As his trans daughter struggles, a father pushes past his prejudice

A Missouri father who is suing his daughter's school district says he was once "a full-on bigot." Having a transgender daughter forced him to re-evaluate his beliefs.


National News

April 12, 2024 - 2:19 PM

Dusty Farr talks with his transgender daughter at a park near Smithville, Mo., Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. Farr is suing the Platt County School District after his daughter was suspended for using the girl’s bathroom at the Missouri high school she attended. Photo by AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

SMITHVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Before his transgender daughter was suspended after using the girls’ bathroom at her Missouri high school. Before the bullying and the suicide attempts. Before she dropped out.

Before all that, Dusty Farr was — in his own words — “a full-on bigot.” By which he meant that he was eager to steer clear of anyone LGBTQ+.

Now, though, after everything, he says he wouldn’t much care if his 16-year-old daughter — and he proudly calls her that — told him she was an alien. Because she is alive.

“When it was my child, it just flipped a switch,” says Farr, who is suing the Platte County School District on Kansas City’s outskirts. “And it was like a wake-up.”

Farr has found himself in an unlikely role: fighting bathroom bans that have proliferated at the state and local level in recent years. But Farr is not so unusual, says his attorney, Gillian Ruddy Wilcox of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.

“It sometimes takes meeting a person before someone can say, ‘Oh, that’s a person and that’s who they are, and they’re just being themselves,’” she says. “And I do think that for Dusty, that’s what it took.”

Looking back, Farr figures his daughter, the youngest of five, started feeling out of place in her own body when she was just 6 or 7. But he didn’t see it.

Farr said he didn’t have “a lot of exposure to what I would consider the outside world” in the conservative Nebraska community where he was raised. “Just old farmers” is how he described it.

Moving to the Kansas City area, which has 20% more people than live in all of Nebraska, was a culture shock. “I had never seen the LGBTQ community up close, and I would still have my closed-minded thoughts.” He said things then that he now regrets. “A lot of derogatory words. I don’t want to go back to that place.”

He settled on the outskirts in one of the more conservative enclaves, a community that is home to some of the troops stationed at nearby Fort Leavenworth. He worked as a service manager at a tractor repair facility.

His youngest — a smart, funny, loves-to-sing, light-up-a-room kind of kid — was his fishing and camping buddy. A competitive archer, she also joined her dad on trips to the shooting range.

“No parent has a favorite,” Farr says, “but if I had a favorite, it would be my youngest.”

But when she was 12, she started to steer away from him, spending more time with the rest of the family. It lasted for a few months before she came out to her family. He knows now how hard this was. “Growing up,” he says, “my kids knew how I felt.”

His wife, whom he described as less sheltered, was on board immediately. Him, not so much.

“Given the way I was raised, a conservative fire and brimstone Baptist, LGBTQ is a sin, you’re going to hell. And these were things, unfortunately, that I said to my daughter,” Farr says. “I’m kind of ashamed to say that.”

They bumped heads and argued, their relationship strained. In desperation, he turned to God, poring through the Bible, questioning teachings that he once took at face value that being transgender was an abomination. He prayed on it, too, replaying her childhood in his mind, seeing feminine qualities now that he had missed.

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