An Alabama transgender teen and her father delivered an emotional interview on the Kelly Clarkson Show Wednesday, which also included transgender actress Laverne Cox.
Kelly Clarkson introduced the father, Jeff, who initially spoke about noticing how his daughter, Harleigh, was “very different” growing up and had interests totally dissimilar from her brother. Jeff discussed the difficulty of supporting Harleigh while trying to find the right resources for her.
Jeff said he took Harleigh to medical professionals in Birmingham, who helped him understand there were researched and fact-based health guidelines.
“It turned out to be incredible,” Jeff said. “This is my kid, so I’m here for her.”
Harleigh mentioned it was a big deal meeting Cox, also from Alabama, as she was one of Harleigh’s “biggest role models” growing up. The teenager said she was a “Swifty,” a member of the debate team, and just a normal teenage girl. However, Harleigh revealed she was severely bullied for being trans and did not have any reliable support systems early on, prior to high school.
Harleigh said her parents had to pull her out of school at one point, but once she was introduced to more support systems, she was able to thrive.
“We’re trans, but we’re also happy, thriving individuals; we don’t just survive, we thrive,” Harleigh said.
Jeff stated that conservative media often depict trans people as having miserable lives, which is far from the truth, according to the father. Jeff has worked with PFLAG, an organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of LGBTQ+ people and their families. Through this work, Jeff has interacted with many trans youth who live happy lives and are just like any other teenagers.
“I work with a lot of kids that don’t have as much support,” Jeff said. “But they have these pockets where they’re just teenagers and they’re just kids, and they’re happy. So, that picture that all trans people are miserable couldn’t be further from the fact.”
The recent wave of anti-trans legislation throughout southern states, including Alabama, inspired Harleigh and Jeff to fight on behalf of families with trans youth.
“Our state of Alabama was one of the first states to pass and introduce these anti-trans bills,” Harleigh said. “Those officials are elected to serve everyone, including trans people, so for them to attack us was horrible.”
Jeff and Harleigh have shared their story, advocating for trans youth and their families, including going to Washington D.C., where Harleigh became the youngest person to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Cox began crying listening to their story and thanked Jeff for supporting his daughter during this journey. Cox continued, stating how important having love and support is, and questioned how anyone could deny Harleigh’s humanity.
“87 percent of trans kids are bullied at school; it’s horrible and awful,” Cox said. “But this light is so beautiful. And when there is love and support, we can do anything. So, it’s just like how can people look at this young person and deny her humanity. So, I just wish everybody had this.”