Tag Archives: transkids

August 2016 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

Transition_Family
Hello everyone! We begin this month’s Trans Talk edition of the Tenth Voice speaking with Dr. Courtney Marsh, a Reproductive Specialist at The University Of Kansas Hospital who provides hormone therapy to many of the Kansas City transgender community. Dr Marsh will be answering questions about hormone therapy and other transgender medical issues. For the second half of our program we continue our Transgender Kaleidoscope series, and this time we’re highlighting not just one individual, but an entire family of hope: Libby, a transgender woman who has just finished high school, and her father Michael, mother Louise, and fiancé Eliza – who also happens to be a transgender woman.

As usual, we will share with you the transgender news and the community calendar update. We do hope you will be able to join us this Saturday, August 27 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

Some Positive UK Transgender Kids News (February, 2016)

Uniforms
We have three items from the United Kingdom to highlight in this little news roundup. The first is from Brighton College, where the school is allowing all kids the right to wear the male or female school uniform, depending upon their gender identity. Note that although the school has “college” in its name, this is actually a pre-university private school. From the Daily Mirror:

Mr Cairns told students last week that uniform codes dating back to the school’s inception in 1845 would be replaced by a ‘trouser uniform’ and a ‘skirt uniform’ for all pupils up to the age of 16.

The trouser uniform will see pupils wear a full tweed blazer, tie and trousers and the skirt uniform requires students to wear a skirt, bolero jacket and open-neck reverse blouse.

Parents will be required to write to the school before pupils can switch from one uniform to another.

Girls are already walking around the campus in trousers and the school said more than one boy has expressed the desire to wear a skirt.

Pupil Fred Dimbleby, 17, son of BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby, 77, said: “Personally, I’m completely in favour of it.

“I think it’s brilliant that we as an institution are leading this new approach and that we are leading this respect towards everyone no matter what they define themselves as.

“What’s really surprised me is the way that people have taken it within the school.

“I think that it’ll be foreign for people to see someone who defines themselves as a male wearing a skirt, and I think that will be something big, but I don’t think it’ll cause any outrage or backlash because that person will be massively supported by the pupil body.”

Baptism
In another bit of news from the UK, a transgender girl has inspired the New Chapel Unitarian and Free Christian Church in Greater Manchester to start offering transgender baptisms. In short, to allow transgender persons to be baptized in their new name and gender expression.

Worship leader Jean Clements came up with the idea after meeting a couple who had a transgender child.

The church then backed the change to help others in the same situation.

Mrs Clements told the BBC : “I felt saddened by the fact that this family were being shunned by many mainstream churches.

“However, when the family came to New Chapel, the congregation welcomed them with open arms.”

Nottingham
Finally, a 5-year-old Nottinghamshire child has become one of the youngest cases of gender transition in Britain. Little Danni McFayden has re-entered her primary school as a girl after a social gender transition fully supported by both parents and teachers.

Children can take drugs to postpone puberty as well as hormone treatment, before NHS gender realignment surgery at 18.

The Gender Identity Research and Education Society says referrals for treatment of young people are growing by 50%.

Colin Pettigrew, from Nottingham County Council, said it was determined to support the youngster’s wishes.

He said: “Transgender is a new area for many school and is a characteristic protected by law.”

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? – A Personal Essay on Transgender Violence and Boy George

Boy_George_4Screen capture from “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”

Growing up in a small town or the suburbs can be a challenge for transgender persons, simply due to the small size of the community and the lack of transgender-friendly resources. Now imagine if you can that you are a young teenager, learning that you are transgender in a small town, but in the early 1980’s.

That was the life I lived.

Anyone born after 1995 takes it for granted that you can open up any computer or smartphone and get near-instant access to an incredible amount of human knowledge. What’s more, with e-mail, social media, online gaming and other communities, no transgender person need ever think that they are the only person in the world who has this “condition” of believing they are a different gender on the inside than on the outside.

Consider again that LGBT awareness, rights, and respect were virtually nonexistent prior to 1990. This was especially true for the case of transgender persons. Every year or so, one of the transgender pioneers would make the news – Renee Richards and Jan Morris in the 1970’s, for example. But even in the rare case where a transgender person was treated well by the media, their story was a flash in the pan. Typically, we appeared in news stories telling us about how we were “sexual freaks”, “kinky transvestites,” or just simply “mentally ill.”

Better_Off_Dead“In the high school halls, in the shopping malls / Conform or be cast out.” The 1980’s were incredibly brutal if you didn’t fit in.

To be a transgender person at age 14 in the suburbs of the early 1980’s was akin to being on a deserted island. I had learned early on from physical abuse from my father that one did not speak about being transgender. Actually, even the word “transgender” was unknown to the general public at that time, leaving one with no good definition for oneself. The only reference source available to a kid with a bicycle was the Olathe Public Library. I’ll never forget one blazing hot Kansas summer morning, when I rode my bike to the library and searched the card catalog in vain for any book or magazine which talked about people like me. Finally, braver than smart, I asked a grey-haired librarian “Where can I find books about boys who know they’re really a girl inside?”

