Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

Our Transgender Children Aren’t Political Pawns. Let Them Live.

It’s been a really tough time for transgender Americans, once again, as this administration works to up the anti on discrimination.

It’s also been a rough time for parents of transgender youth, as lawmakers make it known that they’d rather our children suffer, possibly commit suicide, than to live as their authentic selves by calling for laws that would prohibit transgender youth under 18 from accessing life saving medication.

I’m not a trans person, so I obviously cannot write on how terrible this all is, to fight for your very existence. I cannot imagine.

But I can tell you, as a parent of a young transgender child: this is exhausting and it’s terrifying.

It’s been written, time and time again: memoirs by trans people, narratives by affirming parents of transgender people, essay after essay, book after book, by dozens, if not hundreds, of people. Begging, pleading for understanding, for more support, for equality for our transgender community.

Literature has been studied, statistics have been calculated, all major medical bodies have written statements of affirmation and protocols of care.

Public advocates like myself, and other parents of transgender children, we speak loudly; we choose to make our stories visible in hopes to educate naysayers, who hope to save lives by reaching as many as we can.

Yet, here we sit, cast as “child abusers” and labeled as suffering from Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, all by armchair diagnosticians. Accusations of “chemically castrating” our children, some wishing death or hell or jail upon us.

I’ve grown quite used to this, especially navigating these attacks online. Ignoring, blocking, deleting, disengaging. It can feel heavy, though. These are extremely serious accusations.

And parents of trans kids certainly aren’t seeking sympathy or accolades for enduring these attacks.

We are simply looking for our transgender children to be seen and heard.

We are looking for the whole transgender community to be seen and heard. Because their lives are at stake. We center our children’s needs, we center the bigger issue at hand of the attempted erasure of our trans community and the blatant dismissal of their needs.

A few years ago, I didn’t even know what it meant to be transgender. I had zero working knowledge of the community, because like most things in life, until it affects you personally, until someone you love is involved, it was honestly insignificant. That pains me to say that now, knowing how desperate this community is for allies. But I’m here now. I’m listening, I’m working hard to elevate their voices.

My child was non-gender conforming from the time he could speak. Living in a very small, conservative area, it was quite progressive to “allow” this type of expression. I simply just followed his lead.

And because I refused to acknowledge the signs, his consistency and persistency about being a boy, not just dressing “like a boy”, and not just playing with “boy toys”, he began self-harming by the time he was 8. Because he wasn’t being heard.

After I sought help for myself, after I received the education about how to help him and what this all meant, after he was freed to be his authentic self, he became a different child, one I had never met before. He was happy, social, outgoing, and best of all, he stopped self-harming, just by changing his name and his pronouns. Easy.

What a relief to me as a parent to learn this was all quite simple.

My son has a medical team who help us decision make in terms of next steps. Because he’s only 10, we are just entering into puberty, which means such heightened anxiety for him because of bodily changes that occur.

Thankfully, to aide in his emotional health, we have a medication available to us known  as puberty blockers that can be administered when blood work shows that his body is in Tanner Stage 2 of puberty.

This isn’t a hormone in the sense of testosterone or estrogen as so many believe it to be. This is simply a medication that pauses puberty, or secondary sex characteristics, with little to no known side effects. Like all medications on the market for any purpose, yes, there are considerations, but the benefits of these medications outweigh the risks; the risks are very, very minimal.

Puberty blockers have been proven to reduce body dysphoria, which in turn reduces anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. There’s been phenomenal literature reviews to support these assertions.

And for many transgender youths, hormone replacement therapies may be indicated in teenaged years. Not always, since everyone’s transition looks different, but with a medical team, including a mental health provider, hormones, such as testosterone in my son’s case, might be prescribed to then begin a medical transition to his affirmed gender.

Again, life saving medication. So my son, and other like him, can just …live.

And here we are, backed with all of this knowledge and science, and healthier kids… with lawmakers such as Ted Cruz, throwing around assertions that we are abusing our children, which has now led to attempted legislation which would block kids like my son from receiving the medication he needs to live a full and happy life.

What’s most upsetting about these conservative lawmakers is that they do have an understanding of what transgender children’s needs are. They know they’re not in any danger. They know parents of trans kids are simply just loving their kids, because they’ve met with some of our families. But they’re using our children as political pawns, hoping the ignorant stay in the dark. They want the misinformation to continue to circulate. Because bringing light in would bring truth and the truth would be too humanizing.

