The GOP’s Most Lethal Weapon Isn’t Guns, It’s Religion: Why Black Lives and Trans Kids Are Pivotal to Saving Democracy

I. Faces in the Crowd

I can still vividly recall the state school board meeting several years back when I had that sinking realization that my trans son and kids like him will never be safe in this world. At least not if we keep trying to debate their humanity with those whose opinion is based on a weaponized version of Christianity.

At that meeting, we were hoping the state would approve guidance to help all public schools create safe and inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students. Along with other supportive parents and allies, I talked openly about our family’s story and the ways in which our educators and school district successfully supported our transgender son since kindergarten.

Prior to that meeting, I maintained a degree of optimism that reason would ultimately prevail over the fear mongering and disinformation that maligns transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex students and their allies. I had come to expect the occasional minister and religious parent who voiced their concerns. But this meeting was different.

What I didn’t anticipate were the busloads of worshippers, entire church congregations filling the meeting hall and lobby and spilling out onto the plaza. I didn’t anticipate the number of anti-trans protestors who would frame their arguments in religious terms. I certainly didn’t anticipate the viciousness in which they would condemn trans students as abominations to God and a threat to other children.

I should have seen it coming.

In what would become commonplace in the years that followed, conservative community leaders organized church congregations and would bus them to school board meetings by the hundreds. Trans students had to walk through a sea of vitriol, sometimes punctuated with Oath Keepers in full tactical gear, flagpole in hand to show us America belonged to their kind. We hadn’t yet seen how these same Oath Keepers would brandish flag poles as weapons in the storming of the Capitol.

Like any parent, it’s difficult for me to fathom how my child, seven years old at the time, could elicit the malice that we saw on the faces of those protestors. Protestors who are quick to assert that it is love that moves them to erase your child.

But I can assure you it is not love in any form that we see on the faces and in the actions of anti-trans protestors. Their faces are as familiar as they are repulsive because we’ve seen them before, far too many times. They are the faces captured in the iconic photo of Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine, walking determinedly through a crowd of angry white protesters.

The 15-year-old Ms. Eckford was one of nine black students who ushered in the era of desegregation in Arkansas, holding the state accountable for defying the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. But on that day, she was turned away by the National Guard and harassed with taunts and threats against her life.

Elizabeth Eckford on her way to Little Rock Central High. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

In that single photo, the unfiltered truth of where Arkansas and much of our society stood on racial equality was exposed for all to see. Black communities were not just segregated, they were dehumanized.

It’s impossible to compare the freedom struggles faced by different groups of people, because their experiences are unique, their pain and suffering known only to them. We don’t need to engage in competitive victimhood, but the root causes behind the oppression are unmistakable and cannot be ignored.

The ideology that produced hundreds of years of slavery was still tightly woven into the fabric of southern life. Even after emancipation, Southern states governed as if the Confederacy won the Civil War. From courthouses to houses of worship, white southerners were told they had a God-given right, an obligation even, to preserve the systems of racial segregation and white supremacy at all levels of government.

The photo also serves as a warning, that despite the appearance of progress, we have a long, long way to go. Nearly seventy years later, the faces in that crowd seem to reappear whenever systemic racism, in particular anti-Black racism, and injustice are challenged.

What many of us failed to appreciate is that Christianity, as with all religions, is just as easily weaponized today as it was in the Middle Ages. Through the centuries, religious exploitation proved such an effective way to exert power and control over a populace that it became the ultimate weapon of European conquest.

It seems we have enabled the weaponization of religion by our collective inability as a species to get comfortable with uncertainty. No one can say with any certainty, for example, what happens after death. But the fear of not knowing is so unsettling to some that they choose to believe religion holds the answers to all the great mysteries of our existence. Rather than inspiring curiosity, fear closes the mind.

It is the very nature of faith that makes it susceptible to the most egregious forms of manipulation and corruption. Armies can be raised, and conquests fought by framing any topic as a battle between good and evil. In Medieval Europe, the Catholic Church declared itself good and anyone who challenged the power of the church was of course evil.