Card_CatalogOur version of Google, circa 1982.

Her smile vanished, she drew herself up to her full height, and she replied “Young man! We do not carry books on pornography! Give me your library card now!

Of course I beat it out of there, terrified that somehow the librarian knew who I was and would be sending the police to come grab me at home. I spent a couple of worried days wondering what the fallout would be, and I didn’t visit the library for a year or more afterward. But returning to the narrative, the point was that a kid like me basically was left feeling completely alone.

Boy_George_1Boy George, circa 1982. Allow me a single “rrrroooow!”

And then, one day in 1982 while killing time in front of MTV (Yes, MTV did actually play music back then!), I saw a video which absolutely stunned me. It was “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” by an English New Wave band named Culture Club, and the video prominently featured lead singer Boy George. Dressed androgynously and singing in a gentle tenor which could have been male or female, I watched and thought “OK, it must be someone just playing around crossdressing for the video. But I wonder, if they are the same kinda whatever I am that I am?” Then came other videos from that album – “Time (Clock of the Heart)” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya,” and still there was the seriously gender-crossing clothing, singing, makeup, and manners. Shortly afterwards, the band was interviewed on television, and George kept to the image.

Boy_George_3When I first saw Boy George, I wasn’t even certain what gender he was. It was uplifting.

Mind you, Boy George certainly wasn’t the first musician to cross gender boundaries – David Bowie comes to mind as a ready example at the time. And androgyny was a prevalent feature of musical cultural movements like the New Romantics and New Wave. But Boy George kicked it up a notch.

I was now convinced – “This is someone just like me! And they’re out in public, and singing, and making money, and not only that people are listening to them!” Both “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and “Time (Clock of the Heart)” made it to #2 on the US charts, and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” made it to a very respectable #9. Boy George proved to me right then and there that one could transcend gender, be in the public eye, and people could accept you! I felt as though I had found a distant cousin, rather than an idol. Not only that, but in the music video for “Time (Clock of the Heart),” we see other band members toying with gender expression – for example, bassist Mikey Craig is wearing a yellow dress.

Mikey_CraigMikey Craig, wearing a very 80’s yellow dress.

My feelings were complicated by the fact that I really, really had a crush on Boy George. Androgyny attracted me very strongly back then (it still does, to a lesser extent nowadays), and I thought that George was beautiful – especially in the video for “Time (Clock of the Heart).”

I generally did a good job of hiding my transgender identity from my friends, peers, and family. But I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm for Boy George and Culture Club, for the aforementioned reasons, and I didn’t realize at the time how dangerous that could have been. Then one day, while over at a friend’s house with two other friends present, we were hanging out and watching MTV, and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” came on the screen. One friend changed the channel, and I switched it back and said I wanted to watch the video. I started to say how much I liked Boy George and Culture Club, when – to quote Wodehouse – suddenly the atmosphere turned black and scaly. I don’t have an eidetic memory, so the following is from my recollection of the exchange that took place.

Friend 1: “Do I really want to hurt you? Hell yeah, I do!”

Friend 2: “Look at that fucking fag. I hate him and his ugly fucking face. If I saw him out somewhere, I’d run over him.”

Friend 3: “I’d like to set him and his gay dreads on fire. I wish MTV wouldn’t play so many faggy videos.”

Friend 2: “No really, he gets off dressing like a girl. He’s a freak. My brother said if he ever saw that freak in public, he’d bash his face in.”

Friend 1: “I heard if you get buttslammed enough it breaks your balls and you become a girl. Wonder how much buttslamming he had?”

Friend 2: “I’d cut his balls off with a rusty chainsaw. You know he dresses like that to trick guys into fucking him.”

Friend 1: “Doesn’t fool me. Only fags would fuck something like that.”

Friend 3: “I’d rather burn him alive. All that makeup would flare up just like gasoline. Woooooooosh!”

Boy_George_2Not everyone appreciated androgyny in the 1980’s. And by “not everyone,” I mean “almost no one.”

And they carried on, moving into a general condemnation of “fags” and all things “faggoty” in the world. Did I stay silent? No. To my shame, I forced myself to laugh with their jokes, and got up and changed the channel. “Yeah, I thought it was a different video. I don’t want to watch this shit.” I was sick with fear. My friends had seen someone crossing gender boundaries on television, and these teenage boys in Olathe, Kansas, were so enraged by this that they boasted of wanting to burn him alive, vivisecting him, and outright cold-blooded murder.

I tell people when I lecture sometimes on anti-transgender violence that I’d rather be attacked by a pack of wild dogs than a pack of wild teenage boys. At least with the wild dogs, it’s not personal.