They’re using our children as a political platform, nothing more. And this is terrifying. It’s putting our children at risk and it’s gambling with their lives.

I want to be clear and intentional with my words so everyone can understand the severity: I am absolutely certain that my child would be a suicide statistic if he’s unable to access these medications.

Based on how he was before he came out, I can feel it in my soul that I would have lost him if I wouldn’t have learned about how to best support him. I cannot even type this sort of potential reality without getting emotional, but it must be said so people understand that when they’re voting for politicians like Ted Cruz, Ginny Ehrhart, and ultimately Donald Trump, you’re saying my son’s life is disposable. These politics are dangerous, using trans kids as pawns. Their narrative is uninformed, biased, bigoted, and harmful to an entire community of people.

Now is the time not only for medical professionals to speak up, for allies to be loud, but for you to take humanity into consideration when you’re in that voting booth.

Leave parents of transgender children alone to do the parenting of their own children.

And above all else, let transgender kids… live.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

When Will We Listen to Trans People?

Isn’t it amazing how many advances we make in society?

Science, technology, research, medicine. Our world changes every single day. We are literally smarter than we were yesterday. We are evolving as we speak.

I mean, I sit here, typing on this invention called a computer and a keyboard, utilizing this invention called reading glasses for my aging eyes. We hold actual computers in our hands all day long. We can rule the world from our phones, y’all.
And just look at modern medicine. We have robots doing surgical procedures and tests that show radioactivity in our bodies and pharmaceuticals for anything and everything.

All of these advancements. All of this progression. Amazing, right?

Yet, here I am, just having finished defending transgender people, yet again, on social media. Responding to the “YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR GENDER WITH MEDICINE AND SURGERY”, and the “BEING TRANSGENDER ISN’T A REAL THING”, arguments.

Why is it so difficult for us to evolve socially?
How do we get so stuck in these specific ways?
Why are people so quick to pick up the new diet fad supplement that isn’t FDA approved, but condemn someone’s mere existence simply because they’re trans?
Is it religion? Fear of being wrong? Patriarchal?
What is everyone so goddamn afraid of?

Many people don’t understand why I bother engaging in these online arguments. And the answer: because allies have to.
We have to speak up more.
It’s our duty to elevate the existence of trans people.

What rocks me to my core is the hypocrisy of these folks who care so much about other people’s genitals and how others identify. This one topic, that has absolutely no bearing of their lives, that holds no weight for them, that affects them in literally zero ways, it ignites this fire in them to actively fight against and oppress and entire community of people.

All while they…

…get their hair dyed to the color of their liking.

…take medicine to cure their ailments.

…wear braces to fix their teeth.

…get Botox to fight signs of aging.

…use Viagra to get their dick up.

…surgically put silicone in the boobs to make them bigger.

…use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy or to lessen heavy periods.

…use hormone replacement therapy for menopause.

…replace their knee joint because of osteoarthritis.

I could sit here all day and list the things we do as cisgender people that “go against nature”, or doing something that “God didn’t intend”.

But, holy shit.
Someone wants to live their truth?
Someone wants to live their life in a way that makes them whole?
Someone wants to save their own life by changing their name, switching to their pronouns, maybe begin hormone therapies or have gender affirmation surgery?

Brains explode all over the place.

It defies all logic, this hypocrisy.

I will never understand why others are so overly obsessed with how people live their lives.

How many studies, reports, and medical organizations’ statements have to be released in order for people to listen to the needs of trans individuals? When will it be enough to validate their existence?

This dissonance results in such a lack of resources for the trans community, especially in more rural areas.

I cannot find a pediatrician for my son who is versed in caring for a transgender child, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics stance on the issue is clear. And by “caring for”, I simply mean the right and wrong things to say while examining my child for a sprained wrist; an office staff who have been trained on trans inclusiveness. I have to drive almost an hour for him to see a pediatric endocrinologist that has some semblance of a clue on how to care for trans kids. There is only one mental health practitioner in my county who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues.

It boggles my mind how we can be simultaneously progressed and regressed at the same time.

I’m in sales so I drive a lot, spanning about 180 mile radius. Last week, as I was driving, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of clinics in my area advertising for low testosterone/erectile dysfunction treatments. I counted 4 clinics and 4 billboards, in just one county. Just so old men can have sex.

Imagine if we treated transgender healthcare with that same respect and enthusiasm as a flaccid penis? Can you imagine the protests and backlash if there were advertisements of this sort, along the lines of “Transgender Healthcare Given Here! We Want To Help You Live Your Best Life!”…to save the lives and the emotional health of transgender people by giving them affirming care?