For those of us branded as evil based on racial, LGBTQ, cultural, or religious identities, or our stance on women’s bodily autonomy, there is no doubt that a Holy War is being waged against us. This feels pre-genocidal. This feels like The Handmaid’s Tale. And as just reported by Anya Zoledziowski in Vice, leaked emails from anti-trans lobbyists and legislators show that we are not wrong. In fact, it’s much worse than we imagined.

Do not be mislead, the actions of anti-trans protestors are not the result of disjointed attempts by a few extremists. They are the result of a movement that has seemingly perfected the weaponization of religion: Christian nationalism.

II. The Weaponization of Christianity

Although its methods have evolved over time, the ideology of Christian nationalism is not new. It has existed for centuries, though under different guises. Today’s embodiment still has its roots in white supremacy and the desire to maintain the patriarchal hierarchy that is at the core of militant Christianity.

More than half of Republicans now openly identify as Christian nationalists, based on a recent poll. As one of the most outspoken proponents of Christian nationalism, Rep. Marjory Taylor-Greene recently gave a speech at a rally organized by white supremacist Nick Fuentes, and sat on stage with him as he praised the Nazi party and its ideals. Of course, not all Christian nationalists are card-carrying members of the American Nazi Movement, KKK, Proud Boys, or Oath Keepers. But there is no doubt that many still deeply identify with the ideology of the Confederate South and a white, patriarchal Christian worldview.

In her recent book The Power Worshippers, Katherine Stewart chronicles her decades-long investigation into Christian nationalism. The sobering reality is that Christian nationalism is a highly organized, worldwide network of evangelical and like-minded religious organizations funded by a dark web of extremely wealthy, old-money conservative families. The assault on individual liberties will not stop with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It is the tip of the iceberg.

As Christian nationalism comes out of the closet, its adherents do not shy away from proclaiming their goal of establishing a Christian American Kingdom. Many conservative legislators reinforce the false notion that our founders meant for America to be governed by Christian rule. Case in point, in 2022 Rep. Lauren Boebert proudly proclaimed,

“The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. That is not how our founding fathers intended it.”

Christian nationalism, however, is not only the greatest threat to democracy, but to religious freedom as well. The Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), Amanda Tylor, warns us,

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities. It heavily relies upon a mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s special favor. It is not a religion, but it intersects with Christianity in its use of Christian symbols and language.”

“The ‘Christian’ in Christian nationalism is more about identity than religion and carries with it assumptions about nativism, white supremacy, authoritarianism, patriarchy, and militarism.”

The culture behind militant masculinity and the role it played in the 2016 election is the topic of Kristin Du Mez’s book, Jesus and John Wayne. It surprised many people when the white evangelical community, led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., quickly gave its support to Trump.

But as Ms. Du Mez explains, it is quite consistent with enduring, mainstream evangelical values, where leaders have long preached a “mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity — of patriarchy and submission, sex and power.” She documents the pattern of abuse and coverup by evangelical leaders, due in no small part to the culture of militant masculinity they helped to perpetuate.

It is a mistake to underestimate the power behind white Christian nationalism. It has energized a new generation of conservatives raised to believe that equality for Black and LGBTQ Americans is the greatest threat to their way of life. To see the effects of that power, one need only look at the popularity of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with his Anti-Woke agenda and the cult-like adulation that helped Marjory Taylor-Greene rise to prominence.

The white backlash against the movements for Black justice, reproductive justice, gay marriage, and trans rights was swift and brutal. And our family is now front and center in the crosshairs of Christian nationalists.

III. Trans Kids in the Crosshairs

My family’s journey began on Easter Sunday more than a decade ago. It was then that my young transgender son gave me the chance to see the world through his eyes. Though assigned female at birth, my son was experiencing what we now know is gender dysphoria. That moment was a foreshadowing of the consistent, insistent, and persistent distress over the mismatch between his body and his identity – a dysphoria that made his life a living hell over the next two years.