And I should have guessed the reactions in advance, really, as homophobia was rampant in that time and place. In 10th grade I witnessed a boy beaten bloody by about half the football team because he wore a pink button-down shirt to school. Was he gay? No – he wore it because Don Johnson wore them on “Miami Vice,” and he wanted to look like a macho character on television. The mistake he made was in thinking he could “get away with” wearing a pink shirt.

Miami_ViceA gay crime-fighting duo? Hardly.

We had the “no blue jeans or you’re gay” day, leading to clueless me, who missed the memo, being punched, kicked, tripped, and verbally abused. I tried to grow my hair long, to at least have some trappings on the outside of the ghost of a girl inside me. Guess what? Long hair also meant you were a “fag.” Beatings ensued. After the HIV/AIDS drama “An Early Frost” was aired in 1985, anyone who had a cough was asked mockingly “Is it an ‘early frost?’ Got something you want to tell us? Fag?”

The junior high and high school cliques of the mean girls and the jocks decided ad hoc what did and didn’t make you a “fag,” and therefore a target. One girl was almost beaten up by her peers for wearing a Eurythmics concert shirt, because the group was fronted by Annie “Lezzy” Lennox.

Annie_LennoxShe has to be a lesbian, because, um, short hair, and, um, suit? Right?

I used to wear an amethyst ring I had bought at the Renaissance Festival, as a connection to my inner girl, until a school counselor acted on his own to call me into his office and order me to remove the ring, because wearing it “meant you were gay.” One day someone declared peanut butter and jelly to be gay, because – well, just because. This, from the “future leaders of America.”

I know a lot of these folks nowadays. Some of them I talk to from time to time, while others I see as Facebook friends. I wonder sometimes – “Did you teach your kids to do as you did – pick on the weak, the different, the misfits? Or, did you teach them that who someone loves or what they have in their jeans isn’t your doggone business? Did you do the right thing, the second time around?” In some cases I know the answer is yes; in many others, I’m uncertain.

The popularity wheel turned, as it shall for everyone except Madonna, and Culture Club moved off the scene. In later years, Boy George was known primarily for his drug use and misdemeanor escapades. Perhaps ten or more years ago, I came across a fan-run website all about Culture Club and Boy George, with several references from his autobiography.

I cried when I learned Boy George was cisgender. If you’ve read this far, you understand why.

Boy_George_5Boy George, circa 2014.

I had some time to convalesce while recovering from pneumonia recently, and I spent some time re-watching old 1980’s music videos on YouTube just for the heck of it. I came upon the old Culture Club videos, and the memories came flooding back. I remember being the scared, hidden transgender teen, sitting in a suburban living room hearing epithets and threats thrown towards a young man who just wanted to sing and have a different gender expression. I remember the fear, and how I felt like even among my friends if I made one slip, let them get one glimpse through the door of the real me, that I could at best end up a pariah, and at worst end up in the hospital.

Transgender youth today unmistakably have that same fear. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:

  • Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%).
  • The harassment was so severe that it led nearly one-sixth (15%) to leave school in grades K-12 or in higher education settings.
  • Teachers and staff members, whose job in part includes ensuring student safety, were too often the perpetrators of harassment and violence in K-12. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the sample reported harassment by teachers or staff, 5% reported physical assault by teachers or staff and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.
  • More than half (51%) of respondents who were harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or expelled because of their gender identity/expression reported having attempted suicide. Of those who were physically assaulted by teachers/staff or students, 64% reported having attempted suicide. And three-quarters (76%) of those who were assaulted only by teachers or staff reported having attempted suicide.
  • Respondents who identity as female-to-male transgender people today reported a higher rate of these abuses (65%) than male-to-female respondents (53%) and those who identify as gender non-conforming experienced abuse at a higher frequency (70%) than transgender-identified respondents (59%).

Injustice_at_Every_TurnGender non-conformity is still a no-no (from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey).

I never seek to minimize someone else’s oppression and suffering, and the National Transgender Discrimination Survey tells a dire tale. But aside from Boy George and that briefly-lit candle of hope, it’s stunning to me when I reflect that the situation for transgender teens in my youth was so very much worse.

References

Grant, Jaime M., et al. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, 2011.

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech

DebiListen
You must watch this video which is part of the Listen to Your Mother series of videos, and features our very own Debi Jackson, contributor to Transas City and a close friend of mine. Her story is incredibly touching, and the video conveys fully the emotions she feels over standing behind her transgender daughter.

Again, you must watch this video and see if you have a dry eye afterwards.

Debi Jackson, Mother Of Transgender Child, Gives Moving Speech.

Jay Kelly Knows Who He Is

Jay Kelly (photo from Instagram)

Jay Kelly (photo from Instagram)

Jay Kelly, formerly known as Jaya Kelly, is the transgender son of singer R. Kelly and TV personality Drea Kelly. Last month he publicly revealed that he is transgender on his social media accounts.