Flaccid penises? Can’t have that! Old men deserve sex!!!!
Emotional well being of trans people? Validate their existence and listen to them? Hard pass.

Weird parallel to draw, I know, but…problematic, skewed thinking here, isn’t it?

We are continually failing the transgender community socially and medically, therefore, emotionally. It is archaic thoughts and beliefs that continue to assault trans people. And they deserve so much more. We are a country so determined to raise mental health awareness, yet, ignore and oppress and entire community time and time again when they tell us their needs.

Progress takes time, yes. Of course. We’ve come a long way, and I’m so thankful my son was able to come out in a time when we’re talking about this more and more.

But, this work, this fight, has been going on for decades.

And here we sit, while the Supreme Court of the United States deliberates over the livelihoods of gay and trans citizens. While Obama-era protections for our trans kids are being rolled back. While the privatization of public schools is taking over, where LGBTQ+ students aren’t welcome. While teens message me everyday, telling me their parents kicked them out because they’re trans. While hate crimes are at an all time high. While trans women of color are being murdered at a disproportionate rate.

When do we listen?

When do we evolve?

When do we advance?

When do we truly evolve our minds and our hearts?

We need to get more comfortable with what makes us uncomfortable.

Be the person who looks back on your 5-year-ago self and says, “Wow. I’m so glad I’m not that person anymore. I’m so glad I evolved my thinking and challenged what I thought to be true”.

Not recognizing and validating the transgender community is as archaic as a Nokia 3310, or that believing that smoking while pregnant is healthy. The trans community desperately needs you to move on, open your minds, and see them. Their lives are depending on it.

Evolve. In all ways. You can do it.

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child

What I Wish I Knew Before My Child Came Out As Transgender

I have a 10 year old transgender son who has been out for almost 2 years now.

Everything and nothing has changed within that time.

He hasn’t changed much at all, aside from being a happier, more well adjusted child, yet everything about me- my thinking, my beliefs, my circle of friends, my priorities- everything has changed for me.

They say that when your trans child transitions, the parents transition, too. And those words are so very, very true.

The caterpillar to the butterfly analogy certainly applies to our kids, as they become themselves within this amazing, beautiful journey. Their wings spread far and wide.

And we, as affirming parents of trans kids, fly right behind them, finding our own wings, navigating a new path with so many unknowns in the beginning of the journey.

There’s so much I wish I knew a few years ago and I hope that imparting these key points will assist other parents who might be new here.

Here’s what I wish I knew:

1. That Trans Kids Exist

And that it was even possible that my kid was one.

I knew that transgender adults existed, mostly thanks to visible folks such as Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono, so it sounds silly in my own brain now that I didn’t realize that trans kids existed. If they’re trans as adults, it’s quite obvious to me that they were trans kids. I know this now.

But, like many of us, I was confusing gender identity with sexuality or sexual orientation, therefore, I was certain that being trans was something one would realize when they’re older, maybe teen years, maybe young adulthood, which is when we muddle through our sexuality. After all, Chaz was an adult when he came out, as was Laverne and Caitlyn Jenner, even.

Jazz Jennings was the only trans child visible and I knew very little of her story. Truth be told, I didn’t want to know her story because I judged her parents for encouraging her young transition.

Yes. I was one of those folks who thought this way. I didn’t understand how this works. So, I parented this way, rooted in my ignorance.

I simply didn’t know that trans kids existed because I didn’t inform myself. I wasn’t listening to others lived experiences. I wasn’t believing them.

Trans kids exist.

Trans adults were trans kids.

They just conformed to what was expected of them. Societal norms are one hell of a mute button.

2. That The “Wait and See” Approach Is Harmful

When my child began displaying non-gender conforming preferences at the age of 2-3, I followed his lead in the sense of “allowing” him to dress in boys clothes and play with boy toys, and eventually even caved to the boy hair cut at 6, but I fully dismissed him as he begged to change his name to a boy’s name, as he imaginary player as the male character, as he drew himself as male.

I would respond to him by saying, “we will talk about this when you’re older”, and shut him down.

What I know now is that I was soaking him in shame.

I was perpetuating bad information about gender that we’ve all been given.

Kids have a concept of their gender by the time they’re 3, (often times even before the age of 3 but prior to that, they done have the language yet). This is a fact.

None of us cisgender (non trans) folks waited until we were adults to identify as the gender we are. Neither should our trans kids. Because they know themselves.

