This photo quickly went viral after his mother posted it on Facebook.
Amber Briggle shared the image on July 20, explaining that she and her son Max had traveled to Austin to protest a bathroom bill being discussed by lawmakers during a 30-day special session.
Max, who is 9, became overwhelmed during the long day, and a reporter snapped a photo of Amber wiping away her son's tears. The image has since been shared more than 6,000 times and currently has more than 1,200 comments.
Many commenters praised Briggle for standing up for her son and protesting what they think is a discriminatory bill.
"Courage is not the absence of fear (or pain, or rage), courage is the willingness to continue despite those feelings," Kelly Knox wrote. "You and your son are the epitome of courage. Thank you for being willing to shoulder this burden for so many who are misunderstood and mistreated."
J.J. Straight commented: "Thank you and your son for standing in the center of the struggle—as you know, you are standing for so many who may not be able to."
Other commenters were less understanding, criticizing Briggle for taking her son to the Capitol in the first place and accusing her of exploiting him for political gain. In response, Briggle wrote an essay for Refinery29, explaining that as a small business owner and mom of two, she typically isn't able to travel to Austin to protest legislation. However, this bathroom bill was serious enough that she and Max felt the need to attend in person.
"We were there to defend Max’s right to exist in public," she wrote. "That’s what this bathroom stuff is really about, because let’s face it: If you prohibit someone from using a public bathroom, how much is he really going to be able to exist in public? He couldn’t go to school, he couldn’t see a movie with friends, he would have to worry about being able to find a bathroom to use every single time he left our house. The Texas Legislature is trying to erase my son and shove him into a dark corner—and no one does that to my baby, even the Governor of Texas."
Briggle also pointed out that transgender youth are at a disproportionate risk of suicide or self-harm, vowing that she would do everything possible to tackle systemic discrimination and help her son feel accepted. The suicide rate for transgender people is more than 30 percent higher than it is for the overall U.S. population, according to a University of California Los Angeles report.
In direct response to people who criticized her choice to bring Max to the Capitol, Briggle said that after she wiped away her son's tears that day, she canceled the rest of their meetings and took him to get ice cream. And despite the negative comments, Briggle wrote: "I don't regret it for a second: I’m glad I shared [the picture] and I'd do it again. I can never get enough of my child's beautiful face, for one, and apparently plenty of people don't understand what's at stake right now without seeing my kid, devastated, holding his freckle-faced mug in his hands."