He has said that was 6 or 7 years old when he realized he identified as a boy rather than as a girl. “I believe I am a boy and want surgery and the medication to help me be who I was supposed to be,” he explained.

Jay shared that his family is supportive and switched to using his new name and correct pronouns. However, many people speculated if he meant his entire family, including his father, since they seem to not see each other very often. We finally learned the answer to that question this week.

R. Kelly appears to be in a state of denial right now, and is possibly even looking for an explanation about how his child could be trans. During a radio interview earlier this week, he responded to a question from the host about all of the blog reports on Jay by saying, “…don’t even give the blogs that kind of credit. But as far as that’s concerned, always believe what you see — with your own eyes that is.” He seems to be implying that the blogs are reporting who Jay is rather than Jay himself. Hmmm…

When pressed further, he said that there is a “backstory” and why people can’t judge another person. Backstory? One self-described black feminist blogger (whom I won’t name or link to because I don’t want to promote her false statements towards Jay) speculated that Jay was acting out because of his father’s alleged sex crimes and was neglected at home.

One writer did call out the media by listing 5 ways their reporting was poor, from calling Jaya the wrong name and pronoun, discussing surgery, and promulgating false transgender stereotypes.

As for R. Kelly himself, I hope he stops listening to bloggers and listens to his son. Jay knows who he is. If he needs to “believe what he sees,” he needs to spend some time with his son so he can see what the rest of us can — a happy, confident teenage boy.

I’m Not Saying I Hope My Child Is Transgender, But I Would Hit It Out Of The Park

NOTE: This article which was linked to here was discovered to be a subtle parody. I’m leaving it up with this notice just to remind everyone that there are a lot of folks on the internet who take pleasure in mocking serious subjects.

A short but inspiring essay by a father, who tells dads out there how they should behave if one of their children came to them and said “I’m transgender.”

I’m Not Saying I Hope My Child Is Transgender, But I Would Hit It Out Of The Park · Clickhole.

A Thank You to the Whittington Family and Ryland

If you haven’t seen this video titled “The Whittington Family: Ryland’s Story,” you must not get online every often. It has been EVERYWHERE for the past week. I’ve seen it on dozens of websites, in my Facebook newsfeed almost 100 times, and I’ve seen the story discussed on major TV shows like Good Morning America.

The Whittington’s story is so much like our own that I was happy to see the amount of coverage it received. Their video is very well done and makes the points that so many of us with young transgender children want people to understand. Their child started expressing who he was (saying “I’m her brother” when talking about his sibling) at an early age without any prompting from them. The parents and doctors believed it might be a phase, but the phase didn’t end and his expressions about who he was grew stronger. He understood his parents’ and society’s expectations of what he was supposed to be, but he still expressed a desire to be true to himself (saying “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy.”).

It’s very difficult for me to not read comments that accompany stories online about transgender issues, especially the ones about transkids. I want to see if there is a changing attitude towards children like my daughter. I want to be hopeful. I want to see compassion. I want to see non-judgement of us as her parents. Thankfully, I saw about 90% positive comments on most of the sites and posts on social media. And when the 10% of ugliness popped up, it didn’t go unanswered. People replied, defended, explained.

Sadly, some of the websites used more salacious headlines to get clicks, such as “Parents Support Child With Sex Change.” Even sadder still, many people admitted in their comments that they didn’t watch the video and didn’t know anything about transgender issues but still felt compelled to mock the family, Ryland himself, and give their uneducated opinion about why his transition was wrong and disturbing. That would be like a hair stylist saying, “I’m not a NASA rocket scientist, but I know exactly why the space shuttle blew up on re-entry.”

I did post a comment on a couple of the larger websites, hoping to counter some of the negative responses. Here is what I said:

“To be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria (yes, it’s a medical condition), a child has to have been insistent, consistent and persistent in declaring his or her true gender for quite a while. They rule out the “just a phase” possibility by looking for these three markers. Yes, it can be hard to understand that a child can know at a young age, but can you remember making a conscious decision about your own gender? Doubtful because it happens at a young age without you needing to “decide” it. And unlike wanting to be a dinosaur and changing your mind, how many times in your life have you insisted you were a different gender? You cannot equate imaginary play with an internal sense of self.

Parents don’t influence and persuade their kids to transition. Most are dragged along in a bit of shock and disbelief as their child becomes more and more insistent over time. We certainly were. We are a conservative Republican, Southern Baptist family and certainly didn’t influence our son to declare “You know I’m a girl on the inside, don’t you?” If you have a 4-year-old child who constantly talks of death and tells you over and over again that their body is wrong, you listen.

We didn’t diagnose our daughter. The professionals who know a lot more about hormones, child development and psychology did. And you know what, we now have a 6-year-old daughter who tells us how happy she is and that she loves us several times a day instead of saying she wants to die. Call me a bad parent for allowing her to transition if you want. I sleep well at night and so does she.”