It’s quite simple. We just need to listen.

And the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, as does every other major medical association.

I hear often from parents of older trans kids (teens and young adults) that I’m fortunate that my child came out so young. I didn’t understand why I would hear this so often at first, but now I do.

Had I have listened harder, sooner, I would have saved my son quite a bit of pain. And some parents don’t listen, don’t hear, don’t even see it coming at all because their trans kids don’t even trust them with the information, soaking their kids in shame for years and years, when there’s then so much unraveling and unpacking to do by the time they come out. (And yes, some trans folks don’t figure this out about themselves until they’re older, which is just as valid as knowing from a young age!).

To “wait and see” is such an insidious thing to do and needs caution.

The sooner transgender kids are affirmed, the easier their journey will be. Full stop.

Does that mean that every kid that gender bends is trans? Absolutely not.

But when they’re consistent and persistent about how they identify- believe them. They know.

3. That It’s Necessary to Cleanse Family and Friends Out

When my son came out, we knew we’d lose some family and friends, and we did.

And that’s totally ok.

Actually, it’s better than ok- it’s necessary.

When your young child comes out as trans, it’s a way of taking the trash out of your lives.

Not everyone will understand this journey, of course, but not everyone will even try to understand. And those people need to get packing and move along.

We were humbled by the love and support we received. It was amazing. And it came from the most unexpected places at times.

There’s a giant difference between tolerance and acceptance, though.

In the beginning of this journey, tolerance was welcomed. We were just glad people weren’t being outwardly terrible to us.

A few months in, I realized that tolerance actually felt pretty terrible. It was that feeling similar to when you’re in high school when you’re talking to the cool group of friends, but you know when you walk away, they’re shit-talking you.

That’s how our daily lives began to feel when my son came out. And it didn’t feel good. At all.

Now, we only allow acceptance into our lives, because this isn’t an “agreed to disagree” situation. Affirming my child was live saving. Affirming trans kids is suicide prevention.

So, we say “no thanks” to those who are merely tolerating us.

Ask questions, learn, research, read, educate yourselves. I need my son to know that he’s fully and wholeheartedly loved. He needs to go through life with this confidence so he can weed out the terrible people immediately and only surround himself with goodness. No excuses. Religion isn’t an excuse, uninformed bigotry isn’t an excuse. None of the “but that person is my aunt, uncle, best friend”, etc. type of talk. Toxic is toxic and we move on from those folks.

Be a true ally… or we don’t have a lotta space for you.

4. That There’s a Beautiful Community On the Other Side

I was terrified when my son came out because I was scared to be alone, despite the loving, accepting people in our lives. I wanted to connect to other parents in the LGBTQ+ community, walking a similar path, so naturally, I went to social media.

No, really. True story.

I found so many of our people there.

From private Facebook groups, to Instagram influencers, to Twitter handles- there’s a giant, affirming, amazing community of beautiful, colorful people that I’ve bonded with. The support we’ve found here has been so incredible, inspiring, and necessary.

We’ve built a community of support locally, too, by finding our local LGBTQ+ youth center.

All of these folks are our new, chosen, extended family.

And we are so grateful for every human in this community.

5. That Being Apolitical Was a Privilege

I was never overly political. Because I didn’t have to be.

I dipped in and out of social justice, I randomly volunteered, I voted- sometimes a Republican ticket, sometimes a Democratic- with that “fiscally conservative” mindset at times. I loved President Obama and voted for him both times, I cried when marriage equality was finally passed, I made fun of how clueless George W. was, although I did vote for him when he ran against Kerry.

I was all over the political spectrum, and often times apolitical.

Because I had the privilege to be apolitical.

Most policies didn’t affect me directly, so I was able to shrug my shoulders quite often.

This is one of my biggest regrets in life, honestly. I wish I was there for the fight more consistently long ago. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I made far too many assumptions.

Now?

Everything in politics matters to me. Obviously, with this administration constantly attacking LGBTQ+ rights, that’s my focus of activism, but politics is clearly intersectional. And it matters to be involved in all aspects, to understand policy, to understand the way our government works, how decisions are made, how to fight for the rights of all marginalized folks.

Being political when you have a trans kid is necessary. Because equality has become a political issue, unfortunately. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

My “political agenda” is to achieve equality and equity for all oppressed communities. My political agenda is to promote kindness, understanding, and fair treatment.

And there’s so much work to do.

6. That There’s Resources

I felt like I was a minnow in this giant ocean when my child came out. I felt like we were the only ones going through this.

