MIAMI — The day Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen told his prominent parents about his new gender identity, he did so in a letter that he left on their bed. Then he grabbed a packed bag and, unsure of whether he would be welcomed back, went to a friend’s house to see if his family would love him or leave him.
His shocked parents, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, and Dexter Lehtinen, who served as the top federal prosecutor here, did not hesitate. They grabbed the phone and told him that they loved him and that family trumped all, and asked him to come home. But as with many parents of transgender children, they were also overwhelmed by fear: The future they saw for their then 21-year-old, whom they had named Amanda, would be pockmarked with discrimination and bullying, if not outright violence.