In an interview aired on Friday, January 20, Fianna Fáil Junior Minister Mary Butler spoke about the “immense” pride she feels for her trans son and urged other parents to support their LGBTQ+ children.
Mary Butler, who is Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, was interviewed on the Déise Today programme on WLR radio about anti-bullying strategies to implement in schools. The Minister spoke about her family’s experience, mentioning that her trans son had received some bullying “comments” from other pupils when he began transitioning.
However, she said that now he is doing “absolutely fantastic”, also thanks to the support he received from the school. “The school… their supports for children who find they want to travel a different pathway in life, have been exceptional,” Butler said.
The Minister also mentioned that things like gender dysphoria and transitioning can sometimes be “difficult to explain to an older generation”, but that she had had her “proudest day” when she witnessed her own mother’s reaction at finding out that her youngest child was trans.
“I’ll always remember, she turned around and said: ‘Mary, I have 12 grandchildren and I love all of them equally’,” Butler recounted. “And I have to say when a person of 84 or 85 can have that type of an outlook on life, on young people, I think we can all learn from it.”
When asked about what type of advice she would give to parents wanting to support their trans children, she mentioned that community organisations such as TENI and Belong To are very important resources in Ireland. She also spoke about how “Supports for children who are trans are not where they should be. They are actually very, very poor here in Ireland. They are extremely poor.”
Butler also said that she was following the case of teacher Enoch Burke, who gained national attention after he was arrested in September in relation to his conduct at a school event. On that occasion, the teacher allegedly caused a scene and harassed the former principal of the school because he refused to call a pupil by their preferred pronouns.
“I just think every time I see a report on the television about a teacher, who is entitled to his own beliefs, I always think of the child behind this where a teacher believes he can’t call them by their preferred pronoun, I just think of the damage that is doing to that child,” Butler commented.
She also said that people should always “put the young person who is going through a difficult time front and centre. Always remember there’s a young person there crying out for help.”
Butler continued: “In relation to gender issues and in relation to young people who feel they are not comfortable in the gender they were born, it’s great when schools can give the support… In fairness to most schools, they are really, really good. They are learning. It’s a learning curve for everyone. It’s a learning curve for schools, for boards of management.”
Her final advice to parents was: “The most important thing, if you can at all, is to sit down and listen to the child, give them a hug and tell them you’re there and we’ll get through it… I am a firm believer in taking one day at a time and tomorrow we’ll do something else.”
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