We needed emotional support, but we also needed resources.

Thank sweet goddesses for the internet.

PFLAG

HRC

GenderSpectrum.org.

American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical organizations such as WPATH.

Trans Equality Foundation.

National Center for Trans Equality.

GLAAD

LGBTQ+ Youth Centers.

Therapists.

Local support groups.

Studies.

Documentaries, such as Gender Revolution.

Private social media groups.

Visible trans folks, such as Alok, Jacob Tobia, Aiden Dowling, and so on.

Other visible parents of trans kids, such as Debi Jackson, Mimi Lemay, Vanessa Ford, Amber Briggle, Jeanne Talbot, Jodi Peterson, Amanda Knox, (and so many more, many who have written books!).

So many resources. I dove in, reading, researching, watching, listening. Reading personal stories and listening to trans folks was the most impactful resource to me. Connecting to other parents of younger trans kids was a close second.

Priceless resources that I was able to alarm myself with, knock down my own biases, my own hangups.

I was able to take a giant, deep breath after I connected to these resources.

7. That it’s All Going to Be OK

I once wrote a piece about being terrified that my kid my be trans. And I was. So terrified.

Because of all of the hate and misinformation that exists in the world. Because of all of the horrible, scary statistics about trans youth’s emotional health. Because of bullying. Because fighting for equality is hard.

And it was so overwhelming and scary.

But once we leaped, we never looked back.

Because once he was OK, once he was happy, healthy, and his wings soared, it was all OK. His smile, his new demeanor, his new self, a child I never met before, showed me that this was all OK.

This was all so worth it. This was all so…beautiful.

Everything else became secondary, pretty irrelevant, actually.

It’s such a gift to parent a transgender child. It’s such an education, such a journey.

I’ve come such a long way. And I’m honored to have my son be my teacher.

I’m such a better person for it.

I’m thankful every single day that I was chosen.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Parents Don’t Have a Right to Know Their Child is LGBT

I’ve been a strong advocate and activist for the transgender community for only two years now, since my young son came out.

It’s been such a journey.

I went from complete ignorance about what it means to be transgender, to shouting loud and proud about what our transgender youth needs are, in a very short amount of time. It became apparent to me very quickly that LGBTQ+ youth are at a higher risk for emotional trauma, self-harm, suicide, bullying, assaults, homelessness, and drop-outs. The statistics don’t lie.

My son was a statistic before he came out. He was hurting. He was self-harming. At the young age of 8. Talk about a wake-up call. It was a scary time.

Trans folks suffer widely due to how society perceives them and how they’re treated, specifically how their family responds and reacts to them.

These kids need ears that listen. And they need validation. And they need to be met with compassion, understanding, and affirmation. They need protection.

Their needs are simple: basic human rights, respect and dignity.

Once I realized how simple this was, did my research, and learned, it came quite easy for me, especially to save my child’s life and ensure he’s happy. What we are afraid of, as parents of transgender kids, is all of the hate that our children face, all of the ignorance, all of the fighting.

The bigoted stay rooted in their beliefs, unwilling to learn, assuming that their way is the only way, that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t deserve “special rights”, as they call it, and that others’ lived experiences, their own identities even, aren’t valid.

And with that comes the fight for equality.

I’m still new here, still green to advocacy and activism, still learning. Allies can only listen, learn, act, help educate- lather, rinse, repeat. So, that’s what I do.

The Role Of The School

A big piece of my advocacy has been in our local school system since my child is in elementary school.

Ensuring that trans students have the same rights as every other student has been a national discussion and progress is all over the spectrum. Gavin Grimm pioneered this discussion in the now well-known lawsuit, which was won by Grimm just last week. We are seeing more and more courts siding with our students in these cases across the United States, which is resulting in many school districts reacting by implementing some version of inclusive policies to protect trans students.

Our small, conservative area of southwest Florida is one such county district that chose to be on the right side of history with this conversation.

Last November, after local advocates fought for over two years, the battle was won. Shortly after Drew Adams’ case, (heard in Jacksonville, Florida) was settled, followed by many of us speaking out {again} at a school board meeting, our superintendent implemented the policy to allow trans students to use their name, new pronouns, as well as use the bathroom that they feel the most safe.

{Our school board meeting, November 2018. That’s me in the Free Mom Hugs shirt, trying to hold my shit together after all of the hate being spewed from my son’s classmates’ families.}

{Lots of media ensued.}

Parental Rights Are A Fallacy Within This Discussion

What dog-whistled the media most about our county’s new guidelines, outside of the ridiculous bathroom debate, was the “parental rights” discussion, as you see above. Two of our school board members honed in on how these new guidelines “strip parents of their rights”.

