Kai Shappley: A Trans Girl Growing Up In Texas | Emmy-Winning Documentary | them.
October 23, 2019
[light bulb humming] [traffic whooshing] – So tell me more about school. What about the people in your class,
are they nice? …for no reason. – What’d they say? Then another girl, she just shouts out, “Kai’s a boy!” And I say, “No!” And I yell right back at her
when I say it. – You did?
– Mm-hmm. – Good for you. – So she can’t even use
the nurse’s office? – Yeah. But your friends stick up for you, right? – Mm-hmm.
– That’s good. I’m glad you have friends. Now we wait. You think we need one more coat of this? – No, that looks pretty good. – We might could do another coat. – Yeah.
– No, it’s fine. – What–[laughs] Okay. [soft serene music] – My earliest memories of Kai
from the very beginning was this child just acted very different than my other boys. – Miss Ashlynn, you know what
the best thing I can do to cats is? I’m not just a cat lover,
but I can make the cats love me. – [soft laugh] – [laughs] The kind of baby that Kai was was very similar to my daughter. All the little pieces
were there very early. I just–I didn’t know
what it was that I was looking at. – Hey, mama,
I’m gonna buy a garden bow for you. When you wore it–
when you have it on your hair, you water s–um, on it, and it turns into a plant,
a plant bow, and it grows flowers
when you put water on it. I wish I could have that bow.
Mom? – By 2 1/2, 3 years old,
everything was very feminine. By 3 1/2, Kai was saying, “You know I’m a girl, Mommy.
You know I’m a girl.” – The Bible is for everyone to know to be kind and loving and caring. – Isn’t that my T-shirt? – Yes, I’m using it as a dress
for sleeping. – [shouts] – Well–that’s my T-shirt.
– Watch out! – I’m going to sleep in it as a dress. – Hey, Mommy.
Mommy. – Come on, Kai, let’s get your hair done
and get to church. – Okay. [suction pops] These Stikbots are so crazy. – Can you pull your messy bun out? You want to just wear ’em down?
You want down pigtails like this? You know, Mama is really good boy-Mom. You deserve a way better girl-Mom.
[chuckles] And Corey didn’t never want
her hair fixed like this. She wasn’t as girly as you are. – Well now she might be. – Now she might be. – We just don’t know.
– We just don’t know. Where’s your Bible?
– I have it. My pink Bible. I have two Bible–
I have three Bibles. Isn’t that amazing? I have three Bibles. – What’s your favorite book in the Bible? – Esther. – What’s your favorite book in the Bible?
– Esther. – [chuckles] Why?
– E-S-T-H-E-R. – Why is Esther your favorite? – ‘Caus–um, there’s loads of things. Her pretty necklace.
She became queen. Because of her story.
Because she helped people. And…
let’s see, that’s basically it. [gentle music] – Okay, Kai, Kaleb, who’s praying? – You.
– It’s not my turn. – Yes, it is. – Yes, we will. We ask that you– It’s hard when
people that I’ve known and served with in church for many years who, uh, know that I love the Lord to suddenly–
because my daughter was born transgender– they suddenly think that I’ve, you know, allowed Satan to take over my family. Um, so I guess it’s just
being watchful to see which side of civil rights history
my church is gonna be on. I think that that’s something
that I have to be mindful of as well. [pensive music] When Kai was born, I was leading
a ministry at Lakewood Church, leading Bible study every Saturday night, attending church and
serving as a prayer partner every Sunday. I was a straight-ticket Republican,
a Tea Partyer. My beliefs about the LGBTQ community
were that, you know, we needed to help them see the truth to save them from going to Hell. I remember even thinking
before Kai was three that I think this kid might be gay. And I thought that that could not happen and that would not happen. We started praying fervently. Prayers turned into
Googling “conversion therapy” and how can we implement
these techniques at home to make Kai not be like this. Putting her in time-out
for acting like a girl, putting her in time-out
for stealing girl toys, spanking her–
really spanking her every time she would say,
“You know I’m a girl.” No matter what the consequences,
she’s persisting in the fact that you should already know
she’s a girl. When Kai was about four years old, she prayed to go home and be with Jesus
and never come back. – Father God, Jesus’ name, help my friends and family be kind, be good, love each other and– encourage and love. Amen. – My kid was praying to die. All of the information and data
that I had read about transgender children having
a 41% risk of attempting suicide came flooding back, and I realized that I had a four-year-old
that was begging the Lord to let her die. I had a four-year-old who
would rather go be with Jesus forever than stay here and have to
live as a boy one more day. Is that good? – No, I want that–I want that. – I know you do, but everybody does. – These orange things are fish eggs. I don’t know why I like them. – [laughs]
They’re pretty good? – The–they’re–
they’re the best touch on it. – They are?
