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An Educator’s Role in Affirming Transgender Children

Educators play a key role in affirming transgender youth

An educator’s role in affirming transgender children is priceless.

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. Additionally, teachers are the first adults to see bullying and hostile treatment from other students. And as a result, 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 preferred 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. In short, 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. Ultimately, 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. Do what you can to educate your peers. For example, share resources and information that supports 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. Despite a 504 instructing the teacher to come up with creative ways to divide the class, it persisted. 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. To conclude, transgender children want to be loved and accepted just like every other child in the class. 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 towards educators. Time To Thrive is an annual conference held by the Human Rights Campaign. Their monthly newsletter is a bright spot in my day. In your classroom, make sure all are welcome.

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Pride Is More Than Corporate Parades & Floats

It has been five Pride’s since my daughter shared her truth with us. Pride means a lot to my daughter. She understands it to be a special time for people to come together to celebrate their differences. To relish in our individuality and support others like her. 

During her first Pride, she wore her very first dress. It was a long, cotton, teal, maxi dress with rainbow animals printed on the fabric. Her hair, still so short and soft, was pulled back on one side with a mesh bow with brightly colored pom pom balls inside.

It was just the two of us testing the water, as her news was very new. We had not yet shared outside of our bubble and she was not ready to socially transition.

We spent the day roaming around Washington, DC, weaving in and out of streets and parks. Skirting the outside of the parade as I was a neophyte and not sure about the appropriateness for children. We walked, shopped, played Pokemon Go and dined at Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse. We stayed in an Air B&B and went to the National Zoo the next morning.

As she has grown so have our Pride calendars. We come together for community with our fellow area parents of transgender kids and have pool parties, picnics, and games. We wave flags, have been back to Capital Pride twice more and then the pandemic hit.

My daughter is sad that we will miss the big Pride event this year. 

Nearly three months ago she started asking again, what is the plan? Although our Pride will not be coming together in large crowds, we most definitely have plans for a private gathering with our close friends. We have ordered our Pride lawn art from the Human Rights Campaign and already have signs and flags adorning our yard. 

No matter if Pride is a corporate-sponsored event, a local community gathering, or a small group of parents dedicated to affirming and uplifting their beautiful children. For the marginalized LGBTQIA+ umbrella, Pride should be about time. The time we set aside to come together with intention. The time we show up for our kids, friends, siblings, parents, and grandparents. Pride doesn’t have to mean floats and closed streets. It needs to be an intentional act to make those who feel “less than” and “other”, valued and special. 

So baby girl, get your flag out, your best Pride outfit and let’s go! I can’t wait!!

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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. 

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3 Things My Trans Daughter Taught Me Through a Game of Capture the Flag

After a full day of work, I come home to pick up my older two children to take them to soccer practice. My daughter is patiently waiting for me by the door. Typically, this is not a good sign. “Mommy,” she said, “we need to talk. School was not good. I’m coming to ride in the car with you.”

As we drive in silence, she takes out her computer and starts putting her words to paper. When we arrive at soccer practice, she tells me that it is too hard to talk and that she needs me to read her book. I am thankful because her school recently gave her access to book writing software and it is a great tool to help her get her feelings on paper. She is just like her mother in that regard.

In her story, she describes PE class that day. The children engage in playing capture the flag when suddenly there are whispers and commentary. Someone has directed that they should “go easy on the girls” and my daughter becomes visibly upset. In the story, her best friend is off to the side participating in the chatter. This is the moment where I hold my breath. Authentic friendships are really important in life, aren’t they?

Lesson Number One: Children are so powerful.

My daughter is incredibly astute when it comes to gender stereotyping and sexist remarks. In her 10 years on this planet, she has grown into a force fighting sexism and gender roles and stereotypes. Yes, you read that correctly. She is merely 10 years old. 

Lesson number two: We need to STOP categorizing people by gender.