In the guidelines, developed by a task force comprised of students, teachers, parents, counselors, advocates, and administrators, it states that parents do not have to be notified of any discussion surrounding their child’s request at school to go by their new name and pronouns, or any LGBTQ+ information brought forth from a student to school officials.

And everyone lost their damn minds over this piece.

I continue to see and hear this argued constantly and it seems to be something widely misunderstood.

It seems as though everyone has forgotten that children are humans, independent of their parents, and they too have their own rights. Rights that are scared to them, rights that keep them safe.

Because, not all parents are accepting. Not only are they not all accepting, home can be downright dangerous for them if they were to come out as LGBT. Sometimes school is their only safe place, a place to be themselves, a place that creates a safe environment to learn.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) deemed it illegal for schools to relay such info to parents for these exact reasons. Outing an LGBT student to anyone is illegal.

Ideally, parents are creating a safe space for their kids at home in every single way, including if their kiddo comes out as gay or trans. And if parents are creating this safe space, then no one should be discussing this fallacy of parental rights because their child will trust their parents with this proprietary information. We all hope for this. We all hope for parents to be involved in these aspects of their child’s life.

But it just isn’t the case.

Because I’m a public advocate, especially on social media, I receive a lot of messages. Some filled with hate from bigots, some filled with threats, some filled with accusations of child abuse.

But, those messages don’t phase me.

The messages that gut me are the ones from trans youth:

You’re everything I wish my mom was. I’m 17 and I don’t live with or speak to my mom anymore. I had to find my chosen family and live with my friends”.

“You inspire me and you give me hope that maybe someday my parents will understand. I’m not allowed to talk about being trans in my house or my dad said he will kick me out”.

“I’m 17 and my parents don’t accept me. They’re very unsupportive and said that I can’t make this decision to change my name and pronouns, let along start hormones, until I’m 21, and that even then, I won’t be considered their child anymore”.

“I’ve attempted suicide 3 times in the past 7 months and my mom knows why. She knows its because she won’t let me out of the closet. She doesn’t care. She would rather have a dead child than a transgender one. Every time I feel like cutting or attempting suicide again, I read your message of hope”.

“Sometimes I wish I could have the confidence to actually strip down and show the extent of self-injury scares I have all over my body. It started as a habit to deal with the sheer fact that my parents wouldn’t let me be myself…”

If those messages don’t rock you to your core, I have dozens and dozens more that I could share of similar content.

These examples of rejection are why parents don’t have the right to know everything about their children.

These examples of rejection tell some of the story as to why our trans youth struggle emotionally and why they need a person to trust with their secret. Sometimes, that person, or people, are teachers, administrators, coaches, counselors, and friends at school. If my son would have come out to someone at school before he came out to me, I would have been so grateful that he had someone he trusted with that information.

They need that space. They deserve that space. To be exactly who they are. To be free. To be themselves. To be safe. To be safe while they learn.

When I see and hear parents arguing over their “rights being stripped” by these policies, I have to wonder what these parents are so afraid of?

Children aren’t property. They’re not to be thought-controlled. They’re not to be molded into what we believe they should be. They’re not to be designed by their parents. They’re their own people, their own individuals who should be free to exercise their uniqueness and show all of their colors.

So, what is this fear about?

My guess is that it’s about bigotry.
The parents that are screaming and yelling about their rights being stripped are the same ones exampled above in the heartbreaking messages I receive on the daily from their kids. They’re the ones rejecting their children, telling them they don’t know themselves, insisting that they’re something they’re not, just to make themselves comfortable in the terrible information that’s been handed down to them.

And they’re scared to learn, accept, and embrace something new. They’re afraid to face the fact that everything they’ve learned…might be…wrong.

Parental rights in relation to knowing that their child is LGBTQ do not exist. It isn’t a right to know how your child identifies.

It is a privilege. 

If you’re a parent worried about what your child tells someone other than you in relation to their gender or sexual identity, please ask yourself if you’re doing everything in your power to make sure you’re a safe haven for them. Be prepared. Arm yourself with the knowledge as if they’ll come out to you tomorrow. Unravel your biases, your hangups, and all of the outdated, archaic information that was passed down to you.

Because you never know.