It’s not just a matter of preference in clothes, hairstyles, or pronouns, although those were all extremely important to our son. He was distraught that his body did not match his identity. Young people with gender dysphoria suffer extremely high rates of depression and anxiety, with an attempted suicide rate approaching 50%. In contrast, youth who are affirmed in their gender identity experience mental health similar to the rest of the population.

We were fortunate to have access to medical professionals who diagnosed our son’s gender dysphoria and provided gender-affirming health care. Gender dysphoria is real, more common than we think – and entirely manageable.

We know that gender, like so many other things in life, is on a spectrum. We also know that gender dysphoria often reveals itself at the age when all children first begin associating with a gender – typically two to three years old. We were not alone in our experiences.

In the years since we affirmed his gender identity and he socially transitioned (i.e., his outward appearance now matches his identity), he has thrived. It was lifesaving.  

My son was recently interviewed for a story in the Detroit News. He shared about his experiences in elementary school as the first openly trans student in the Dexter school district. “It was pretty normal. I was treated like every other kid. My parents talked to the principal (Craig McCalla) and he talked to my teacher. There were no problems. Curious kids, they asked questions.”

The normalcy of my son’s school experience and the cautious optimism we maintained would end as he started high school this past year.

In Michigan, the recently introduced HB-6454, copycat legislation similar to laws passed in Texas and Alabama, seeks to prevent life-affirming health care for trans and gender-diverse youth. It also seeks to criminalize supportive parents and health providers as child abusers – a federal offense with a potential sentence of life in prison.

What exactly is my crime? I’m the dad of a 14-year-old transgender son and I make it possible for him to follow the medical recommendations of pediatric endocrinologists at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), one of the top-ranked medical institutions in the world.

The University of Michigan Health System provides gender dysphoria diagnoses and gender-affirming care that aligns with the evidence-based practices called for by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the American Psychology Association (APA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES), among others.

A 2022 article in Scientific American reported that,

“All of those medical societies find such care to be evidence-based and medically necessary.”

In addition, “data from more than a dozen studies of more than 30,000 transgender and gender-diverse young people consistently show that access to gender-affirming care is associated with better mental health outcomes — and that lack of access to such care is associated with higher rates of suicidality, depression and self-harming behavior.”

“Data suggests that the effects of denying that care are worse than whatever side effects result from delaying sex-assigned-at-birth puberty. And medical society guidelines conclude that the benefits of gender-affirming care outweigh the risks.”

Our family has taken part in one of the longitudinal studies that tracks the efficacy of gender-affirming care. It is one of many studies showing that gender-affirming health care improves mental health outcomes for trans patients.

Unlike the anti-trans critiques, the results of this and similar research are published in peer-reviewed journals by leading researchers in the field. There is always more to learn, just like with any medical treatment, but there is no doubt that today’s gender affirming care is the best evidence-based option available.

I must admit, the prospect of going to prison isn’t something I’ve had to seriously consider before. But it is nothing compared to what will happen to trans kids under this law. My son and others like him will be denied gender-affirming health care and taken away from their families.

For a population that already has to overcome lies that accuse them of being sexual deviants, denying this care will have deadly consequences. Our kids see no future for themselves in a world dominated by conservative ideology and supernatural doctrine that denies their right to exist.

I appeal to people to ask themselves why trans kids are suddenly the highest priority of conservative state legislators and wealthy donors. Are conservatives really trying to protect trans kids?

Do these legislators have evidence that every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S., including our pediatric endocrinologists at the University of Michigan, have somehow neglected to consider? Were the countless testimonies of parents and trans kids themselves even considered?

No. The anti-trans movement is not motivated out of care for trans kids. No more than segregation was motivated out of care for Black Americans.

IV. We’ve Been Here Before

We’ve seen this strategy before. One would think we’d have learned by now.

