Metro Weekly

Conservative Ad Makes Case for Transgender Rights

GRACE's sixty-second commercial features a South Carolina military vet who talks about supporting his transgender son.

Eric Childs and his son as seen in GRACE’s commercial supporting transgender rights. – Photo: GRACE For America, via YouTube

A transgender-led national nonprofit, The Gender Research Advisory Council & Education (GRACE), has launched its first commercial seeking to change the minds of politically right-of-center Americans to support transgender rights.

The sixty-second ad, “What a Combat Vet Wants for His Trans Child,” features an interview with Eric Childs, an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran from rural South Carolina, who is the father of four children — including a transgender teenager. 

In the ad, Childs expresses how much he loves and supports his 15-year-old son –- whose name is not being published to avoid harassment and threats.

“I live in a small town in South Carolina. I absolutely believe in protecting my rights. And I absolutely love my trans child,” he says as footage of him and his son together at a firing range flashes on screen.

Founded in 2023, GRACE asserts that transgender issues are human issues and should be supported by people of all political ideologies. The ad marks the first of GRACE’s “Just Like You” campaign, which hopes to win over the hearts and minds of Americans in favor of transgender rights, much in the same way the “Love is Love” campaign played a role in winning over public support for marriage equality.

GRACE plans to release a second ad in the coming months.

“My child is just like every other child in this country,” Childs told Metro Weekly. “Every single one of them. They’re all children trying to live their lives the best they can. And we try our best as parents to provide a happy childhood. That’s really the American dream that I grew up knowing, that’s the one that I believe in.”

The ad drops at a time when South Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill to prevent transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming care, following the lead of nearly two dozen other states that have passed similar restrictions on how transgender people move through the world. 

Among the various bills targeting transgender existence are measures to block the ability of transgender individuals — not only minors, but in some cases, adults — to receive gender-affirming medical treatments for gender dysphoria, to access spaces that align with their gender identity, and to have their transgender identity recognized as valid by the government and reflected on their vital and identification documents.

Recent polling data suggests that South Carolinians may be receptive to a message around transgender rights, so long as it doesn’t echo traditionally liberal talking points or rhetoric.

According to a poll from Mason Dixon Polling & Strategy, 71% of registered voters in South Carolina believe that the government should not intervene in decisions regarding minors’ access to gender-affirming health care if parents are involved in the decision-making process.

Similarly, a recent national Data for Progress poll found that 76% of U.S. registered voters believe that decisions regarding transgender care should be made by parents, not the government.

The takeaways from that poll align neatly with GRACE’s messaging strategy, which approaches the issue of transgender rights from a conservative point-of-view, emphasizing freedom from government interference and respect for parental rights. 

GRACE seeks to incorporate the voices of people from traditionally right-leaning demographic groups, including veterans, military members, Republicans, and heterosexual parents.

By showing Childs and his son going to the gun-firing range — a regular bonding activity for many father-son duos  across the United States, especially in rural areas or the South — GRACE is hoping to find a common thread that will resonate with its intended audience — the “movable middle” comprised of 60% of Americans who reside in the center and center-right portions of the political spectrum.

“We’ve faced this onslaught of policy attacks that have largely gone unanswered because of the limited resources of the community,” Alaina Kupec, a former Naval intelligence officer and the founder and president of GRACE, told Metro Weekly. “So this narrative about the transgender community is being defined by those who are opposed to hearing a counter-narrative…. Hopefully, the world gets to know us and who we are, not the caricature of what you’re being told we are.”

Kupec previously served as a board member of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund from 2016 to 2023 and has experience in messaging and communications from her prior job at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

“A lot of the [pro-transgender] advocacy work has historically been spent in an echo chamber,” she says. “While people in the [equality] movement do amazing work, they are usually talking to an audience that is receptive to their messaging.

“The genesis of these bad policies comes from a side, politically, that the traditional movement is not naturally comfortable talking to, and oftentimes doesn’t have an audience to talk to, because they’ve alienated themselves and vilified all Republicans as being the enemy.

“For me, GRACE is about approaching this work in a nonpartisan way,” she continues. “Trying to reach across the middle and the middle-right, and help them understand the issues in ways that resonate and can appeal to their values, and humanizes our community in a way that they understand we’re just like them and we want to provide for our families

“We want to contribute to society, we want gainful employment. We want love and acceptance. And we don’t hurt anybody in doing that.”

GRACE’s commercial featuring Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Eric Childs (right) – Photo: GRACE For America, via YouTube

Childs says he is fairly open and forward about everything in his life, including the fact that he has a transgender son.

Tall, burly, and bearded, Childs is fiercely protective of those he cares about. He notes that he hasn’t had many negative face-to-face interactions with people over his son’s gender identity, though he’s not sure whether his looming presence may be influencing people’s responses.

“If you ever meet me in person, I’m not exactly small,” he says. “I’ve been told I’m kind of intimidating. But I do know that a lot of times if people have something to say, they’re typically not going to say it in front of me.”

Childs says some people are open about their misperceptions of the transgender community, and will repeat things they’ve heard about the issue from politicians. He says many state lawmakers are currently engaged in spreading not only misinformation about the trans community, but disinformation to promote a political agenda.

“I was taught as a child, ‘Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.’ And I find that to be doubly true when it comes to politicians, unfortunately,” he says.

Childs says  his son hasn’t run afoul of many anti-transgender policies or laws, noting that the community has generally been supportive of his gender identity, including teachers, school administrators, and librarians.

Childs is aware of the vitriol that some political figures routinely spread, especially on social media, toward anyone who expresses support for transgender rights, although he tries not to let the negativity affect him. 

“I believe that, a lot of times, people give what other folks say too much credence,” he says. “If you have a problem or you’re afraid about what someone will say about you, you’re worried about the wrong things. I’m worried about my kids.

“Love your kids, regardless of who you think they are or what you think they should be. Let your child be who they are. Love them. That’s the most important thing here. Don’t worry about what other people have to say about it. Don’t worry about what legislators or your grandparents or other people in your neighborhood have to say about it. Because at the end of the day, that’s your child, and they only get one childhood. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Their happiness should be the most important thing to you. Their ability to live and thrive and be a happy, healthy person, and their mental health, is extremely important.”

Eric Childs and his family – Photo: GRACE For America, via YouTube

Childs has a direct response to those who would accuse of “child abuse” for affirming his son’s gender identity.

“My child is going to grow up to be a happy adult. He’s not going to be one of those kids that doesn’t come to see me or doesn’t bring my grandchildren around or doesn’t have anything to do with me as an adult because I forced them into a box that they didn’t fit into.

GRACE will be in Washington, D.C., this week. Members will go to Capitol Hill to lobby lawmakers and the White House and meet with other advocacy leaders. The organization will also host a public breakfast event on Tuesday, April 16, at 8:30 a.m., and an evening fundraiser on Wednesday, April 17 at 6 p.m. For additional details and to RVSP, email For more information about GRACE, its campaigns, and upcoming events, visit

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