Last summer, while I was engrossed in creating the rainbow that is my daughter’s hair, my husband came barreling into the room reading from his phone. “Another trans woman has been murdered,” he said, “She’s a trans woman of color in Kansas City and the media keeps mis-gendering her.”
Immediately, I wanted to reach out to any and every TV or radio station and remind them of the GLAAD media guidelines and ask that they correct their stories. My mind was racing. There was a lot to do, and quickly.
Then my sweet young Avery interrupted my thoughts. In an unusually quiet voice, she asked, “Why does someone have the right to kill a transgender person just because?”
I froze. How do I possibly answer that question? She’s so young. We have tried to shield her from the worst of the worst news. She knows that people can be mean, bully others, and possibly even beat them up. But we hadn’t really addressed the concept of actually being killed…just because…just for being who you are.
After a pause that seemed like a lifetime, I struggled for the right words. Then I said, “No one has that right. No one, Avery.”
I still had a deep sense of unease, though. A primal instinct to protect my child from the anger, violence, and hate that was out there in the world. I knew that I had to talk about it, to do something. So I sat at my computer and proceeded to stare at that stupid blinking cursor on the blank page for a very long time. What could I say? What would make a difference? Hours passed.
It finally occurred to me that feeling “blank”—that moment of not knowing what to do, what to say, and how to begin—is surely something we have all faced. For many of us, this moment was when our child expressed to us that they were in the wrong body. You know the moment, when you feel very vulnerable and very afraid, the moment that can last days, weeks, sometimes months. What would this mean for our family? How would I tell other people in our lives? Would it affect our relationships with them? The short answer? Yes, it did. About 95% of the people in our lives were not accepting. It meant significant isolation over the subsequent two years.
We thought about moving. Logistically, that just wasn’t possible. We knew no other families like ours—no family who was supporting their trans child. I turned to the internet. Hello, Yahoo and Facebook groups! Finding this support was definitely helpful but also hit and miss. It lacked the direct one-to-one connectedness and it was so easy to miss a crucial post.
Gender Diversity, in the Pacific Northwest, has in-person parent groups, groups for teens, tweens, and kids and even a national conference, Gender Odyssey Family, each year. As a result, they also have an established network of knowledgeable medical and mental health providers. I’ve been so jealous!
But then I heard some fantastic news! Gender Diversity, recognizing the power of connecting parent directly to parent, is working on a new program. One that will have an incredible impact on the lives of families like ours: Virtual parent support groups!
From a computer or telephone, any parent, anywhere, will be able to access other parents for support, sharing experiences, gaining advice, and simply connecting with others who “get it.” This support, as so many of you know, is crucial. And the ripple effects will be powerful—connecting with others in your geographic region, sharing resources, finding friendly, supportive providers, school resources, or simply finding a shoulder to cry or laugh on if we need to.
Gender Diversity’s vision, I believe, will have a profound impact on our lives and our communities. None of us will need to live in such deep isolation.
Our kids need support or we may lose them. How can we support them to the best of our ability if we don’t have our own support networks? My daughter is not a freak, a monster, a pervert, a predator, an abomination, or any of another dozen things she has been called. As easy as this is for us to understand, it seems challenging for many others.
These groups will give us an outlet for our grief, frustration, and anger, and give us a safe space to ask questions about any and every thing without judgment. This will be a space that allows us to create community!
This kind of virtual safe space comes at a cost, though. A real, tangible financial cost. That is why I am writing this note. To get it off the ground, Gender Diversity needs funds to build a website, resources, and web-based interface to launch this remarkable program. Their annual Double Thanksgiving dollar-for-dollar matching campaign has just five days left and they are so close to reaching their goal.
We know that hundreds, perhaps even several thousands, of families have been impacted by the Gender Odyssey Family conferences and the year-round work of Gender Diversity. If each of us donated just $30, Gender Diversity’s goal would be met and production would begin! That critical parent-to-parent support could become available all across the United States and beyond!!
Gender Diversity’s vision has all of us in mind! Even the tech gurus who will assist in the launch of these online portals, TransTech Social Enterprises, are “family.”
If you are as excited and hopeful as I am about this project, I really hope you’ll donate. I know we likely won’t reach all of us, so there is no need to hesitate if your heart encourages you to donate in a significant way. Small gifts plus bigger ones—all tax-deductible—will get us there in the five days we have left!
On behalf of Gender Diversity, I’d like to thank YOU for your support in helping them support all of us.