I believe the Whittington’s beautifully expressed how every parent of a transgender child feels with this statement: “Relative to the horrific things that people have to endure with their children all over the world…this is nothing. He is still healthy, handsome, and EXTREMELY happy. We signed up as parents with no strings attached.”

Love. Acceptance. And ultimately happiness. That’s what every parent should offer their child and hope to see in return.

Thank you, Whittington Family and Ryland, for sharing your story. We all benefit from seeing this kind of love.

Stepping Into the Spotlight to Shine Light on Transkids

Listen-To-Your-Mother-KC-gives-platform-to-transgirls-momLast Saturday I was one of 14 women who took the stage as the cast of the 2014 Listen To Your Mother Show in Kansas City. If you aren’t familiar with LTYM, it’s a nationwide series of live readings by women (and some men) about motherhood.

After our story about our 6-year-old transgender daughter was published in the Kansas City Star and I expanded on it with a post here, someone suggested I submit my story to Listen To Your Mother. I did and was surprised when after also reading at a live audition, my story was selected. Then a bit of apprehension struck.

My husband and I have shared our story on a local talk radio show a couple of times. I have called into the Rush Limbaugh show and was on-air twice trying to educate his audience about transgender issues. We have appeared on another local radio program called TransTalk. And, of course, we participated in the Star’s article. But in all of these cases, only first names were used and we adamantly refused to show our faces. Privacy and safety issues took precedence over everything else.

Agreeing to participate in Listen To Your Mother, though, meant that I would have to stand under a spotlight in front of an audience of strangers and talk about my daughter’s private medical life. The readings are filmed and published on YouTube for anyone to see across the planet. (I’ll add a link here when they are ready to view.) This was pushing me into new uncharted and uncomfortable territory.

Two days before I was scheduled to speak, I posted a comment on a trans advocacy group’s Facebook page. My comment received a direct reply which was the most horrible and evil thing anyone has ever said about my daughter and our family. It amounted to a death threat, and I have to admit that I was suddenly very intimidated about showing my face on stage 48 hours later. My LTYM castmates, local show producers and national leadership all rallied around me. With their love and support, I decided to look fear in the face and tell our story. It became bigger than our story. I needed to step on stage, stand up for all transgender kids and their families, and do my best to dispel myths about the transgender experience.

As much as bravado as I tried to show, I have to admit that I was the only one in our cast who started crying before uttering a single word. I finished my story in tears as well. It was much more emotional than I ever would have imagined it would be. I thought I would feel relieved as soon as I walked away from the microphone and took my seat, but I didn’t start to feel better until the next day when some of the supportive comments I’d heard after the show started to sink in.

Two days later, the local news started reporting on another family whose child was transitioning and how her school was handling it. Conservative talk shows started up with the usual conversations and callers chimed in with the same misconceptions and myths that I had tried to dispel in my LTYM speech. The weight of the world came down on me, and I realized that my one 5-minute story was merely a drop of water in what needed to be an ocean of information washing over the public. My husband and I wanted to do more.

Then the phone call came. Our wonderful gender identity therapist called to ask if we would go on TV with her in an interview.

It was now or never; time to take another stand.

We agreed and actually ended up showcased in interviews on two stations. That night, we couldn’t bring ourselves to watch and turned off all electronics to avoid any backlash from people who would recognize us.

The backlash hasn’t come (so far, anyway). Before Listen To Your Mother, I would have never considered giving a TV interview. In fact, we turned down a couple of previous opportunities because we had set limits on how far we were willing to go in our advocacy. We wanted to lead, but only if we could lead from behind a veil.

My new family — my amazing LTYM family — helped me see that I can be a leader without needing a veil. They helped me see that it’s no accident that my child is transgender, because it has allowed for personal growth and for me to step into a leadership role I wouldn’t have been prepared to do otherwise. By telling our story openly and freely, I can build a bridge between my daughter’s humanity and my audience’s humanity. I can bring understanding and help close a gap that up to this point seemed like a never-ending abyss. Because of the Listen To Your Mother Show, I am prepared to step out of the shadows and be a visible face in the fight for transgender rights. I thought the show would be five minutes in a literal spotlight. Now I recognize it was a door to bigger and greater things. Look out, world, because this mom is not backing down.

UPDATE: Interviews with the Parents of a Transgender Girl

This is a continuation of the post I made yesterday where it made the news that a transgender girl was coming out at a Raytown elementary school. This update from a different network features two video interviews with the parents of another Kansas City transgender girl which are definitely worth viewing. I know the family well and they are even more brave and awesome than their interviews let on.

Boy at Raytown elementary school asks to be called Jasmine – KCTV5.

Camp Allows Gender Non-conforming Boys To Shine

This is the sort of story which really touches me – in fact I wondered if it was a cruel hoax at first, but it appears to be absolutely real.

Over the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been documenting a four-day camp for gender-non-conforming boys and their parents.

