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International Day of Families

Top right, Jan Moore logo. Bottom right, two hands holding a brown piece of paper with the word family printed. Left, a couple gazing lovingly while embracing.

May 15th is International Day of Families. So it got me thinking. What is a family? Webster defines family in several different ways, but the one that I relate to the most is “a group of related things.” The very first definition states that a family is a parent and child. I could not disagree with that more. But that is a post for another day, so let’s just focus on thinking of a family as a group of related things.

We are lucky in my house. Our immediate family is loving, accepting, and safe. Perfect? No. But we do try to make sure that each member feels like they can be their authentic self. That is not the case in all families. And I am not 100% sure, but my bet is that one of the number one ways to make a person feel “seen” is to accept them as they are. And this starts in the home.

I was recently at a conference, and I spoke at length with a woman who is involved in the foster care system. She shared with me that in her world, 1:3 of foster kids identify as lgbtqia2s+. She and I discussed the repeated trauma inflicted by children placed in homes that are not affirming and the child having to be placed again and again and again.

The stark reality is that not all people belong to a loving, safe, and accepting family. And that is why we need to widen our lens when we answer the question, what is a family? To kick off this important topic, I thought it might be nice to highlight some books that focus on MY definition of family. Let’s highlight stories that shed light on the different kinds of families and their value to society.

Books that Answer the Question, What is a Family

Hopefully, these books will inspire you as you ponder the question, what is a family? Do you have any titles to add to the list? Please share with us in the comments.

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Imposter Syndrome Parenting

upper left man holding mustache on stick with dark glasses. Lower right, sunflower next to a laptop computer with the word imposter on a yellow sticky note.

What is imposter syndrome and how does it affect parenting? And most importantly, why do I feel like a fraud as the parent of a transgender child? Imposter syndrome parenting isn’t anything new and it is not isolated to parenting either.

Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as, “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.” In the context of their article, they a specifically talking about women in the workplace. In my life, I feel like I don’t deserve to be in the room when sharing my lived experience. I fear that people won’t like me, and will accuse me of being performative or of saying the wrong thing. It is hard. So, how do we overcome this imposter syndrome parenting? Let’s dig deeper.

Until nearly eight years ago, I did not know anyone identifying as trans, non-binary, or gender diverse. I was a fish out of water for the first time. We all have awkward moments in our lives. Whether it’s being the new person at school, starting a new job, or going to a party where we only know one person. Each time we walk into a new situation and are vulnerable to the group, we open ourselves to being rejected. When you are a cisgender, heterosexual person and you embark on being the parent of a trans child, you are about to understand exactly how difficult it is to assimilate in inclusive spaces.

In his book, Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Paulo Freire describes the relationship between oppressors and the oppressed. I received a book from a friend following a particularly difficult conversation with a group of lgbtq+ community members. Having read this book several times, I believe it offers insight into the precarious position parent advocates of transgender children face. Our laser-focused drive for change, desire for safety, and thirst for understanding make people react. And this can really cause imposter syndrome parenting. Make us question ourselves and our place in this space.

To clarify, many spaces I have entered have been welcoming. I have been grateful for those who have offered me grace and kindly corrected my mistakes. Acknowledging the fact that I am struggling as the parent of a transgender child, does not detract from the struggle of transgender people. Being transgender, non-binary or gender-diverse is hard in 2023.

It is also hard being the parent of a transgender little person and desperately grasping for understanding and change. As a parent who wants to learn from the transgender community, it is hard to walk into conversations with open ears and heart and feel rejection. To be clear, these aren’t my white woman tears. It is just my reality, of my imposter syndrome as the parent of a transgender child.

So friends, have you experienced imposter syndrome parenting? What about in other spaces in your life? If so, let this be an encouragement to us all. Everyone feels this way sometimes and it is NORMAL. And if we are confident in our space, let us be the first to look around the room and find the people who might not be.

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An Educators Role In Affirming Transgender Youth

A national survey by GLSEN has found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school.

The survey concludes that those who persevere have significantly lower GPAs.

These students are more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety,

They are less likely to continue furthering their education after high school. 

So, what do these statements mean for educators? 

