I Am Not a Criminal; My Child Is Not a Crime

I Am Not a Criminal; My Child Is Not a Crime

Unitarian Universalists must push back against anti-trans legislation.

Sara LaWall
Rev. Sara LaWall and her daughter June pose in their congregation's Pride tent

June and her mother, Rev. Sara LaWall, at the Boise UU Fellowship booth at Pride Fest 2021.

Courtesy Sara LaWall


In 2022, for the third year in a row, Idaho’s legislature introduced a bill that sought to ban gender-affirming care for minors. This year the bill passed, and in April it was signed into law by the governor.

I am a progressive faith leader and the mother of a trans teenager. Like so many families, we are heartbroken and devastated to be stripped of our rights to seek care for our children and that they must endure these attacks against their very humanity. I joined massive organizing efforts to lobby our legislators and governor. Parents and doctors supported by local activists and organizers took meetings with legislators and the Governor’s office, testified at committee hearings, and held public witness events, and we have agreed to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state.

I wrote the following guest opinion piece during the 2022 session, but it wasn’t printed until this year when, thanks to support from our local ACLU office, it was published by the Idaho Statesman. Because conservative religion is so often weaponized and used as the rationale behind this horrible legislation, I deliberately chose to use more Christian-leaning theistic language.

Our church community, Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, is committed to supporting families and trans youth to access the care they need—even if out of state. I encourage you to publicly declare your support for the trans community as part of your UU values, through letters to the editor and other displays of support.

I am not a criminal; my child is not a crime.

As a minister, it is my job—my calling—to support and accompany people—all people—in living their most whole, holy, authentic, faithful lives. My church community embodies this same practice with each other and with my family, too.

One of the guiding principles of our faith tradition affirms “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

"We believe every person is worthy. Every person is beautiful. Every person belongs. Every person."

One of the ways we live out that principle is in identifying ourselves as a Welcoming Congregation. In our denomination, this means we openly, unequivocally, enthusiastically welcome LGBTQ+ people, youth, and families among us and that we have done our work to fully integrate them into our worship and congregational life. In fact, last year we passed a congregational resolution affirming and pledging our support to our trans and nonbinary community. Because we believe every person is worthy. Every person is beautiful. Every person belongs. Every person.

When my teenager came out as transgender, I sprang into action, ensuring she had all the supports in place as we began what we both knew would be a long journey. I wanted my child to feel supported, safe, and loved for exactly who she is—who she knows herself to be. She also knew this path was not simple or easy, and we all worried about how kids at school and the community at large would accept her. Hers, like for so many trans youth, was not a rash decision; not an experiment that might be “fun” to try. Not in a society and a state that questions and attempts to criminalize her very existence.

House Bill 71 strips our transgender youth of their humanity and their right to receive vital, appropriate medical care from a trusted expert. Care that follows evidence-based best practices. It criminalizes parents like me and doctors ensuring our youth get to live out their true identity; protecting them from the spirals of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. We are not criminals. My child (and others like her) is not a crime.

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We are blessed to have an extraordinary medical team partnering with us, with her, every step of the way, affirming her worth, value, and instincts about her own body and identity.

That medical team includes a trained therapist; the doctors would not have allowed her to begin treatment without one. My daughter is wildly smart, an avid researcher, and thus she often knew far more about each mode of treatment than I did.

Nothing about this care is criminal. NOTHING.

For all the importance this legislature places on parental rights, what about my rights to seek the best possible care, every medical treatment possible, for my child? This bill is a slap in the face to my family, to families like mine, and to our medical community offering us the best of their skills and expertise.

I believe we are all created in the image of God, and God named all of creation good. So in all the ways humanity shows up in our lives, we see the beauty of God reflected back to us. Nowhere is this more true than in our trans community and in the courage and beauty of our trans youth.

The suicide rate among trans youth in Idaho is astonishingly high. I worry about my child every day. But I know that wrap-around, personalized medical care can be lifesaving. I expect my government representatives to help us protect our children, not put them at greater risk, making them more isolated and more marginalized.

This bill tells them they don’t matter.

I hope we tell them otherwise.

Portions of this are reprinted with permission from an op-ed in the March 2, 2023, edition of the Idaho Statesman.