The camp in the US, “You Are You” (the name has been changed to protect the privacy of the children and is also the name of Morris’ series), is for “parents who don’t have a gender-conforming three-year-old who wants to wear high heels and prefers to go down the pink aisle in K-Mart and not that nasty dark boys’ aisle”, Morris said with a laugh.

I think actually my favorite part of the story is the main photograph showing the smiling, clapping parents as a child walks in front of them in their dress.

It’s a feel-good transgender story, and there are two other lovely photographs at the link below, which I urge you to see.

Camp allows boys who do not conform to gender to shine.

Mom Announces Rebirth of Her Transgender Son

Its-a-boy-transgender-son-announcementOften times parents take the news that one of their kids is transgender in stride, but they still struggle with how to tell everyone else — or even if they should tell other people.

Jodi Gholson Oliver made a declaration that so many of us (especially with very young kids) would be afraid to do. She didn’t just quietly inform a select few that her son Jes is transgender, she celebrated it with a new birth announcement on Facebook. In a relatively short post, Jodi honored her son, explained the change, and let people know that she would not tolerate negativity or inappropriate questions.

While Jodi didn’t plan for her post to “go viral,” it has and it’s inspiring people across the country to send her family comments full of good wishes. Jes even got in on the act and shared her post on Tumblr where it has received more than 162,000 notes to date. I think I see a pattern of family pride, love and acceptance here.

A Mom’s Thoughts on “I am a girl” Article

transgenderJAN2014

I’d like to introduce myself to you. I am the mom of the little girl called A.J. who was profiled in an article about transgender kids in the Kansas City Star. I never thought my family would be interesting enough to be featured on the front page of a newspaper. As surprised as I am to find us there, I am also incredibly proud.

I don’t want to ruin the article for you (it’s really, really good…go read it!) by quoting much of it here. We aren’t the only family featured, either, so I don’t want to take anything away from the other kids by making it sound like it’s all about us. What I would like to do is highlight a couple of myths and arguments we hear when the subject of transkids comes up and dispel them one by one. A few are mentioned in the article — spoiler alert — but because of space limitations, some that I had mentioned to the reporter were left out.

1. We are liberals pushing a gay agenda.

Nope, sorry. I am a conservative Republican from the Deep South, raised with Southern Baptist beliefs.

2. We (or at least I, because they always blame the mom) wanted a girl, so we turned our child into one.

Again, no. I desperately wanted boys. The idea of raising a girl in today’s world scares me to death. I’d much rather be responsible for raising a good boy who knows how to treat girls well than to be responsible for raising a girl who might only be interested in bad boys.

3. There was too much female influence on our child, so “he” just grew up thinking girly things were normal and convinced himself that he was a girl. 

Hmmm, no, I can’t agree with that one either. She has an older brother, so all of their toys and clothes were “boy” things. She was in a preschool class with only 2 girls and a veritable posse of 10 boys. Crew cuts, wrestling, G.I. Joes, dinosaurs, trucks, and everything blue was what she was exposed to daily. I’m not particularly feminine. I have very short hair, rarely wear make-up, don’t polish my nails, and didn’t have a single item of pink clothing when she was younger.

4. “Kids have no idea what they want or who they are. My kid wants to be a dog. Should I let him?”

Well, that’s up to you. I wouldn’t. But there is a profound difference between wanting to be something in imaginary play and in declaring who you are insistently, consistently and persistently. Those are three markers that set transgender children apart, and my daughter displayed all of them.

5. Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age.

I agree, so it’s a good thing that being transgender has nothing to do with sex! Sexual attractions don’t happen until kids are older. You know…that whole puberty thing. Gender is strictly how a person views him or herself on the inside, and it is completely separate from who we are attracted to. The confusion between gender and sexual attraction is something that adults have a problem with and need to deal with on their own.

6. Transgender people are perverts and shouldn’t be in the bathroom with “normal” people. 

I don’t know what you go into a bathroom to do, but I know what my daughter goes in there for…and it isn’t to look around. It’s to go into a stall, lock the door, and pee where no one else can see her.

7. God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to Hell.

My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those that others rejected. Some people may choose to embrace Biblical verses that seem to say being transgender is wrong, although I believe they are ignoring the historical aspects of Biblical societies and what the verses are really talking about. I choose to focus on verses like I Samuel 16:7 which says, But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. That’s enough for me.

The newspaper was kind enough to turn off commenting on the article so that my daughter won’t have to go back later and read really ugly and hateful things about her or our family. But because of that, you might think it’s hard to know how people in our area felt about the article. Thankfully, kind and wonderful and open-minded people took the time to let the reporter know. I also shared the article with an online group for parents like us with gender non-conforming kids to see how they felt about it. Many have been burned by other news outlets who promised anonymity but then outed their children, or who turned the story into a sensational piece by including quotes by people who clearly hate the idea of any transgender person’s existence. I’d like to share a few snippets of the comments I received from both groups.

