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Military family turns stronger and learns to stand up for principles—thanks to their trans son

'My 10-year-old has the courage to live authentically. He trusts that I will love him for who he is, no matter what.'

Military family turns stronger and learns to stand up for principles—thanks to their trans son
Cover Image Source: Protests to allow transgender students to use school bathrooms matching their gender identities, at the Stonewall Inn on February 23, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Staff | Getty Images)

Talon Fiedler was 9 years old when he came out to his mom, Ashly Fiedler. "If I tell you something, do you promise not to cry?" he asked her. Talon told his mother that he was a boy. Ashly, a 39-year-old nurse, responded by affirming that he would always have his family's unequivocal love and support. "Your dad and I love you no matter what, and that won't ever change." Ashly and her husband, Derrick Fiedler, an active-duty Army National Guard captain stationed overseas, have lived up to the promise over the past year.


When Derrick returned home last July, the family decide to move from northwest Iowa to the Tucson area as they didn't want the state's anti-trans legislation to encroach upon their son's rights. "We knew that Iowa was not going to be a good place for us," the 43-year-old told PEOPLE. They intended this move would be a fresh start for the family. "I was excited just so that I could have the different name and pronouns," Talon shared. His dad revealed that "the relief and the joy in his face made me realize that this was real."


In Tucson, the Fiedlers found a therapist specializing in trans youth as well as a pediatrician and joined the Families Transformed support group. "Everybody else in the support group went through the same range of emotions that we did: a lot of worrying, concern, and hoping that it was just a phase," Derrick explained. "I felt like a little bit of a failure as a parent for even having those thoughts. But then to find out that it was pretty common across the board, and that if you just keep your child's best interest in mind and believe them, things are going to work out."


A year since their big move, the Fiedler family is now expecting their third child in October. They said they are open to the child's gender though they are aware of the sex of the baby. "People at work would ask me, 'Do you care if it's a boy or a girl?' " Ashly shared. "I'm like, 'You know my experience, I've had a girl that's now a boy.' So it really doesn't matter. We just want a healthy baby."



Earlier this year, in a heartfelt op-ed for The Arizona Republic titled "My transgender son made me a better father. Don't pass bills that could hurt him," Derrick responded to new anti-trans state bills. "I am a United States Army veteran and current captain in the Arizona Army National Guard. I've fought in war and deployed four times in the service of this country. My job is a core part of my identity and something that makes me proud, but my most important role is that of a father," he wrote. "When I deployed to Kosovo last year, my son came out to my wife and me as transgender. Just a few months later, I'm watching Arizona lawmakers push legislation designed to strip away from my child, and myself as his parent, the very rights and liberties that I've defended around the world."


Derrick credited the now-10-year-old Talon for making himself a better human being. "I learned that gender identity is a spectrum. I learned that gender-affirming care saves lives and is supported by all major child health and welfare groups. I also confirmed what I already knew – that it doesn’t matter if my child is a boy, or girl, or neither, or both: what matters is his spirit and character," he wrote. "My 10-year-old has the courage to live authentically. He trusts that I will love him for who he is, no matter what. He helped me break free of my prejudice and ignorance – and made me a better father and human being."


"We moved our family from northwest Iowa to the Tucson area last year because we thought he’d be safer here," Derrick explained. "The change in our child was stark. He is flourishing like he never has before. He has friends who accept him and value him. He is living authentically. He is exuberant, curious, and excited about his life. Every day I can see evidence that my wife and I are doing the right thing by affirming him. Like every other child, my boy has the inalienable right to pursue happiness. But we need help, support structures, to ensure that our child has every opportunity to do so. We need gender-affirming medical and mental health care... we need supportive education and sports programs... and we need a society around us that accepts and affirms our child."

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