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Rabbi with trans child says state government is at war with his family

A Missouri rabbi talks about what it's like to have a trans child in a state that's expected to restrict transgender health care for minors.
Rabbi with trans child says state government is at war with his family
Posted at 1:14 PM, Jun 05, 2023

On a recent afternoon, Rabbi Daniel Bogard, his wife and three children played football in the backyard of their St. Louis home — a place that carries 65 years of family memories. 

"My son sleeps in the same bedroom that I slept in, that my dad slept in," explained Bogard, whose children are the fifth generation of his family to call Missouri home.

But today, Bogard says the state doesn't feel safe anymore "for people like my son."

From a very young age, one of his twin daughters begged for boys' clothes and boys' toys. Then, one day came a startling question.

"I'll never forget," said Bogard. "I was putting him to bed and he turned to me and he said, 'Daddy, do you think God could make me over again as a boy?'"

Not long after, when he was 6, the rabbi's child announced he was a boy — and chose a new name.

"The day that we gave him a short boy's haircut, he turned to us, and he said, 'I'm a boy,'" Bogard said.

At first, Bogard and his wife Karen Bogard, also a rabbi, were concerned it might be a phase.

"We were a little worried that there was going to be a new name the next week. But he called up everybody and told them," Daniel Bogard recalled.

"And honestly, he has been that name since. And it fits him so much better than his other name," added Karen Bogard.

For security reasons, Scripps News is withholding the child's name.

Today, the Bogards say their thriving 9-year-old is supported by everyone around him. But they say there's one exception: their state's Republican-led government.

SEE MORE: Missouri to restrict gender-affirming care for minors

Last month, Missouri lawmakers approved a bill banning minors from accessing gender-affirming care like puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

The practice, which also includes mental health and social support, is recommended by multiple medical associations.

"What we're doing is protecting children from undergoing what we determine, we believe, is harmful procedures," GOP Rep. Dean Plocher said at the end of the legislative session in May.

Though research shows it's rare for children to undergo gender-affirming surgeries, the state senator who filed the bill, Mike Moon, has said he wants to stop "the mutilation and butchering of children's bodies in Missouri."

Daniel Bogard says the use of such language is one reason his family receives frequent death threats online. Every bedroom in his house has a panic button.

"It's just a reality of when your government is at war with your family," he says.

In an interview, his child tells us he hopes to change his lawmakers' minds. "You should stop that. We're just people," he said.

Being only 9 years old, he's not currently receiving any substantive gender-affirming care.

But puberty could soon hit.

All we're asking for is for the government to stay out of our doctor's offices," Bogard said.

SEE MORE: Study shows growing support for LGBTQ+ Americans

As a rabbi, he's beyond proud of how the local Jewish community has rallied behind the trans community, representing "a core Jewish value, which is that we have to protect the most vulnerable in our society."

With support from his Central Reform Congregation, he has made the two-hour trip to Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, 12 times this year to testify.

He often takes friends and fellow activists with him. He credits their relentless activism to helping create compromises in the final gender-affirming care bill — such as an exception for minors already receiving such care.

Still, he and his wife worry that things will get worse in Missouri. 

In addition to restricting transgender health care for minors, the new Missouri legislation also prohibits transgender athletes from joining school sports teams aligned with their gender identity. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is expected to sign both bills in the near future.

"There just aren't that many trans kids and there aren't that many people who know a trans kid. And so it's so easy to demonize," said Daniel Bogard. His wife added that she's been told by state senators during legislation hearings that "I don't love my child enough, that he is the way he is because I didn't love him enough as his mom."

For now, though, the Bogards say they'll stay put to keep on fighting for their child.

"I don't see a world where we wouldn't stand up for his rights," Karen Bogard said.

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