And to all of the teachers, coaches, counselors, and administrators who have had a student trust you enough to come out to you, thank you for being that student’s person. Thank you for keeping them safe. They’ll never forget you.

And to every district who has adopted inclusive guidelines, or even gone a step further and incorporates LGBTQ+ information and history into your curriculum: you’re saving so many lives. Thank you for seeing and affirming our children.

LGBTQ youth are sacred. They’re everyday heroes.

And their rights matter.

 

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Listening Harder

Over the last few years, I’ve really tried to focus on learning about the realities of marginalized communities.

I’ve chosen my books wisely, follow people on social media with intent- people of color, black activists, authors, LGBTQ folks. I’m thirsty for knowledge on experiences that I haven’t lived, trying my best to learn how to make things better, using my privilege the best I know how.

I’ve listened harder.
I absorb more information everyday. I volunteer when I can, I donate what I can, I attend rallies when I’m able.

I try not to be one-issue focused, but of course I’m partial to advocating for trans rights because this is my son’s reality. This is his life.

It took our lived experiences to truly wake me up. (And I say “our” because my son is young and I’ve had to do a lot of advocating on his behalf.)

Of course I’ve known discrimination, racism, and bigotry have existed. But my privilege tended to always allow me to look at society through rose colored glasses. So much so that when then Black Lives Matter movement began, I was one of the ignorant white people who just didn’t get it.

I had to listen harder. I had to read stories and recounts, look at statistics, absorb. Quietly, without the “but not all white people” interjection.

I was called out on Twitter once by the amazing Bishop Swan for appropriating the BLM movement by saying women should “take a knee” in protest to Kavanaugh last year. It was a humbling experience.

I listened. I learned. I didn’t respond in defense, but with humility and willingness to do better.

I do my best to teach Dylan about real history, the history that schools refuse to teach. I do my best to not recreate the ignorance I lived in for so long.

No ally is perfect. I’m far from it. But if we are going to change society, it’s the allies that need to do the work.

As a public advocate, it can be even more tricky because I’m always concerned with stepping on toes or somehow powering over voices who matter more.

Ally-ship is a verb and it’s a constant evolution.

And what I’m receiving on this end of advocacy in response to many of my posts are messages such as “Protect ALL kids, not JUST trans kids”, or, “Oh, SO MANY kids are bullied. It’s just part of growing up”, or, “Medical care can’t be that difficult to find”, or, “You’re being dramatic”.

Similar to what folks in marginalized communities hear every.single.day, and have for decades.

Here’s some wisdom to those sit in that camp, who make negating statements:

You’re not listening hard enough.
And you’re not an ally if you’re making these statements.

You’re dismissing every trial and tribulation of marginalized people.

When you tell me, “Protect ALL kids”, you’re not hearing me. You’re not listening to trans people. You’re not doing the work.

You’re not hearing that I had to sit through 3 hours of a school board meeting where I was called a child abuser, where my child was compared to a mass shooter, where my child was called a pedophile, where people spewed their hatred, all endured just so my child could have equal access to bathrooms, so his correct name and pronouns would be used in school.

You’re not hearing that we have to drive over an hour to find a doctor who is trained in caring for trans kids, and when I say trained, I mean willing to use his name and pronouns so they can treat my kid for a cold or a sinus infection or a sprained wrist.

You’re not hearing that every move I make as a parent, whether it’s traveling for the weekend, planning a move to another city, choosing a school for my child, etc., has to be decided and executed based on the fact that my child is trans.

You’re not hearing the stats on bullying, that approximately 90% of LGBTQ kids have been assaulted or harassed in school.

You’re not hearing that my child cannot serve in our United States military for no good reason at all.

You’re not hearing that homeless trans people are now forbidden to utilize pubic shelter, and that 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ.

You’re not hearing that most medical care for trans teens isn’t covered by insurance, even though it literally saves their lives.

You’re not hearing that the majority of states in our country do not have anti discrimination laws for LGBTQ people, so the likelihood of Dylan being fired or denied housing because he’s trans is real.

You’re not hearing that 51% of trans teen boys have attempted or thought about suicide…because society treats them like shit.

You’re not understanding that your cisgender (non trans) child, does not need protection from any of these things.

You’re not listening.

And just because society is talking more about equality and trans rights, “better” does not translate into “equal”. At all.
And “better” doesn’t translate into safety or acceptance, either.

There will always be work to do as an ally. There never space for complacency or sitting idle. And there’s certainly never space for dismissive statements such as “All Lives Matter” or “Protect ALL Kids”.