“This is hands down one of the best articles I’ve ever seen on transgender kids. I’m sending it to everyone in our family who has been less than supportive.”

“Thank you for the courage you and your family showed by opening your home and life to the journalist.”

“I am so appreciative of the thoughtful, well-researched and compassionate story you wrote about A.J. I wish every child was blessed with parents like them.”

“Please share my support, admiration and best wishes with A.J.’s family. Raising our children requires more of us than we ever expect and the profile your story shared tells me about people with extraordinary compassion, courage and resolve to do their best. A.J. is the blessing and the blessed.” (This one made me cry.)

“This article will serve to enlighten a world still mostly unaware of transgender challenges and will provide solace and community to other transgender children and their families for many years to come.”

“I am 63 years old and have been fighting this battle since I was 5. It took me 50 years to come out to myself, God and my family. Articles like this are a major way the general public will begin to understand what we go through.” 

“I have two little girls and don’t care what A.J.’s biology is. Please have her mom contact me if she’d like to arrange a play date or just meet another family what will welcome her family just as they are.” (Awww. I never expected this kind of offer!)

“Transgender children is not something I have ever thought about before. I will now tell my children that there aren’t just boys and girls in the world, and that someone like A.J. is wonderful because they get to know both.” (Well, not really since she knows she is a girl, but there are many gender-nonconforming kids who don’t feel they fit on either side of the binary, and this is a beautiful sentiment for them. Thank you.)

One of my favorites was a voicemail from a mother in Connecticut. (“Isn’t it wonderful how the internet lets people all over the world read a local news story?”) She has a 10-year-old transgender son who transitioned in 2rd grade. I could hear her voice shaking as she thanked the writer for telling a story like hers and including so many details of our journeys as parents of transkids that are never shared. She ended the call quickly, with obvious tears in her voice as she said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re the best.”

 

#transkids  #transchildren  #transgender  #parenting  #unconditionallove

Personal Reactions to the KC Star Article on a Local Transgender Family

Local_Transkid

I didn’t post this on Sunday when it ran, because I wanted to get some “reactions” from my co-workers and others who I know are frequent readers of the Kansas City Star.

I started receiving e-mails and IM’s yesterday, and then today fielded a variety of questions from interested co-workers. The reaction from those who read it and contacted me was highly positive. Many asked if I had seen the article because it was “great,” but most folks assumed I knew the family (of course I do, I consider them dear friends). Comments I received fell into the following lines:

“I didn’t know there were transgender kids that young.”

“I know you had it hard, Una, but I can’t imagine how hard it must be for the girl in the article.”

“Her parents are very brave.”

“I wish I’d had parents like hers.”

“I hope these kids will get protection from bullies.”

“I’d have to hire a bodyguard or send my son[sic] to Tae Kwon Do every day if they did this, but I’d be there for him.[sic]”

“I know you’ve told me a lot about…people like you, but it never hit me that kids could have this.”

“It really helped open my eyes.”

I also received a few questions, mostly along the lines of “are there lots of kids like this?,” “do they give the kids surgery that early?” and “how do you even deal with something like this? It’s hard enough being a parent!” (which is more of a rhetorical question, true)

I have to hope that the large number of positive reactions which I witnessed is at least somewhat indicative of how the public in general views the subject of transgender kids in particular, and transgender persons in general. I have to hope.

There are some other links which you should see, in addition to the primary link at the end of this post. This link takes you to an extensive gallery of photographs of local transgender children going about their everyday lives. And this link takes you to a local video on this subject.

‘I am a girl’: Transgender children face a society slow to accept them – KansasCity.com.

Rolling Stone – Coy Mathis’ Fight to Change Gender

Coy Mathis made the news quite a bit this summer, and then her story dropped out of the public attention. Rolling Stone magazine is bringing it back to the forefront via a comprehensive and well-done article which was forwarded to me by Attorney Madeline Johnson.

I do question this statistic which was reported:

If the trans movement is the LGBT’s final frontier, then transgender youth represents its farthest outpost. Kids are coming out as trans earlier than ever: A survey of the San Francisco school district found that 1.6 percent of high school students and, incredibly, one percent of middle-school students identified as transgender.

If true, that blows any other survey out of the water, as IIRC the highest percentage reported for transgender youth by any scientific study was about 0.3-0.5%.
The article does a good job of outlining the hatred of religious conservatives towards our existence.

However, any reasonable discussion on the subject has been drowned out by conservative Republicans, who have staked out a position that is reflexively anti-trans. “Is that not the craziest thing you’ve ever heard?” Mike Huckabee asked at October’s right-wing Values Voter Summit, speaking of California’s anti-discrimination-schools law; California Republicans have already targeted its repeal as a top priority. Earlier this year, House Republicans tried to strip the Violence Against Women Act of its protections for transgender women, and Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh introduced a bill that would have made it a crime for trans people to use their preferred bathrooms. Fox News commentators vehemently oppose any accommodation of trans kids in schools, something Bill O’Reilly calls “anarchy and madness.”