Black Americans remained shackled by segregation for nearly 100 years after emancipation. There was a continuous indoctrination and reinforcement of lies that became ingrained in American culture and institutions, primarily in the South but not exclusively by any means.

Denied equal and equitable access to voting, education, employment, justice, housing, health care, businesses, transportation, public facilities, hotels, and recreation – segregation was not just physical. It was meant to dehumanize and isolate, to destroy the spirit as well as the body and mind. Equality and justice were as far away in the 1950’s as the 1850’s. And both times it required bloodshed to make any progress.

Some people may be surprised to learn that the same forces fighting to suppress trans identities are also fighting to suppress Black identities. The same forces that deny the rights of trans people also deny the rights of Black people. The same forces that demonize and incite violence against trans communities also demonize and incite violence against Black communities.

Christian nationalism is the political-religious machine behind those forces. It is a rebirth of the Religious Right. The same Religious Right that defied the Civil Rights Act and fought to keep their Christian universities as segregated, racist institutions well into the 1970’s. The same Religious Right that supports conservative leaders who openly court white supremacists and endorse restrictive voting laws. The same Religious Right that strives to eliminate Black lives from American history in our public schools.

The same states that fought against Black freedom and civil rights now lead the fight against trans existence and LGBTQ rights. States like Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and of course Mississippi, a state known as the most inhumane in the nation by black leaders in the 1950’s and 60’s.

As reported recently in the NY Times, an anti-trans bill in Mississippi denies the existence of trans identities, declaring “Separate is not inherently unequal,” a reference to Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 ruling in which the Supreme Court upheld segregation. Trans kids do not exist in the state’s eyes – at least not as human beings. The glory days are back in Mississippi.

There are currently hundreds of anti-trans bills making their way through state houses. In the states enacting these laws, state officials are proud to share why they are making it a top priority to deny the rights of trans kids and prosecute the parents, doctors, and educators who support them.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey didn’t need many words to explain why she was signing anti-trans legislation into law,

 “If the Good Lord made you a boy, you are a boy, and if he made you a girl, you are a girl.”

A firmly held religious belief is enough justification for those legislators to create laws that jeopardize my son’s life and would put me in prison – possibly for life. We’re not far removed from when similar rationale was used to justify genocide, slavery, and segregation of Black and indigenous peoples. In this, we are no different than the tyrannical theocracies that govern by “sharia law.”

Statements like this one from Rep. Marjory Taylor-Greene demonstrate how normalized it has become to use supernatural claims to dehumanize and condemn others. On the House floor in 2021, Greene declared that her opposition to LGBTQ equality is based on her belief that it will destroy God’s creation:

“God created us male and female. In his image, he created us. The Equality Act that we are to vote on this week destroys God’s creation. It also completely annihilates women’s rights and religious freedom.”

It’s about to get much worse.

In his majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Alito proudly interprets the constitution through the lens of Catholic Canon Law and doctrine going as far back as 800 years, referencing 17th and 13th century Christian doctrine. It won’t end there, as Justice Thomas declared that all past rulings will be viewed from this lens.

The legislation recently signed by Gov. DeSantis has also been introduced at the federal level in 2022 by Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Conservative justices of the Supreme Court have also been busy, ruling that public funds can be used in support of religious-based education and permitting prayer in school and at school functions.

Over the next two years alone, anti-trans legislation will disenfranchise a generation of trans and LGBTQ youth, just like the restrictive voting laws in many of those states will disenfranchise a generation of Black youth. The Supreme Court conservative majority has already ruled in favor of religious freedom on a number of cases. There is a clear path for states to do the same and they have taken advantage of it.

In the enraged faces of the Christian protestors at the school board meeting, I finally understood why we are still fighting battles against systemic racism, some 70 years after Little Rock and 160 years after emancipation. I saw in those faces that we may still be fighting against racism and defending the existence of the LGBTQ community 160 years from now – unless we take the bold step that every generation seems to stop short of taking.

We must confront the mother of all big lies and embrace the mother of all inconvenient truths:

Faith is not fact.

