’m so sorry for Willow. Oh my goodness. What a horrible time, you know, to, to, to be alive and this situation. And I remember at the moment I was dropping Willow off at school and she’s wearing her trans pride, knee high socks, and is waving at friends.

Owen Egerton: And it was this reminder that there’s such a community of support from our family to our extended family, to our school, to our friends. And I’ve just seen that be like really wonderful. So when Willow came out as trans, which was about a year ago, we saw like, oh my gosh, the great experience of watching your kid become more of who they are.

It was great. You know, it was like, it’s like when you watch a flower bloom, you know, you watching the sunrise, you’re like, oh yeah, this is becoming more and more who they are meant to be. And that’s just been [00:20:00] like a real. Wonderful experience to see. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Willow what was that conversation like with your parents as you are becoming more of yourself?

Willow Egerton: Really, the first conversation was, you know, my mom came up to me and was like, hey, I have this friend who has this kid who identifies as gender fluid. Right. I think this might be similar to what you’re experiencing. And I was like, oh my God, that’s totally it. Right. And then I decided to use she, they pronouns and I just, they were like, oh, that’s cool.

When I decided to change my name, when I was researching a bunch of names, they were also there, you know, helping me find more names and using the names I wanted. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: What led you to Willow Luna?

Willow Egerton: Yeah, pretty much. The reason I got Willow is I have like a huge Google doc of names. Right? Cause like, if I’m going to pick a name, that’s probably my name for like the rest of my life.

It’s gotta be good. Right. So I was down to like five names or so, and I tried to Alice and I realized it just didn’t fit me. So then I tried out Willow and Moxie and Willow just stuck the most.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: It’s such a, having a Google doc of all of your name choices is like the most generational thing I’ve ever heard.

That’s like, it’s so pretty. It just perfectly encapsulates how intentional you all are about everything. And I love it. Willow were the conversations that you had with your, with your parents and with your family, were they different than the ones you had with your friends or with your teachers? 

Willow Egerton: probably a little bit.

I’ll be completely honest with you talking about being trans with CIS people versus trans. Super different. Like if you were talking about deciding to go on like HRT or hormone blockers, right. A lot of times is my own personal experience. And a lot of people, I talked to you about this experience too, but sometimes even talking about that with like a CIS person, they’re like, oh, well here’s all the downsides.

You’re super brave for this, but also here’s the bad thing. But also, you know, like, And then with like other trans people, it’s just like, woo. Yeah, you did it. You know, like, it’s easier to talk about these subjects with people who understand them personally.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: You know, Owen listening to, to Willow talk about this.

I’m curious about your parenting in this moment, right? You talked about the many ways in which Texas, among many other states, unfortunately are perpetually politicizing and criminalizing people’s identities. What did you think parenting was going to be like when Willow first started affirming her gender versus what it’s actually been like? 

Owen Egerton: Oh, what a great question. So Willow started pretty early on, basically declaring I’m not going to give into this binary system. And it was an interesting, like for, for me, I was like, oh, that’s, that’s different. My wife was a little bit ahead of me and knew a lot more. And, and I was like, I’m going to be learning.

I tell you this though. I knew of course from day one with Willow and with our older daughter as well. I was going to be proud and I’ve been proud so many times one of the wonderful surprise things that I don’t know if I would have foreseen. How proud I am of Willow being an outspoken trans person of how proud I am of her being, who she is, embracing who she is and not letting bullies even if that bully happens to sit in the capital of the state in any way impede on that journey.

That makes me so proud. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Willow, what does it feel like hearing that you probably hear it all the time. 

Willow Egerton: Yeah, it’s really nice to know. I have so much support, you know, it’s really nice how my family has never like, tried to assume things about me really, you know, and how open they are to change and how ready they are to hear me out.

If I’m like, oh, I suddenly want to use different pronouns. They’re ready for that. You know, or if they’re not ready for it, they’re ready to change and learn how to be. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: That flexibility seems like a critically important part. What do you want other parents of, I won’t even just say other parents of trans or non-binary kids to know just what do you want other parents to know, period?

Willow Egerton: Well specifically with trans non binary kids. I would say, trust me when I say your child will be a million times happier. If you support them, if you respect them as a person and help them out, sometimes they will be so much happier as themselves than as a lie. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: mm Hmm. You know, I asked it that way in part, because your parents didn’t necessarily know that this was going to be their parenting experience until you started having those conversations. Right. And so, you know, my husband and I are talking about having kids and we’re thinking about the kind of parents that we want to be. And like all of the things that one could anticipate, all of the things that we don’t know that we don’t know.