Perhaps no one is more outraged, however, than the religious right, of which Focus on the Family reigns as a dominant force. On Focus’ 81-acre Colorado Springs campus, some 600 employees put a chunk of their $90 million annual budget to work creating LGBT intolerance on every front, including fighting “safe-school” anti-bullying initiatives and pushing reparative therapy. Leading Focus’ charge to push people back into the closet is its “gender-issues analyst” Jeff Johnston, himself a proud “ex-gay” – now a married father of three boys – who blames what he calls the “sexual brokenness” of LGBT people on a combination of poor parenting, molestation and original sin. In his newsletters for Focus, Johnston treats trans people in particular with amused pity. “Male and female are categories of existence,” he wrote this year. “It is dehumanizing to categorize individuals by the ever-proliferating alphabet of identities based on sexual attractions or behavior or ‘gender identity’ – LGBBTTQQIAAFPPBDSM – however many letters are added. No. We stand with the truth.”

Don’t ever kid yourself that a large segment of America wouldn’t be quite happy to eliminate us.
It’s also telling reading how the principal of the school which discriminated against Coy just simply didn’t give a shit that he was breaking state law.

As attorney William Kelly Dude would write in the accompanying position paper, while perhaps it seemed acceptable for a harmless six-year-old like Coy to enter the girls’ room, he vividly described what a future infiltrator could look like: “a male high school student with a lower voice, chest hair and with more physically mature sex organs who claims to be transgender and demands to use the girls’ restroom” – a menacing portrait of an impostor that echoed the threat of Focus on the Family’s “Predator” ad. That hairy deviant would soon be Coy herself, as Dude would write the Mathises: “As Coy grows older and his male genitals develop . . . at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his continued use of the girls’ restroom.” The decision had come down swiftly: For the protection of the district as a whole, Coy was to be banned from the girls’ restroom.

“You know this is against the law, right?” Kathryn demanded of Principal Crow in his office a couple of days after his phone call. This wasn’t just about finding Coy a toilet. It was about the larger message Coy would be forced to internalize every time she had to relieve herself: that she was abnormal, that there was something so grotesque or unsafe about her that her very presence in a place as delicate as a bathroom was intolerable. And Coy wouldn’t be the only one digesting that attitude; so, too, would her peers.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Crow, a tall, soft-spoken man with dark, slicked-back hair, told Kathryn. “My hands are tied.”

Well too bad, dude, you lost and civil rights won. Deal with it.

Coy Mathis’ Fight to Change Gender | Culture News | Rolling Stone.

Great ABA Article on Transgender Youth

Coy_Collage
Really, I can’t do much justice to this article by trying to summarize it here. It’s a lengthy and comprehensive piece by the American Bar Association on the current status and developments in the field of accommodating transgender kids in schools, sports, and life.

I found this part here telling, about the discrimination faced by Nicole Maines.

By the time Nicole was in the third grade, according to the complaint, Asa C. Adams Elementary School recognized her as a female student and outlined how the situation would be handled in an education plan. She was placed in the girls’ chorus section, and it was agreed that she should use the girls’ restroom.

Shortly after Nicole started the fifth grade, a male classmate twice followed her into the girls’ restroom and called Nicole a fag, according to the complaint. He also disputed her use of the girls’ restroom. The boy was sent to the principal’s office, Levi says.

The boy reportedly entered the girls’ restroom again, and the school determined that the student’s grandfather, who was his guardian, encouraged him, according to Levi and the lawyer for the school district, Melissa Hewey.

So some hateful old geezer brainwashed his grandson. Classy.

The boy was suspended and removed from Nicole’s class, Hewey says. The boy’s grandfather, Paul Melanson, complained to the Orono School Committee, with support from the Christian Civic League of Maine.

Of course, because bullying, harassment, and slurs are the sorts of things Jesus would approve of. Wait, what?

Melanson also filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Prohibiting his grandson from using the girls’ bathroom or the faculty one like Nicole did, he argued, violated the boy’s right to public accommodation under the state human rights act.

Shame there weren’t punitive fines for frivolous actions.

“It ticks me right off that you’re letting a kid run the whole system,” Melanson told the Bangor Daily News. “Little boys do not belong in the little girls’ room, and vice versa. This isn’t just about my kid. A lot of children have come up to me and said that this isn’t right.”

Oh, the children have ruled it isn’t right. Well, that convinces me – everyone, back in the closet!

After the Maines’ lawsuit, a state senator proposed a modification to the state human rights act that would shield public institutions and businesses from discrimination complaints involving transgender people and bathrooms, showers and locker rooms. The proposal failed.

Yeah…feelin’ the hate here.

If you want to dig into the deeper details of what transgender youth are facing today, take a read.

For young people, transgender life means stress and confusion over restrooms, sports and harassment.