Texas Families Talk Back On Trans Discrimination: Eri Reeves and Eva Havens

“Each person who is trans goes through their own different things, and I wish more people would understand that.”

August 2016 cover story trans kids Eri Reeves
Jen Reel
Eridan “Eri” Reeves, 15, with a picture of his artwork. Eri attends a visual arts school and spends hours each day drawing.

Eridan (Eri) Reeves, 15
Eva Havens, high school teacher
Garland ISD, Garland

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Eva Havens: [Eri] has had issues on and off with depression and anxiety since he was little, and then, with his counselor, he came out to me when he was 13. I wasn’t particularly surprised when it happened. He was ready to come out to everyone, but because I have a 7-year-old who was much younger at the time, we wanted to make sure we did it in a way that was not confusing for her. We worked on that together as a family, with each other and with therapists, and we wanted to make sure he had the chance to come out to immediate family when the time was right, before coming out kind of in general. He came out officially to everybody in the beginning of January of this year.

How has your family been affected by lawmakers’ rhetoric around public and school bathroom use?

EH: For me, it just makes me sad and frustrated, but personally we’ve been fairly fortunate. He’s actually going to be starting testosterone soon. You have to be 16 before you can do that, so he’s seeing a therapist now and he’s seeing a pediatric endocrinologist through the Genecis program at Children’s Hospital. His biological father is still struggling with it, and we have to have his consent too before Eri can start testosterone, so that’s still a work in progress. Once he starts testosterone, we were already planning on having a more in-depth discussion with his school for the start of next year about trying to ensure he’s identified as male in his classes, and that they use his preferred name and not his given name.

But generally, our experience so far has been that his school has been pretty easygoing and laid back about it. He goes to a school that’s a magnet program for visual arts and stuff like that, so I think that’s part of it, that his school’s population is a little more unique than a lot of high schools.

Eri Reeves: I haven’t had that much of a struggle with it so far. I don’t really have a desire yet to use the men’s room because I feel like right now it would cause more trouble, because I haven’t started testosterone yet. I think that will be something we strive more toward once I start testosterone and the school does what they can in order to have me listed as male. So right now I’m fine with using the women’s restroom. Ideally, I would prefer to be able to use a gender-neutral restroom or just a family restroom because that’s what I’m most comfortable with, but my school, the only bathroom they’d have for that would be the clinic bathroom. So I just use the women’s room. I have used the men’s room before, but not at school.

EH: Usually, when we’re out in public we kind of wing it based on where we’re at in terms of whether or not we think that it would be problematic. But I don’t worry. I think his school would be able to accommodate him being able to use the clinic bathroom. It’s a little frustrating, but I can understand why for him that would be a comfort issue, too. Because he started high school known to his peers as female, once he started transitioning, I would be worried about him being in the men’s restroom. I would be concerned about him being there unsupervised and somebody trying to start something. So those are concerns, but I don’t think either one of us were surprised that the [lieutenant] governor decided to make a big thing out of it and threatened a lawsuit — disappointed, but not surprised.

August 2016 trans kids cover story Eri Reeves
Jen Reel
Eridan “Eri” Reeves, 15, with his younger sister June, mother Eva Havens, and stepfather Ryan Macaluso.
august 2016 feature cover story trans transgender kids students
Jen Reel
Eridan “Eri” Reeves with his younger sister June, mother Eva Havens, and stepfather Ryan Macaluso. Eri attends a visual arts school and spends hours each day drawing.

How do you see the current rhetoric around trans people and trans kids affecting families?

EH: For the most part, our friends and family have been really supportive. I also think that we’re a good example of why it’s beneficial to have accommodations and good resources, because we’re lucky enough to live in a city that actually has a program designed specifically for transgender adolescents, the Genecis program. That gives us access to a lot of resources a lot of transgender adolescents don’t have, in terms of therapists that are experienced in dealing with transgender adolescents and with a team of health care workers who are willing to work with them.

We’ve come across people who think it’s a phase he will grow out of. We’ve come across people who think that he’s being influenced because it’s so much more present now, like it’s a trend. My answer to those people is that he’s been out to me for several years, long before this was ever a national topic at all, really. He’s really shy. He’s not real big on being open with people, but when it comes to this it’s a different story. I think he’s a wonderful advocate for it because he’s not trying to pretend he’s not trans male. He’s proud of who he is. He’s proud of the community he’s a part of and he’s not afraid to speak up for the fact that he’s still human, and basically that he’s not — and trans people are not — second-class citizens. I’d like to think that means everyone that comes into contact with us over time — when they realize they know somebody that’s trans, and that we are still just a normal family and we still deal with normal family stuff — that it makes it less threatening because it’s not the unknown.

How does it feel to be thrust into the role of advocates for transgender rights?

ER: I wouldn’t call it being “thrust” into this world, because I’ve felt like this for a while. I’m just more disappointed in the people that believe it’s purely a trend. I’m proud to be an advocate. I will gladly defend myself and defend other people like me from the people that are going against them.

What could lawmakers or public officials do that would help your family and address your needs?

EH: I feel like what President Obama did [issuing guidelines for schools on accommodating trans students] went a long way. That was an awesome day. I was really excited when I read about that and that just took a whole lot of impediments out of the way, because we’re always going to come across people who are misinformed or ignorant, and then it is going to be an uphill battle, especially while he’s young. When he did that, I was like, “This is awesome,” because now it’s one less battle to have to have. When the lieutenant governor turned right around to fight any sort of progress, we weren’t really surprised by that. We were disappointed. I don’t think they’re going to succeed. I guess if they did, that would be a different conversation. Things that allow for [Eri] to be protected and have the same rights as kids his age, anything that accomplishes that is a good thing.

ER: I just wanted to say that my experience definitely shouldn’t be taken as a universal experience, because there is no such thing as universal trans experience. Each person who is trans goes through their own different things, and I wish more people would understand that. I feel more people should be open to that idea that we are definitely a very diverse group.

[Photography by Jen Reel]

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Read interviews from four other Texas parents and trans kids speaking out against discrimination here.

Nyssa Kruse is a student at Indiana University and an intern at the Observer.

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Published at 10:36 am CST
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