It may be only four words, but this statement is the result of four hundred years or so of scientific discoveries that culminated in one of humanity’s crowning achievements, the scientific method. It is a testament to human curiosity, the force that drives us to question, explore, and learn about ourselves, our world, and the universe. It is also a testament to our insatiable search for truth.

V. The Mother of All Inconvenient Truths

Acknowledging faith is not fact recognizes that the core tenets of religious doctrine, as with any supernatural speculation, are unproven and unprovable. It does not claim that any religion is false, for we can no more prove that God does not exist than we can that He/She/They exist.

Recognizing faith is not fact does not diminish an individual’s religious freedom, it preserves it by ensuring that no religion or supernatural claim can be used to dehumanize and oppress others. Agnostic is how I would describe myself when it comes to religious belief, which in simple terms means I don’t know, I can’t say with any certainty. It doesn’t stop me from speculating, but it does stop me from making false claims and weaponizing those claims to oppress others.

It is in our nature, after all, to be curious about the origins and meaning of life, the finality of death, and the great mysteries of the universe. Our quest for answers gives us some of our most inspiring discoveries. It is also in our nature to want answers and certainty, especially in regard to those great mysteries.

But we live in a world that does not give up its secrets easily. The one thing we do not have is certainty. It is that uncertainty and fear about such fundamental aspects of life and death that cause many people to seek comfort in religion.

People may hold deeply held beliefs built on doctrine that they assume to be factual, and consider it their truth, which is of course a subjective truth. Objective truths require facts, which in turn rely on evidence from hypotheses that can be tested through measurements and observations that are repeatable and can be verified independently. We call this the scientific method.

Regardless of whether hypotheses about the supernatural originate from religious doctrine or not, the scientific method gives us a powerful framework to evaluate those hypotheses. Since we can’t conceive of any way to repeatably test and independently verify the existence of a supernatural deity, much less the traits and commands issued by that deity, it is irresponsible and dangerous to claim any religious doctrine is objectively true or based on facts.

It can be discomforting and sometimes terrifying when something we thought was a certainty is suddenly shown to be uncertain or false. But if we can overcome our fears, the scientific method becomes the guide-star in our search for objective truth.

Science doesn’t have all the answers either. But the difference between science and religion is that science doesn’t claim to. It allows us to embrace uncertainty rather than flee from it.

Like so many others in my generation, I was inspired by the Cosmos series and accompanying book of that name by Dr. Carl Sagan and his wife, Ann Druyan. Cosmos was an affirmation of the sheer wonderment and almost obsessive desire many of us felt to understand the universe and our place in it.

Now more than ever, we must provide future generations with the tools they need to make the most informed decisions about the many crises we face on our planet. If I could have these future generations read only one book on this topic, it would be Carl Sagan’s The Varieties of Scientific Experience – A Personal View of the Search for God.

We keep finding ourselves debating the most critical issues of our time with those who justify their arguments in religious terms: climate crisisreproductive justicevoter suppressionanti-trans legislationLGBTQ rightsstolen elections and insurrectionvaccines and masks, and even gun control. It seems these words from Carl Sagan ring truer than ever,

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”

Sagan defined superstition as belief without evidence. If we’ve learned anything from the history of the church, it’s that superstition is not easily overcome.

It is a tribute to our founders that they recognized the dangers of governments that allowed theocratic rule or gave power to a national religion. They knew all too well the endless conflicts in Europe and here in the colonies that inevitably occur if religions are permitted to enforce their unproven supernatural edicts on the rest of the population.

The intentionality of our founders cannot be overstated, as evidenced by the first amendment and the barriers they placed throughout the constitution to prevent religious influence over any branch of government. Checks and balances were enshrined in the three branches of government to ensure objective decision-making that would hold up to scrutiny.