Right. And, and what about. Folks who, who parents who may walk into, um, an experience down the road where one or more of their children comes and has the kind of conversations that you had with their parents. What, what are you hoping that those parents would have been thinking about and talking about? I would say 

Willow Egerton: if you haven’t already, by the time you’re like thinking about having kids with your partner, probably make sure that in those situations you’ve similar ideas.

Like if one person is really against trans people. And the other one loves him. Maybe talk that out before having kids.

Owen Egerton: Yeah, 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: For sure. 

Willow Egerton:  I mean, it might come up that this more time, if you’re like talking about having kids and talking about your types of parents, you want to be, my biggest thing is be ready to be flexible and be ready to be supportive because a lot of trans people, we don’t instantly know that we’re trans it’s so much more complex than that. Say your kid like me has gone through one or two different sets of pronouns that I like to use. Just be flexible. 

Owen Egerton: I think what Willow said, like pretty wise words there about talking about and being flexible? I think, you know, one of the big things too.

And this is I suppose, in any relationship, but just like the importance of listening kids can really sense when you’re not really listening. And I guess anybody can, and there’s few things that can be as dampening on a situation as when you are aware that the person you’re trying to tell something to is not really listening to you.

And this happens to kids so often, happens to children all the time where they saying like, this is what I’m experiencing. This is what I’m feeling. And so many times. We as parents will be like, oh, that’s a phase or no, you’re not really feeling that. And I know I’ve been guilty of that. And so I think the big thing that I’ve learned, you know, over these last few years, it’s like, go ahead and listen, go ahead and listen and talk and good things come from that. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Owen are there things you think parents. Worry about that they don’t need to be worrying about? 

Owen Egerton: In this journey earlier on and even a year or so back, I was like, okay, she’s going to come out as trans. And I was so worried that society was going to be like the society that I grew up in an east Texas, that there was going to be like, oh, My gosh, this is going to lead to all these horrible things.

But what I have seen is how many people in, in our culture are just there for her in a way that I just don’t feel was possible when I was growing up. And that includes like friends and school and stuff like that, but also like our immediate family. I mean, watching my mom come across the room and give Willow this big hug and say how much he loved her when, when we announced the news to the grandparents was just amazing. So I think, and I think we all said it this way. If your kids are talking about being nonbinary, being trans and wanting to say that to the world, there’s of course scary things like government orders. And as some of the legislation that’s being passed in different states in the country, there’s so much more to be excited about than there is to be afraid of.

There’s so much more to celebrate than there is to hide. And there’s just so much more benefit and happiness than there is to be afraid of a cowering from. So I think that’s the big thing of like celebrate with your kid. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Willow, I want to talk a little bit about some of your work, because excuse me for the phrasing Owen.

It’s really dope shit. You started the GSA at your school, which is absolutely incredible. I know from personal experience that organizing work is not easy work. It is often thankless. It takes many, many hours. It’s difficult to learn. And I started when I was about your age. So tell folks in our audience who don’t know what GSA stands for and why you started this particular club.

Willow Egerton: Yeah. So the club’s official name is the GSA Advocates for the Youth or for short GAY, but GSA specifically stands for gender sexuality Alliance. So it’s the club for LGBTQIA plus people to go right. And be in a supportive environment. What we do mostly is we’re trying to make our school campus, um, much more friendly place for queer students.

So for example, we’ve, we’re trying to get, uh, dead names off our school’s website. We held a little Valentine’s day event. Officially it was called love is love day. They made me call it that I wanted to call it gay day. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, we say gay, right? Yeah. But then like 

Willow Egerton: Yeah. But then like day of they were like, Willow. I don’t think we can do that.

And I was like, you know what? You’re right. So it’s called love is love day.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Next year. 

Willow Egerton: Next year. Next year. Maybe high school. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: There you go. I know that everyone doesn’t know what dead names are, right? 

Willow Egerton: So there’s many different names for a dead name, pretty much. It’s when a trans person changes their name, it’s their name assigned at birth.

Some people call them dead names. That’s probably the most common way. A lot of people will call them like their legal names or their old names, all that stuff. No one needs to know it. No one needs to know your dead name, different trans people have kind of different levels of how much they don’t like their deadname if you will, for me, I call it my dead name because I’m like want it gone. Nope. Nothing to do with it. But other people are like, yeah, it’s just my legal name. So it’s like, it’s a very strange thing. Uh, emotions wise because it’s like something that used to be so connected to you now you want to be as far away from as possible.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: And so what is the issue specifically that you’re trying to resolve with deadnaming and your school’s website. 

Willow Egerton: Right. So what would happen is on the school website which is where everything is, right. What were they would do is they would put the legal name first or the dead name, right. And then in parentheses your real name, which is an issue for a couple of reasons.

