Parents of transgender children across the country and their allies are fighting for equal rights in light of the President Trump and key administration officials decision to withdraw federal guidance explaining what the nation’s public schools must do to protect transgender students. These are the words of a 4J parent with a trans child who has tackled the question of “how can I help?”
How Can I Help?
I’ve received some messages over the past week from friends asking, “We want to show our love and support, what can we do to be strong allies?” The truth is, you can do a lot. Many parents of trans kids choose to remain anonymous or do advocacy quietly because the hatred against trans folks is some of the most evil stuff I’ve ever seen. Did you know there are ferociously active groups committed to trolling trans people online with the sole intention of getting them to hurt or kill themselves? That those who are open about having trans children or being trans regularly receive death threats?
So, yes, as parents we walk the line between fighting openly on behalf of our children and wanting to protect our privacy/keep our kids safe. Which is too bad, because the misinformation about trans issues is enormous and there is great need for more people speaking out and teaching that trans is NOTHING to fear.
Our family is surrounded by wonderful people who love and affirm our child, but we’ve still been removed from holiday card lists, told our family and our child is going to hell, and given more well-intentioned but horribly mis-informed advice than I can even begin to tell you about. And we live in about the safest little progressive bubble in the U.S.
But I think about my home state of Missouri, where proposed anti-trans laws like bathroom bills are really, as Laverne Cox says, about erasing trans people’s right to exist in public spaces. I think about kids living in communities where school board members tell trans kids they are abominations, that they don’t deserve to exist, much less to have equal access. Where kids are rejected by their families and kicked out on the street because of their gender identity. Where being outed as trans puts you at great risk of being hurt or killed.
So, friends and family who want to support kids like ours, what can you do? First, look to your community: your family, your friends, your church, your schools, your city, your state. Where can you can offer support locally? How can you educate others? Are you speaking up when you hear hateful/misinformed talk? What are the policies and doctrines at your workplace or place of worship? Your state laws? Are they supportive of LGBTQ issues? If they aren’t, what are you doing to change them? If you need to educate yourself more, look to resources like genderspectrum.com and read, read read. Watch videos like the National Geographic special Gender Revolution: A Journey With Katie Couric
Give money to organizations like the ACLU, Gender Spectrum, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The ACLU in Virginia is representing a true American hero, high-schooler Gavin Grimm, who is fighting for the right to use the bathroom at school that matches his gender identity.
[This is for those in the I-just-don’t-get-it category] Are you still uncertain about the bathroom thing? Send me a message and I am happy to talk with you. Then you will understand that supporting keeping trans people out of the bathroom that matches their gender identity is akin to supporting racially segregated restrooms. Are you uncomfortable with the idea of people being transgender or how children can really know if they are? Read and educate yourself (see above), maybe have a friendly (non-prying) conversation with a trans person or two, and then just steer clear of supporting policies or politicians hell-bent on making life harder for people who are trans.
Finally, if you stand up and speak out and use the resources available to you (be it advocacy, your privilege, your $, your influence) when you hear hate talk (yes, jokes count) or to change discriminatory policies and practices at your school or workplace or place of worship—then you are an ally. And as an ally you are working to change our country so that as the cutest little first-grader I know grows up, he can be as safe as any cisgender person is—just being who he is. This mama thanks you.