By AMBER GREEN
Amber Green and her children are political refugees. They are among the tide of families forced from their homes in states that have criminalized gender-affirming care. In fall 2022, they left Fort Worth with all they could fit in their van and drove to Connecticut. Although this is a safe haven state, financially it’s a hard place for a single mother of three to survive. The family and their pets lived in their van for three cold months until a group of residents banded together to get them settled into an apartment in Bristol just in time for Christmas. Amber blogged about the traumatic experience. Here are excerpts.
The light came on
“Max, are you a boy or a girl?” It was the question that would change our lives forever.
Paige, then Max, was always so unhappy and angry. Constantly breaking down and crying, “I just don’t know what’s wrong with me.” But Christmas 2021, that all changed. Paige asked Santa for girl toys, lip gloss and such.
Christmas morning, she was ecstatic to see everything she had asked for–especially a dress and heels. Her smile stretched ear to ear.
After almost of a week of wearing only that dress and insisting we call her this or that girl name, a light went on. I turned to my child and asked, “Max, are you a boy or a girl?”
“I’m a girl!” she replied.
At that point I realized why my child had been so angry with life. She was being forced to live as a boy when she was a girl. We talked it over. She picked a new name. We went shopping for dresses, nightgowns, etc. I began to notice she was now happy and carefree.
She stood looking in the mirror in her new dress. I told her, “Not everyone will be happy with who you are. But you need to always be true to yourself. And I will always love you for you.”
She pushed a piece of hair behind her ear and said, “I don’t care what people think. I like myself.”
I smiled at my beautiful daughter, who had become her true self. But I had no idea how hateful the world would be, and everything I was going to have to protect her from.
Telling the family and school
The following week I informed my family that Paige was a girl and would from now on be going by Paige. Almost all of them said the same thing, that “he” was too young to make that decision, and it was just a phase. I knew it was not a phase. But at least I got them to call her Paige.
I was worried about my sister, mainly because she and her husband were Trump-loving Republicans. I was surprised when she said she was ok with Paige being her true self. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I let Paige’s school know. Her teacher said she would start referring to her as Paige. The principal said the school would support her in whatever way she needed.
Smooth sailing, I thought.
I had no idea what was to come.
A glimpse at the past
I’d always wanted kids, but never met anyone to have a life with. I looked into fostering-to-adopt. When the foster worker came to do a home study, she asked, “How many kids are you looking to take in?”
I replied, “One or two.” She said, “Well, the reason I am asking is I’m looking for a home for a sibling set of three.” I swear I had to look like a deer in headlights.
After my second weekend visit with the kids, they were placed with me in 2017, and the adoption was finalized January of 2018.
Around then, my mom moved in with us because of health issues. She passed away in 2021 from a heart attack. I’m grateful for the time she had with her grandkids. I wish she’d had the chance to know Paige as her true self. I know she would have accepted her and loved her just as much.
A knock at the door
June 7, 2022 was the day the knock at the door came. I was sick with Covid. I figured it was my aunt, coming by with soup. Piper (my oldest) opened the door and said, “Mom there’s a man at the door.”
He said, “I’m with the Department of Child Protective Services. We received a call in regard to Maxwell.”
“You mean Paige,” I said.
“Yes, Maxwell,” he replied.
“It’s Paige!” I told him. “And I know why you are here.”
Because I was sick, he said he’d return on the 15th. I was freaked out. I called my aunt, who told me everything would be ok, that I was a good mother, and they would see that.
I was so anxious. But the 15th came, and he never showed. I thought that was it, maybe they dropped it. I was wrong. He called on the 28th and said he would be by later that day.
He said there were allegations that Paige was being abused. He asked who in the family could vouch for me. When I offered to give him my sister’s number, he said he didn’t need it. I later learned why not.
Reaching out for legal support
That night after the visit from CPS, my mind was all over the place. I tweeted that I was at a loss and got a message from the mom of a trans son, also in Texas. CPS was investigating them for the same reason. She said there was a temporary restraining order that covered all PFLAG members. That if I wasn’t a member to join right away.
I joined the next day. Then I called Lambda Legal, which gave me a list of lawyers working on this issue. I chose one, who said from that point forward to direct CPS to him. He asked if I had a mental illness. I told him I’d been dealing with grief since my mom passed away, but that was all. He said the person who filed the report had said I was mentally ill and “making” Paige be a girl. “Do you know anyone in Crowley?” he asked.
I said, “Yes, my sister. Why?”
He replied, “It looks like your sister is the one who made the report.”
My heart sank. How could she do this? I started thinking through everything since I’d told her Paige is transgender. How she was always too busy to spend time with us. How she didn’t want to help Piper with her Girl Scout cookie sales this year. How she was not shocked or upset when I texted her that CPS had been out.
My lawyer sent CPS a letter from my primary care doctor, stating I am not mentally ill. But that would not be the last of CPS.
Deciding to leave
I had already started thinking about leaving Texas for somewhere safer, when things started heating up in Texas. Now CPS was increasingly harassing families of trans kids. I called the kids to the living room to talk.
“How would y’all feel about moving to another state?” I asked. “Somewhere that is more accepting of transgender individuals. Somewhere safe for Paige?“
“Yes!” Paige exclaimed.
“Like where?” Piper asked.
“What about our animals?” Michael asked.
The kids were most excited about the possibility of moving somewhere with snow.
I started a GoFundMe. I was surprised when donations started coming in little by little. I started to see how much support I had.
We need to leave … NOW!
It was August 29, 2022 when the horrible text message came from my sister. “I will take those kids away from you, one way or another.”
I tried to choke back the tears. I was angry. I was hurt, and I was fearful for our safety, because my sister’s husband has several guns. I called my aunt, who said, “Well I am sorry to tell you, but I agree with her, Amber.” I couldn’t breathe. Any support I thought we had was gone.
So that was that. We would take a bag of clothes each, and our animals. The kids would have a bag each of activities for the ride.
It was so hard trying to load the animals in the van. By the time we drove away from our home in Texas on the fourth of September, there were 4 cats, 3 lizards, and us in the van.
Road trip north
When we hit the road, only my best friend knew where we were going. My lawyer had told me that was best. As we reached the Texas border, I breathed a sigh of relief.
When we were just outside of New York, my lawyer called. He asked how far I was from Connecticut. I said about four hours. He said, “Get your ass to Connecticut now. Don’t make any more stops for anything. Just drive.” He didn’t like the way the new CPS worker was acting.
I drove straight through the rest of the way to Connecticut. As we passed the Welcome to Connecticut sign, I pointed it out to my kids. I started to cry as they cheered. We had made it. We were finally somewhere safe.