First one being. People know your dead name now, which is never fun. And another reason is like a substitute teacher, right? You’re reading off attendance. Are you going to look at the name in parenthesis or the name that’s first? You’re gonna look at the name that’s first, obviously. So students kept getting deadnamed specifically during the zoom school that would happen constantly.

And third, because of the whole Abbott letter, you know, report trans kids thing. We were worried that. Put a thing that says, Hey, this person’s trans look, look, it’s a trans person. Right. They can get reported by like maybe a sub that they didn’t thoroughly check enough or student. Right. That’s the main reasons why.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Okay. So we’ve been talking around this. This avid thing, let’s get all the way into it. State legislatures across the country. And of course in Texas specifically have been targeting trans kids and their families for a while now. But it’s really ramped up in 2022. Right. This is not new, but there is some added energy around this particular kind of hate.

Willow. And then, Owen I definitely want to hear from you as well. How has this affected your family? 

Willow Egerton: So it’s definitely been pretty scary having all this stuff happen and. Having people in power want me gone? You know, it’s not, it’s not very fun. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Owen what about for you. 

Owen Egerton: It’s been about a month since Paxton them gave the non-binding legal opinion that led to Abbott’s order to investigate any family that might be doing any kind of gender affirming care, uh, for child abuse.

Uh, and it has been stressful. So. Part has been sometimes infuriating. Sometimes it makes us want to just like protest and yell. And sometimes quite frankly, we do want to hide when we’re invited on like your podcast. We’re excited to talk about our stories and then maybe the next month. We’re also like, gosh, maybe we shouldn’t because what could happen?

It’s sews fear and nothing good grows from sowing fear in that kind of way. So that’s been hard. The other side of it though, has been, we’ve also had a wave of support from friends all over the world who have been hearing about the situation and reaching out to us from every different part of our lives to say, we love you.

We support you. We’ve got your back.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: One of the responses I’ve tried to wrestle away from. Even some well-intentioned people is the reaction that like, well, if you don’t like it don’t live in Texas, like, you know, I think that sometimes people think that they’re coming up with some solution there, but, Owen, what’s your response to that?

Why is Texas important to you? 

Owen Egerton: I moved to Texas from England, with my family when I was a little kid and I’ve been very grateful to grow up in Texas. Very proud, Texan. I love Austin. Austin’s just been such a great home to me in so many ways. And at the same time when people say. I’m like, you know, you might be right.

Maybe like maybe there is going to be a time to get out of this state. I know Willow and I we’ve talked about it. What a sad thing for a state when you’re going to be, I mean, you’re going to be losing Willow, come on, state. Trust me. You want this kid! We talk about when a, you know, a big corporation leaves a state and protest, but sometimes you forget, like what about all the people that you’re going to be losing those situations. That’s it. Right now, we are here. Even if we end up in the future, whatever, somewhere else, we do want to stand up and fight, not just for the right, for Willow to be Willow, but also for the right of some kid who again, is too afraid to tell their parents who they really are.

Some kid who is carrying the message that the governor’s passing down. That as well as it’s like, you’re illegal. And you’re not wanted here and what you are is something wrong. And if your parents are supporting that, then that is a form of abuse. That’s hard message for those kids to hear again and again and again, they need, they need the voices of people, hugging them, cheering them on.

I mean, wherever we are in the world, we are going to be louder in our love than the screaming hate. Even if it’s coming from as loud, a megaphone as the governor’s mansion. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: I’m also just thinking about those families that can’t afford to pick up and leave Texas, right? That, that is actually a, a choice that they very simply can’t make so true when we hear about.

Legislation about trans young people. It’s most often coming from people who are not trans and who aren’t even in school who don’t play or haven’t played or don’t even care about or support the sports that they seem to have so much commentary. I love to hear Willow what you have to say to those lawmakers.

If attorney general, Ken Paxton or governor Greg Abbott was sitting right next to me right now. I, after I elbowed them in the side, what would you want to say to them? 

Willow Egerton: I’d probably say you are a child. Abbott did something wrong. He messed up the power grid. And instead of. Being like, oh, I’m sorry, let’s fix everything.

He said, ah, ah, children, I’m so scared. I’m scared of those children over there, that minority of children that can’t really defend themselves because they don’t have a voice and society, everyone go attack them. And that is childish, immature and stupid. And no one who thinks like that should be the leader of a massive state of a massive country.

Just they’re blaming a bunch of children so that they can look better to other children that also hate us for God knows why, I guess they would say, God knows why, but, uh, or the trans-sport ban. Right. It’s just like, do you care? Yeah. Trans athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics for like years now, but people only care when it’s a distraction from them being assholes.

