Before his son came out as transgender, Dusty Farr said he was ‘a full-on bigot’ who despised everything about the LGBTQ+ movement.

His perspective, formed by a life spent growing up in a rural farm community, changed when his 16-year-old came out to him and subsequently clashed with her school over its policy that students use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth.

Mr Farr, a service manager at a tractor repair facility, never envisioned himself fighting bathroom bans in court. But when his child was targeted, ‘it just flipped a switch,’ and it was a wakeup call.

In hindsight, he said, he missed years of seeing his trans daughter exhibit feminine qualities. But after hours of poring over the Bible and praying – he was raised a ‘fire and brimstone Baptist’ – he had an overnight epiphany that stripped away his ‘unfounded hate’.

Mr Farr, who was raised Baptist, grew up with the teaching that being LGBTQ was a sin, but his perspective changed when his child came out as a transgender girl (Photo courtesy of KMBC news)

Mr Farr is suing the Platte County School District over its bathroom policy that he says has hurt his daughter, named RF in the lawsuit (Photo courtesy of KMBC news)

Without having a trans daughter, Mr Farr said he likely would not have become such an ally to trans youth.

He said that growing up in a rural farming community, he didn’t have exposure to ‘what I would consider the outside world’. But when he moved to Kansas City, where there was a larger and more open LGBTQ population, he said ‘I would still have my closed-minded thoughts.

‘A lot of derogatory words. I don’t want to go back to that place.’

He added: ‘Given the way I was raised, a conservative fire and brimstone Baptist, LGBTQ is a sin, you’re going to hell. And these were things, unfortunately, that I said to my daughter… I’m kind of ashamed to say that.’

When his daughter first came out, the two clashed, with Mr Farr suddenly struggling with his own faith. 

She had been his camping buddy, his fishing partner, and would go with him to the shooting range.

She began to steer away from him when she turned 12, though, and that year, she eventually came out.

After turning to scripture and tapping into his relationship with god, Mr Farr said it finally hit him: ‘She’s a girl.’

According to the White House, the Human Rights Campaign, and a legislation tracker maintained by trans rights activists, there was an aggressive push of some 100 bills aimed at gender-affirming care for children in 2023

He said: ‘I got peace from God. Like, “This is how your daughter was born. I don’t make mistakes as God. So she was made this way. There’s a reason for it.”’

Their relationship improved, and RF was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition describing the distress a person feels due to the mismatch between what they know their gender to be and their sex assigned at birth.

She was prescribed puberty blockers to stave off the masculinization of her male body.

She grew out her hair, finally left her room, and made some friends. But then high school started in 2021, and the bathroom conflict ensued. Teachers pulled her aside to tell her about the bathroom policy; one even said her using the women’s restroom was illegal.

Missouri has no bathroom laws on the books, unlike 10 other states that do. Policies governing who can use which restroom are decided by individual school districts.

His daughter, RF, said: ‘It kind of just made me feel hopeless in my education.

‘Because how is this place that’s supposed to teach me everything to be an adult, how are they going to teach me what I need to learn when they’re dictating where I pee?’

Mr Farr is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the Platte County School District on the outskirts of Kansas City over the school’s bathroom policy that says a student must use the one that best reflects the sex they were assigned at birth, not their gender identity.

When his daughter, who goes by RF in the lawsuit to avoid further discrimination, would use the girl’s restroom, she was suspended. 

When she used the boy’s restroom, she was bullied by the boys, with one going so far as to say, ‘Maybe I should rape her’.

Mr Farr said: ‘Anything I did to her, school was 10 times worse.’ 

Meanwhile, the gender-neutral bathroom was far from her classes, and, with just one stall, the line was always long. RF, a freshman, was often late for class and scolded by her teachers.

Farr, illustrating his daughter’s point, told the Associated Press: ‘If I use the restroom they say I have to, I’m going to get bullied. If I use the gender-neutral restroom, I’m going to be late to my classes.

‘So it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.’

In a response to the lawsuit, the school alleged that she was being ‘disruptive’ in numerous bathrooms, ‘perhaps to invite discipline’ but did not elaborate on what it meant by disruptive behavior.

At this point, RF was afraid to go to school due to threats made against her by other students. 

The school, for its part, said her feelings of fear were likely ‘unrelated to school’, but rather due to ‘numerous factors and circumstances’ in her life ‘which may have caused emotional harm, depression and anxiety.’

The bullying sent RF into a downward depression spiral, and Mr Farr said she twice tried to kill herself. She finished her freshman year remotely and returned to in-person schooling for her sophomore year. But when the bullying persisted, she returned to online school.

He moved the family to a new school district, but bathroom access remained an issue at her new school, and again, she transitioned to online schooling before deciding to drop out at 16.

Mr Farr said: ‘I never would have guessed that I would — I don’t want to use happy — but would be OK with one of my kids quitting school.’

He was surprised to find his conservative parents rallied behind Mr Farr, his daughter, and their legal fight, saying: ‘These aren’t the people who raised me, let me tell you.’

Mr Farr’s attorney, Gillian Ruddy Wilcox of the Missouri ACLU, said his change of heart is not so unusual, and that it often takes meeting an LGBTQ person to change someone’s mind.

His daughter is now applying for jobs and is considering alternative high school graduation options. She hopes to go to college, perhaps to study law. She is also taking hormone replacement therapies to transition.

Mr Farr said: ‘Where we’re at now is what matters. Me being a loving father. Me being accepting, me knowing that this isn’t a choice. This is how she was born.’

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