Are you really listening? Are you listening as hard as you can?

Listen until you’re uncomfortable. Until you’re pushed to rethink everything you every believed. Listen to the anger, to the impatience, to the rawness, to the the exhaustion of marginalized communities.

They don’t owe you patience or kindness or an explanation of their existence or validation of their experiences.

But as a fellow human being, they’re owed equality, equal access, and safety.

Stop negating. Those rose colored glasses are lying to you everyday. And you’re believing the lies…because you can.

Listen harder.

Protect Trans Kids. I didn’t stutter.

Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

In This Climate of Attempted Erasure: Parenting a Trans Child

I’ve had such a difficult time finding my words within this past week. But I need to do some processing here.

Last Monday, I woke up to the news of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase trans people out of existence. 

Like many parents of trans kids, I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe when the news went viral. This couldn’t possibly be real. This couldn’t possibly be something that could materialize. These are our kids, our flesh and blood, that we are already fighting like hell to be seen and acknowledged and affirmed.

This made it heavier.

I’ve sat through the past 18 months with my mouth agape, unable to truly accept what this administration has managed to rollback not only for the trans community but across the political, lawful board. Nothing ceases to amaze me these days.

Yet, I had to work pretty hard to wrap my mind around the reality that yes, this might certainly happen. That my child’s whole life might have just become a hell of a lot more challenging.

As if the trans community needed this on their shoulders. As if their life isn’t already a warrior march.

This redefining of gender, as they aim to do which would be based on genitalia only, would limit my son’s entire life, no exaggeration. It would require him to live his life as female, as assigned at birth, completely undermining the scientific advancements, the medical bodies affirming this community, the insurmountable research that’s been collected in support of this community, and then most obvious – that trans people simply know who they are.

Several policy rollbacks for the trans community had already been implemented since Trump has been president.  But this move is bold. And it’s inhumane. And its void of any compassion, to say the least.

And its frightening.

There are an estimated 2 million transgender Americans. And they are being told they aren’t real, that their lived experiences aren’t viable.

And here I sit looking at my child, talking with him, living with him, raising him to the best of my ability, seeing him through so many challenges already…he couldn’t be any more real, tangible, worthy, and valid.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.
I’m not sure what happened to empathetic, rational beings. Do they even exist in this climate?

And in the same week that this federal news floated down, our local school board did something amazing and finally set forth guidelines to support our trans kiddos. A battle that been fought for well over a year in our district.

This was a big win.

However.
The backlash has been overwhelming. An entire community of parents are largely digging their heels in, protesting and fighting to rescind the new guidelines. Because BATHROOMS. And because of the constant irrational, illogical vilification of trans people.

And because I’m a public advocate (that’s me in that news link above), I’ve fielded an unfathomable amount of hate.

I’ve been told by local people that:
My child is mentally ill.
My child would be better off if I were dead.
Trans kids should be completely segregated.
“Normal kids” shouldn’t be around or exposed to my child.

Amongst other vile things.

The response has been far more terrible than that of anything community advocates have ever seen. Citizens are more concerned about this than issues that are far more problematic such as school shootings, forced testing, budget woes, or anything else related to our public schools. Even though our trans kids do not pose any threat whatsoever, that they are the ones at risk. And that’s based on facts that are being widely ignored.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
And that fight-or-flight response in the depths of my being is palpable.

I’ve considered Canada. I’ve considered Costa Rica. Both countries protect and affirm my child far more than this “Land of the Free”.

But then I take a breath and I look around.
I look at so many amazing trans friends that we’ve made. I look at all of these beautiful lives. These beautiful faces. These souls that simply cannot be erased. These souls that need our advocacy, need our activism, need our voices, need allies standing next to them on the front lines.

Parenting a transgender child in this climate of attempted erasure feels like we are on the brink of an all out mutiny. It feels like the dog whistle for social justice warriors, for additional allies, is loud and permeable, leaking into the universe for the most giant call to action.

It feels like equality is never found riding in the center of neutrality.
And we must march far off course to rally and assert the need for justice.

It feels like resistance rising.

This is my child. This is my whole world whose life is being threatened.
This feels like the fight of my life.

And I will remain in this fight not only for my son, but for those who have lost their lives to suicide because they weren’t accepted, for those who struggle everyday to been heard, to be seen, for those who are in the closet, for those living loud, for those who can’t fight, for those who are afraid, for those with no other support, and for those who aren’t even born yet.

This administration has completely underestimated the resilience of this entire community.

Erasure is quite literally impossible.