My daughter recognizes that when we’re taking it easy on the girls or playing like a boy, we do not leave room for people who identify outside of the binary. She has friends who identify as non-binary and she embraces their truth just as she does her own. My daughter is not alone. In their study of gender stereotypes in socially-transitioned transgender children, Olson and Enright found that “transgender children and siblings of transgender children show less gender stereotyping and greater tolerance of gender nonconformity than other children.”

Lesson number three: Although she is brave, my daughter feels these microaggressions deeply, and so do her peers.

My daughter is extremely upset about what happened. She laments about how hard it is to be transgender. People innocently throw gender stereotypes in her face all of the time. She explains to me that these kids do not understand how hard her life is. She is constantly reminded of her “otherness” when people impose rules, regulations, laws, and norms on her and her trans and non-binary friends. Even when these rules are simply enforced in a capture the flag game. In their presentation titled Transgender Youth: Needs, Risks, Outcomes and the Role of the System, Dr. Johanna Olson discusses the impact of systems, sexism, and heteronormative behavior on transgender people and the harms and adverse outcomes such societal structures inflict.

Friends, it amazes me what a simple capture the flag game has taught me. What it can teach a group of 10-year-olds. In short, my daughter gives me hope for the future. As I witness her and her friends navigate the ins and outs of something as simple as capture the flag, I realize that her school friends are always listening and watching. Above all, they love her and want the best for her. Though her path is not easy she will-Be The Change.

Love is possible. Change is possible. Now go grab that flag like the badass human being that you are.

Note: Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and open my email messages. The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia was created in 2004 to draw the attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics.

The date of May 17th is specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

On this day, I remember the 23 known transgender people who have been murdered in 2021 already. According to Everytown for Gun Safety 72% of recorded trans murders have happened with guns and 78% of those murdered were black. With 44 known murders, the year 2020 is the deadliest on record for transgender. The year 2021 poises itself to break that record. My reader, by becoming educated and articulate about what it means to be transgender or non-binary, you are making a difference. When you come back each week to read my quick blog post reflecting on my life, on my privileged life, your veil is lifted. The plight of transgender women, particularly those of color, cannot be underestimated.

Today, I am asking you to donate $5.00 to The Human Rights Campaign. HRC has been at the forefront of combatting the caustic legislation that is further marginalizing our transgender children, sisters, brothers, aunties, and uncles. Above all, we thank you for your support.

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When a Simple Call Changes Everything

“Do you have time to talk?” My stomach hits the floor as I read these words from my children’s school. All of my readers out there who are parents know that feeling, don’t you? The heart quickens, the sweat starts to bead up on your forehead. I feel like this feeling intensifies when it pertains to my trans child. It has been a difficult couple of weeks with multiple doctor appointments and the start of counseling. In short, they are entering the stage where their body begins to change and defy their identity. This is an emotionally difficult time in the life of a transgender person. They are in the thick of it and everything is hard. To clarify, we are in the process of starting trans puberty classes, talking about hormones, and having conversations about mental health and in hindsight, I see that it was a lot to digest. 

Friends, fight or flight is no joke. Of course, when it comes to your children, flight is never an option, so I steady myself as I respond to the text. “Please,” I plead to myself. “Please let them be in trouble for rolling around on the floor, sleeping in music, or refusing to participate in PE.” 

“Yes,” I shakily respond.  “What did they do?” Meanwhile, I patiently wait for hours for a response. Who am I kidding…it was 5 minutes and I am anything but patient, so I call. 

Thankfully, the gentle, calm, familiar voice of our beloved psychologist greets me on the other end of the line. “They have disclosed to some other children.” It is worth noting that as I navigate this life and the hills and valleys that come with it, I am constantly reminded of the importance of having a steady support group. Whether it be a psychologist that just “gets” your child and will help guide and soothe them when you can’t be there or a trans parent support group that has walked your walk and can guide you along the way, the importance of a steady support group is essential.

