“When Evan told me he was transgender, I felt scared and alone. I still feel scared, but I don’t feel alone anymore.”
This is what my dear friend Rachel told me casually on a walk recently as I asked how she opens up the discussion about her newly released book, Daring Adventures, Helping Gender-Diverse Kids and Their Families Thrive.
Wow. Heavy Stuff.
Evan is the kid who takes care of my cats and walks my dog while my family is on vacation. He plays basketball with my son Brady in our cul-de-sac and is so kind to him despite the three year age difference. He loves to use our hot tub. He plays all the sports — always has and I assume always will (hopefully!). He listens to music and goes to school dances.
Evan is Evan. He’s a middle schooler with a bright smile who likes to do middle school things. He also happens to be transgender. As his mother says, “Being transgender is the least interesting thing about him.” I see Evan most days, and I think about him a lot.
Every time I hear of an anti-trans bill that is being introduced, I think of Evan. Every time I read a story about the relentless wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, I think of Evan.
Evan tells a story of being a star before he was born and telling God he was a boy, but God made him a girl. And he thought he just had to live with it. Evan has always known who he is. Evan now understands that there’s nothing wrong with him or how God made him — that being transgender is just another one of the beautiful parts of the diverse human experience. Who are any of us to deny someone who they are? Who are we to deny health care, mental health care, housing, employment or even access to sports?
Transgender people come from all backgrounds, histories, religions, cultures, and regions of the world; they are our coworkers, friends, family members and neighbors. Yet transgender people are more likely to be fired or denied a job, face harassment and bullying at school, become homeless or live in extreme poverty, be evicted or denied housing or access to a shelter, be denied access to critical medical care, be incarcerated or targeted by law enforcement, face abuse and violence.
No wonder my friend Rachel and her family feel scared. Daring Adventures is a way for Rachel (a Christian pastor and mother of three) to channel her feelings about her family’s experiences and what they have learned so she can try to help other families raising transgender children. She covers a lot of topics in a friendly, accessible way, from everyday things like sleepovers and camp to health care and transition services to name changes and gender markers, school and friendships. She offers a lot for parents and caregivers to think about:
- We must remember: gender identity is not a choice. It is who we are.
- For most families: when one member transitions, everyone is impacted. It is a process you need to work through together, with compassion towards all involved.
- Don’t be shy about asking therapists questions up front to make sure this therapist is someone you and your child feel safe with.
- Follow your child’s lead in how they want to communicate with their friends, relatives or members of your faith community and other communities about their transition.
- Transgender kids are already at a higher risk for mental health issues, and enabling them to participate in sports is good for physical fitness, self-esteem and mental health.
- Gender-affirming care overwhelmingly results in the best health outcomes for transgender children and youth and those who love them. Gender-affirming care is more than just hormones and surgery; it includes care for the whole person — mind, body and spirit – and often support for the nuclear and extended family too.
It would be impossible to talk about transgender youth without talking about the more than 500 pieces of legislation that have been introduced nationwide to target people based on their gender and sexuality. The National Center for Transgender Equality tracks anti-transgender legislation across the country by state and you can sign up for email alerts for when action is needed in your state. But Rachel shares other things you can do locally as well, like advocating for a more gender-inclusive school curriculum, helping develop policies that protect transgender and non-binary students in your school, and ensuring the sports leagues your kids play in are welcoming and inclusive of transgender and non-binary youth.
So why is this book called Daring Adventures? The answer is Evan of course. Evan told his parents one day that he didn’t want to be a Girl Scout, he wanted to be a Boy Scout because “the girls just sit around and talk about being friends but the boys go on daring adventures.” This wasn’t a totally accurate picture of what Girl Scouts do vs. what Boy Scouts do, but his parents got the message that he knows exactly who he is.
The good news is he isn’t on this daring adventure alone. He and his family have found their people, their support network who are walking along this journey with them. And they are walking with every other transgender person across the globe.
- Read the book so you can be an ally to Evan and all transgender people.
- Before you judge, learn. Fear and hatred of trans people is a product of ignorance. Here are some suggestions for trans people to follow and some books to read.
- Check out these organizations for more information on issues impacting the transgender community.
- Finally, stay tuned as the results of the U.S. Trans Survey will be released later this year. The U.S. Trans Survey is the largest survey of trans people, by trans people, in the United States. The U.S. Trans Survey documents the lives and experiences of trans and nonbinary people ages 16+ in the U.S. and U.S. territories.