Until recently, transgender issues were quietly set aside. No one noticed us or seemed to care. That was good... sort of. Today, however, our trans children are hearing far too much. The headlines speak of state legislatures and religious groups expressing how horrible transgender people are. The children are not stupid – trans kids hear people saying they are perverted and are a threat. How can a little six-year-old trans girl be a threat to anyone? Yet, she must hear adults talk and debate and have meetings about trans kids and school facilities. She sees other girls in her class using a restroom to which she is barred. She sees parents picketing and protesting about her own identity while the identities of her classmates are never questioned. She goes to shop at a Target with her parents and must pass a gauntlet of haters with signs and shouts about how horrible transgender people are – about how terrible she is. Our transgender boys and girls have been thrust into the eye of this storm and those of us who care are trying our best to keep them safe.
The parents of transgender children are being challenged as well. First, there is the realization that my child is trans – neither she nor we chose this. Then, once we accept that reality, there is the task of finding support – from other family members, neighbors, the school, health providers. Away from urban areas this can be difficult. A new support group for parents of transgender and gender-nonconforming children is forming in the Cumberland Valley (Hagerstown, Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Carlisle areas). The group is associated with TransParentUSA, a non-profit organization begun in St. Louis by several parents who had nowhere to turn for assistance. They found that by seeking support and connection with other transforming families, understanding and acceptance was enhanced. Not only working together to find resources and community support, TransParent has been busy providing education opportunities for others. As advocates for transgender children, these parents are countering the hate and ignorance spewed forth by the uncaring adults who have no idea about the difficult struggle being transgender can be – a struggle not only endured by the trans children, but also by the families who love them.
Monthly meetings of TransParent have included parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others. The group meetings are a time for the sharing of experiences and resources, a time for parents to express their fears and concerns, and a place to examine what it means to be young and transgender. The meetings are also a place for parents to discover that they and their children are not alone and that there are other parents and children in their community experiencing similar struggles.
Laura Anderson is an educator, author, researcher, parent, and granddad. Her years teaching in public school as male provided the foundation for her more recent role educating future teachers. Living female for the past decade, she has come to appreciate the privileges she once held– both male and cisgender– privileges now replaced with the fulfillment of living as her true self.