So back to the call. It was one of those calls that made me sob in my car as I stuffed copious amounts of french fries into my body. A call that sent me directly to my trans support group for guidance. It was the first of what I know will be many calls, but it just didn’t make it any easier. We all knew this day would come and I know we are ready to help them navigate this process, but it still felt very scary. 

It’s funny how fight or flight works. As I was reunited with my child, the fight instinct took over. I gently reminded my baby that they are the sun and the moon and the stars. That they are light and love and that the world without them would be dark. Above all, I reminded them that their father and I support them every step of the way and that we will help them write their story and that together we can move mountains. 

Friends, are you walking through a dark time right now? Perhaps your dark time doesn’t include conversations about hormones, disclosure, or body changes that don’t feel right. Maybe it is grief, or fear, or hopelessness. A reminder to you. All are welcome. We all need that steady support group. Moreover, if you find yourself in need of such a group, email me or comment below. We are all in this together.

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The Weight of the Words

The weight of words. As I begin this post, I want to remind my readers that I use my platform to promote acceptance and love for everyone. Every single person. All Are Welcome is not for cuteness or lip service. I live and breathe the sentiment behind my writing. It is my passion to shed light on the injustice bestowed upon people from all walks of life, particularly those who are silenced or pushed to the side. With that disclaimer, let me begin. 

I was recently part of a small group that met monthly to discuss diversity and more specifically, bias and prejudice. This topic is very personal to me, so if a group is assembling to educate and learn, consider me there. We were led by a knowledgeable guide who offered insight, education, and a perspective that I appreciated. Some of the material struck a chord deep within. I wept more times than I care to admit. 

At each of our meetings, I listen and learn about the lies used as weapons and stated as facts to manipulate, oppress, and harm our African American communities. I identify so much with the language of racism, anti-racism, and assimilation. Above all, I finally have words for something I have not been able to describe in my own community. 

I was so passionate about the connection between what is happening to the African American community and what I see in other marginalized communities that I gently press to extend the conversation to include everyone. Neurodiverse kids, dyslexia, LGBTQ, selective mutism. I try to draw connections because as a mother of a transgender daughter, I know too well how all of this feels. This oppression and manipulation is widespread to MANY communities! I attempt to speak many times but to no avail. 

I watch in horror as a group assembled specifically to promote diversity and equity among ALL people is silencing me. People who, based on their willingness to participate in this type of group, should be listening and validating what I am saying pushed me aside.

Today, on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, I am shouting from the rooftops. Today is our day. We will be seen. We will be heard.

The statistics for my marginalized community are absolutely staggering. According to The Trevor Project, 27% of transgender students report feeling unsafe going to school and 31% report being victims of sexual violence in the past 12 months alone. I invite you to visit the site and read for yourself. 

This does not take away from the horrific atrocities that have been intentionally, disgustingly, and repeatedly inflicted on the African American community. However, why do we fixate on who is higher or lower on the ladder? To be clear, I am not suggesting that the trans community is worse off than black America. What I am simply saying is that I am here and I want room. I’m not asking for all of the room or most of the room. I just want a little room. 

The facilitator of the diversity group started our session with the phrase “the weight of the words.” She was of course speaking about bias and prejudice. But that simple phrase taught me another lesson too. If asking gently over and over to share my voice doesn’t work (and it didn’t), I will have to step in and make my voice heard. The world will feel the weight of my words. Of our words. Because I AM HERE. My child is important too. And so is every single person in her marginalized cohort. Shout it with me friends. We are here! And there is nothing you can do to stop us from being heard. All are welcome. 

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She Deserves To Play

She deserves to play. It is a fundamental right.

I am the mother of a young girl who enjoys moving her body, is an amazing teammate, and wants to play sports. In other words, she wants to do something that should be within her fundamental rights to do. She deserves to play.

