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Our Kids Are Watching Melissa Bickel

Melissa Bickel is the proud mom of four kids. She and her husband live and work in the Indianapolis area, where they’ve lived for over twenty years.

“Born and raised,” Melissa said of her roots as a Hoosier.

The family includes two 13 year-old girls, a 12 year-old boy, and a 7 year-old boy.

“So, it’s not exactly quiet around here,” Melissa laughed, “But, we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Bickel family had two children biologically and then grew their family again four years ago, through foster parenting and then adoption.

The Bickel’s oldest child, Olivia, is transgender. That means that at birth she was assigned the gender of male, but for as long as the family can remember – and as long as she could express herself – she had an unbending desire to live as a girl.

At first, Melissa and her husband weren’t quite sure what to do. But, through consultation with doctors, their family, and various groups and forums for parents of transgender children, they worked with their daughter so she could live openly as her true self.
After Olivia’s last day of 7th grade, the family took a planned trip to Disneyworld. It was special not just because they whole family was together and having a wonderful time, but also because it marked the beginning of Olivia’s life living as her true self.

The trip was incredible, for the whole family, and Melissa remembers how especially positive the experience was for Olivia.

“She was so happy to finally just be who she is,” she said.

“I was a scared mom, I’ll be honest,” said Melissa, “But once I got all the ducks in a row and saw how happy she was, it was great.”

“We’re a strong family,” she said, “And like any strong family we have each other’s back.”

While Olivia’s family, friends and school have been helpful and supportive, Melissa says she still worries.

“You’re always thinking: Is something going to happen?” Melissa said.

And it’s that fear that drives her and her family to speak up in support of protecting all Hoosiers, including LGBT people, from discrimination.

“Imagine being scared to just be yourself and go about your life, and not just fear of being ridiculed, but fear of discrimination, violence and in some cases death. This can be transgender person’s every day reality,” she explained.

“As a mom, I want my daughter to be able to do regular things like go to the mall, and later I want her to be able to get a job,” Melissa said. “And I want her to be able to do that anywhere she feels comfortable,” she added.

It’s not just about her daughter, either. Melissa says that her belief in treating all people with respect guides her to support non-discrimination laws for everyone.

Faith is an important part of Melissa’s life, she was raised Catholic and today the family includes God in their life with regular prayer.
That upbringing, and her current faith strengthen Melissa’s belief that we should treat all people with kindness, “We’re all human,” she says, “I was raised and I’m raising my kids to give back, and part of how we do that is by treating everyone as we’d like to be treated.”

“What we’ve seen,” said Melissa, “is that today’s children are much more understanding and inclusive.”

Melissa hopes that the legislature will be as thoughtful and supportive as Olivia’s friends.

She hopes the Indiana legislature will be work to be inclusive and update the state’s law to protect all people from discrimination this year.

“Our kids are watching,” she added.

To read the stories of other Hoosier Moms for Freedom, click here.