So maybe just stop being assholes. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: I mean, this is deeply astute political commentary. I’m not being sarcastic. I’m being very serious because your clear understanding. That your humanity is being used both as a wedge issue and as a distraction from him not taking responsibility for all of his constituents or for things like the power grid in that winter freeze out that we saw devastate so many parts of Texas.

I mean, it is just a deeply astute assessment of what’s happening. Owen what would you have to say to them right now? 

Owen Egerton: You know, honestly, if you had Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott there with you. I don’t think I would have anything to say to them. I believe that the people I want to talk to are not them. I think they’ve chosen not to hear.

And so instead, the people I would want to talk to are the people who feel that maybe they don’t have a stake in this particular argument that maybe they can be afraid of trans people. Cause they don’t necessarily think they know anybody who’s trans and this is not an issue for them. And they can believe that this is something scary or maybe they’re like.

Gosh. Yes. That’s a situation of a civil rights, but it’s not, you know, it’s not my family. I think those are the people I want to talk to. I mean, for lack of a better word in this situation, I guess I would say moderates. Yeah. But like, I’d be like, by the way, I know this might not be your family or maybe you don’t know that it’s your family or your neighbor, but it is, it is, this is civil rights, you know, Willow’s grandparents, my wife’s parents talk about marching for civil rights back in the 1960s and into the 1970s. And they are amazing. We are still doing this. We are still having to stand up for each other and that’s who I think need to hear the message for me. I’m like, I don’t know, Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton might be lost causes the people that I’m hoping will stand up and say, And act out are the rest of us. 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, to be very clear, can packs and, and grit are not allowed at my house, but before I let you go, this last question is a little cheesy, but I’m also a little cheesy. So it just it’s on brand. But I really want to end on, on a hopeful note and Willow, I want to ask you, where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years?

Like, what is your dream future look like? 

Willow Egerton: I want to keep getting my voice out there. I want to be in some position where people are able to hear me, whether that’s a filmmaker or something else entirely. I don’t quite know yet, but I want to be in a situation where I am able to continue to speak my mind and people will listen.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Well, I don’t think you’re going to have any trouble speaking your mind. And I know that I, for one will absolutely be listening. I want to thank the both of you for having this conversation. I know it does not come without risk. And so from the very, very bottom of my. Thank you for being willing. And please know that if there’s absolutely anything I, or the rest of our undistracted family can do to stand in solidarity.

And I mean that very literally with you Willow with your family Owen, please do not hesitate to let us know. I have learned more about the kind of parent I want to be from listening to you, Owen and Willow. I have learned more about the kind of absolutely fantastic young person. I hope to raise one day.

So thank you. Thank you. Okay. 

Owen Egerton: Well, thank you. Thanks so much for having us. 

Willow Egerton: Thank you so much. Yeah, it’s been great being here.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Willow is an eighth grader, a filmmaker and an organizer from Austin, Texas. Her dad, Owen is a filmmaker and a novelist. Y’all don’t we want happy children. It’s not a question. I think we’d have to ask Willow, made it really clear. Your child will be a million times happier if you just support and respect them.

Isn’t that? What everyone? Isn’t that what everyone deserves. And despite the folks who are convinced that parenting is an exclusively top-down exercise, children actually do deserve our respect too. They are whole people with their own dreams and hopes loves, and yes, identity and our greatest hope should be that they find their way to themselves.

Feel free to exercise the agency. It takes to live their fullest lives. How small, how sad, how absolutely vile a person do you have to be to need to stop out of a child, their very existence to make yourself feel powerful. Now, Willow might say you yourself are a child which I’d agree with, except that’s an insult to children everywhere, especially perceptive, compassionate kids like Willow. Owen and Willow’s story of love truth, acceptance and support should not be rare. I should just be how family does at the very least it should be what our policies allow for so that our young trans folks can freely live the lives. They dream and find the family they need without threat of harm or erasure. That’s the kind of life we want for trans kids to be included because if they aren’t free, then neither are we.

That’s it for today, but never for tomorrow. UNDISTRACTED is a production of The Meteor and Pineapple Street Studios. 

Our lead producer is Rachel Ward. 

Our associate producers are Alexis Moore and Maria Lexa Kavanaugh.

Thanks also to Treasure Brooks, Hannis Brown, and Ana Aberstein.

Our executive producers at The Meteor are Cindi Leive and myself, and our executive producers at Pineapple are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. 

 You can follow me @MsPackyetti on all social media and our fantastic team @TheMeteor. 

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