The reality is that I am a mother of a ten-year-old transgender daughter and because of that simple fact, her right to play is being threatened. Unfortunately, because of a previous administration that has made my daughter the target of dangerous laws and policies, we will forever have to fight for her right to play. Sadly, we will have to challenge laws that threaten her right to run, high-five her teammates, lose, and maybe most importantly, be a good sport.

Fortunately, we have a new leader who is ushering in a kinder, more tolerant era of inclusivity. Thankfully, we have hope. Biden signed an executive order allowing students to compete in sports according to their gender identification. However, I challenge you to think about what happens when the administration changes again. Furthermore, people are challenging his order as we speak. This could forever impact my child’s right to play sports.  Perhaps, your child will be impacted as well.

To those who question my daughter’s right to play soccer, swim, play field hockey, or any other sport, I’m all in. I am ready for the fight. Please, consider the implications of this. Do we all line up for chromosomal and hormonal testing and physical exams? You can’t test one person without testing all athletes, right? After all, that is discrimination.

In short, to those who are discussing this over the water cooler or preaching it from the pulpit, think about how your vote affects these types of policies. Above all, I ask you to think about my daughter and the entire trans community. Please consider the fact that this discrimination and segregation are personally devastating to real humans. Humans with feelings, and hopes, and dreams. People who deserve the simple, basic right to play soccer, swim, or play field hockey, just like everyone else. To summarize, she deserves to play.

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Are You Obligated to Disclose Your Child’s Gender Identity?

Are you obligated to disclose your child’s gender identity? Disclosure is such a tricky subject for the parents of young children who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. As cis gender adults we often try to smooth the rough spots through the lens of our cis-normative lenses. Let me share my story.

It started as an innocent brunch. There she sat, across from me at the Bob Evans. Our daughters were in elementary school and very dear friends.  I invited her to brunch to discuss something heavy over coffee and pancakes. We spoke about how much the girls enjoy spending time together and that my daughter loved the many border collies they were raising. The dogs were beautiful and so incredibly smart. Trying to find common ground, I talked about having grown up with border collies myself. Our female, Katie, was so smart that she would sit at the edge of the electric fence and let the warning sound go off until the battery died. She did this so she could leave the yard. Wicked smart that one.

When the small talk ended, I knew it was now or never. With a deep breath and tears in my eyes, I silently scolded myself. Why is it so hard to talk about? 

Before losing my courage, I explained to her that my daughter had transitioned that year. I said that if her daughter were to hear about this at school, I was hoping their family would be an ally. She sat, stunned, staring at me as tears dripped down my face. Damn it. I was so mad at myself for crying. I am not weak, and this is not something for which I am asking forgiveness. It just felt so vulnerable laying this out in front of her. Did I do the right thing by disclosing my daughter’s precious truth? 

I will never forget her next words. “Have you considered genetic testing?” 

Stunned, I composed myself and couldn’t believe that these words were coming out of this woman’s mouth. A woman who just moments ago, spoke to me like a friend. I politely indicated that we had not. She took the opportunity to give me a quick lesson in her version of biology. She shared that chromosomal abnormalities would explain everything. Problem solved. 

I was polite. Brunch ended.

Leaving our time together, I felt a feeling that has since become all too familiar. The altogether devastating panic that sucks the breath and sounds out of your body while adrenaline pumps and the mind races. The feeling of being beheld by utter silence. That feeling you got when you were young and too scared to scream. These people have direct access to my daughter. They have proximity to her. They have her when I am not with her to mitigate what they say. Chromosomal abnormalities and all.

Unsurprisingly, the little girl was never available to play again, although I had hoped for a better outcome. All because of an innocent brunch. To this day, my daughter relishes the memories of her playdates and those beautiful border collies. She still asks if they can get together. I gently make up excuses, never revealing the devastating truth. I can’t imagine the feeling of ruin in the wake of being rejected for your identity. But how can I forever protect her from that? How long can we shelter her? 

You are not obligated to disclose your child’s gender identity. Please think carefully before sharing such an important part of their identity.