Educators have a unique and prominent role in the lives of these children. For some, teachers are the only safe adults in their lives because their parents and siblings are non-affirming. Moreover, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And they are the first people who can respond in a way that makes a transgender child feel validated and safe. Below are 5 simples ways to affirm transgender children in your classroom.

  1. Use identified pronouns and names. This is a simple yet impactful way to validate these children for who they are. When in doubt, have courageous conversations with the child about which pronouns they prefer. 
  2. Acknowledge and react to mistreatment from other children. It is no secret that mental health is a serious concern in the transgender community. One cause of depression and suicidal thoughts in transgender children is bullying. Do everything you can to prevent it. 
  3. Focus on the whole child. Transgender children are so much more than a pronoun. Find out what gives them joy. Talk with them about books, hobbies, or other activities they enjoy. Praise them for the beautiful person they are. 
  4. Educate your colleagues. Sometimes, people’s bias is unintended and comes from a place of misunderstanding or the consumption of disinformation. So, do what you can to educate your peers. Share resources and information that support the affirmation of transgender children.
  5. Think of creative ways to divide your classroom activities. Even after she transitioned, my daughter was instructed to line up in the boys line in gym class. Her reaction was embarrassment and hurt feelings. The gym teacher publicly shamed my daughter in front of her peers. It persisted despite a 504 instructing the teacher to devise creative ways to divide the class. Ideas can be anything from your favorite color or guess the number. Have fun with it. Dividing into the binary is so 2000.
  6. Don’t overthink everything. Above all, transgender children want to be loved and accepted, just like every other child in the class. Therefore, sticking to this basic principle will yield dividends in terms of a trusting, reciprocal, healthy relationship with your student. 

For more incredible suggestions, subscribe to one of my favorite newsletters targeted toward educators. Time To Thrive is an annual conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Their monthly newsletter is a bright spot in my day. Most important, in your classroom, make sure all are welcome.

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“Let’s conjure up, from the depth of our souls:

The truest, most beautiful lives we can imagine.

The truest, most beautiful families we can fathom.

The truest, most beautiful world we can hope for.”

~Glennon Doyle, Untamed, 2020

I feel lost. Succumbing to the undertow and being swept out to sea. The overt oppression, police violence, unkindness, greed, and yes, the virus. The damn virus. I have stepped away from my passion, my calling, because I am under siege by the virus. Finding the path through the storm, foraging forward, and putting on a brave face as a provider in a health system that people are undermining for political gain. 

When I read the above quote by Glennon Doyle, it called to me. In reality, her book should call to all of us to rise above the social constructs and niceties that chain us down. To imagine in terms of love and light, not mired down in the despair of the known, but to reach down into our soul to find the path forward. The beauty in what can be, rather than what is. For a million reasons, I have been buried in what is. From this point forward, I am taking back my power. I am making the conscious choice to walk into the vision of what our world, our nation, my community can be. 

Ironically, much of the recent rhetoric is focused on dismantling social constructs that are chaining down those who are marginalized. Those benefiting from such ideals, beliefs, and institutions are reluctant to relinquish their privilege even if they are granted such privilege by stepping on the backs of those in their wake. So, when I imagine and work towards my truest, most beautiful….I find myself struggling with what is.  What is, quite frankly, is really scary, sad, and hard for the trans community. 

My truest, most beautiful life and family does not include neighbors discussing whether my daughter can compete in sports against their kids. They are not discussing whether my child should have access to hormones. We don’t have to leave the public school system because of, discrimination, and lack of services for her learning difference.

Moreover, in my truly beautiful world, authors with the power of the literary pen and leaders of countries do not use their power to legislate, discriminate, marginalize, and oppress in the name of their racist agenda. The naysayers use words like socialism, communism, and liberal. Which are all, ironically, social constructs that people use to manipulate. To pigeon-hole the believers into a winner-takes-all, us and them syndrome. That somehow by allowing in the beauty and light will somehow diminish theirs. When in fact, the synergy of positivity, inclusivity, and togetherness will bring prosperity for us all. 

It is through connection, affirmation, and respecting our individual uniqueness that we appreciate the complexity of our human experience. In summary, without each piece of the puzzle, the whole is solitary and void of the abundant richness of our humanity.