– Mm-hmm. – Mom, where are the wipeys? – Sleepovers are not a good idea.
– Mama– – Um, where are the wipeys? Mom, where are the wipeys? – Just go wash your hands, please. – Ooh.
– Ah-ah. – Well… We’ll really have to… I don’t know.
I don’t think sleepovers are a good idea. – Okay. – We’ll talk to Miss Gladys
when I get back. [chuckles] [kisses] All right. – Literally my love is so strong for cats that I make them love me so much that sometimes they even follow me. I’m gonna raise thousands of cats, fill up my whole house with kitty cats. – Tell me about your school. – Well… [sighs] They do do something
mean to me sometimes. – Who?
– The school. So, Miss Walker, the principal, um, her boss says I cannot use
the women’s bathroom. So I have to use a bathroom, that, um, just to make me feel good,
they put two girls to go with me. And that still doesn’t help because, um, I sometimes have accidents because, um, the door locks when it closes. And people, um, they–they just
put a magnet to keep the door open. That doesn’t work. People keep stealing magnets
for their teachers. And I’m like, “Holy Jesus.” And then they do nothing about it,
and so I have accidents a lot. Some of us that that happens to us, um, we have accidents. – And how do you feel
when you have that accident? – I feel embarrassed. – This shouldn’t happen.
– And it wasn’t my fault. It was the principal’s boss’s fault,
not mine. ‘Cause other girls get to go to women–
the girls’ bathroom. And I don’t get to.
– Mm-hmm. – And I’m a girl, so I should
go to the girls’ bathroom. [soft ambient music] – Just minutes ago, the Texas House
voted for a so-called “bathroom bill.” – The bill would require
students to the use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender
on their birth certificate. – It’s not a controversial bill
and it doesn’t impact our economy, so we just want to get it right. And it’s just Texas values. You deserve your privacy.
You deserve your dignity. You deserve your comfort and your safety when you go to the ladies’ room
or the locker room or the girls’ bathroom. – [distant] Amen! [clock ticking] – In the beginning,
we were gonna be stealth. No one was gonna need
to ever know that Kai was trans. And it actually went pretty well
at the school. I felt confident. [sighs] And then the “bathroom bill”
chatter started. And then the superintendent
notified Kai’s school that that is not the way it would happen. And then I get the phone call
from the school saying, “Kai will have to use the boys’ restroom.” – We need a law that protects
the privacy of our children in our public schools. – I need to know that
I can have the same expectation of privacy no matter where I am
in the state of Texas. – It’s just common sense
and common decency. We don’t want men
in women’s ladies rooms. This had nothing to do with equal rights. – I got the phone call from the school early in the morning on a Thursday. By the evening the same day, I was sitting at Fox News
doing an interview. By the next Tuesday,
just a few days later, I was speaking at a press conference
in Austin. To the LGBTQ community, I want to say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for every time that
I plucked a Bible verse out of context and I hurt you with it. I was a hateful reflection
of a loving God. Please forgive me. [paper rustles] [exhales] This is the face of
a transgender child in Texas. And I want you
to look at this little girl, my little girl. Do we as a state really
want to force her into a men’s bathroom? [camera shutter clicks] Kai is the strongest-willed person
I have ever known. I don’t think any one thing
could have broken me. If Kai wasn’t
such a strong-willed little kid, I would have broken her. Me being broken put me together better. But if I had succeeded
in breaking my daughter, the statistics say that
it wouldn’t have turned out well for her. …it was more than amazing. It was gorgeous. [soft laugh]
It was amazing. It was the best thing
that happened to me so far in my life. [soft ambient music]