In fact, many of the founders already recognized the value in applying scientific principles to matters of government. In Reinvigorating the Role of Science in Democracy, Andrew A. Rosenberg, et al., of the Union of Concerned Scientists, make these observations:

“John Adams spoke of the ‘science of government.’ In a debate with Benjamin Franklin in 1776, Adams invoked the principle of mechanical equilibrium to argue for his conception of our government’s system of checks and balances — designed, at least in part, to ensure policies based on verified, trustworthy evidence.”

“Concepts such as transparency, a rigorous examination of ideas, review and critique by technically qualified peers, free speech and open exchange, and protection against retaliation for one’s beliefs (or findings) are central to the health of both science and democratic government.”

The scientific method gives us the tools we need to make evidence-based decisions. It allows us to state unequivocally that religious beliefs, like any supernatural conjecture, can neither be proven nor disproven.

Acknowledging that faith is not fact does not stop us from believing or appreciating the wisdom and splendor of the stories of our faith. They often carry with them the traditions and convictions of our ancestors. Some themes even seem to be common among all religions in some form or another, like those encouraging us to love and care for one another, regardless of our differences.

But while religious doctrine may inform our character, it is certainly not necessary for human morality. Quite to the contrary, religions are responsible or complicit in some of the worst examples of man’s inhumanity to man. The essential elements of morality are the result of societal evolution and natural selection. Morality today often exists in spite of religion rather than because of it.

We are of course still at liberty to have religious beliefs – as long as those beliefs are not weaponized. That liberty ends when it is used to dehumanize and persecute others and to destabilize our government institutions. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today.

Perhaps we fooled ourselves into thinking our constitution and representative democracy would provide the natural barriers to prevent the weaponization of religion. If so, the assault on the Capitol and relentless legislative attacks on trans kids, Black identities, and women’s bodily autonomy should have snapped us back into reality. As it is, we probably came within a secret service security team’s resolve of becoming a theocratic fascist state on January 6th.

The reality is quite awful. But it is instructive to look at the origin of anti-trans sentiment, as it provides insight into how the far right weaponizes religion. Insight that informs how we can stop it.

VI. The Anti-Trans Origin Story

The origins of the anti-trans movement can be traced back to 2014. Conservatives were beginning to panic as the public started learning more about homosexuality and rejecting Christian right-wing propaganda. Even more concerning, anti-discrimination legislation was being introduced in cities around the country that included sexual orientation and gender identity – legislation like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO measure.

Conservative Houston churches were especially outraged about the bill’s provisions allowing trans people to use the restrooms or locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity. It wasn’t long before a local Houston lawyer and political activist, Jared Woodfill, and a local right-wing radio host and dietary supplement supplier, Dr. Steven Hotze, saw their chance.

Both men were running the influential Conservative Republicans of Texas group that considered itself the vanguard of the Christian right in Texas and were also members of Houston’s Second Baptist megachurch. This is the same church attended by Dan Patrick, a one-time Christian right radio host who became Texas’ lieutenant governor in 2015.

The group started gaining traction when it launched a fear-mongering ad campaign that branded trans people as child sexual predators. The success of the Houston campaign led to similar approaches in N. Carolina and initiated a wave of GOP sponsored bills around the country.

But the wave of bathroom bills didn’t quite translate to the victories conservatives expected. The lies about trans people were easily debunked by evidence, not the least of which came from law enforcement. The laws passed by N. Carolina in 2015 were rescinded by 2020. After hundreds of legislative failures, the GOP had to rethink its strategy.

Nonetheless, the Houston experiment was still an overall success for conservatives. It reaffirmed the effectiveness of Christian nationalism’s big lie strategy and gaslighting campaigns – especially those claiming that allowing trans people to use public facilities corresponding to their gender identity is a threat to public safety.

True to form, conservatives have recently adjusted their strategy. Arkansas became the first state since N. Carolina to advance an anti-trans bathroom bill, this one banning trans adults from using a public facility where minors may be present.

The false claims that gender dysphoria is simply a mental illness were debunked, as were the claims about massive numbers of trans kids detransitioning. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, conservatives’ anti-trans gaslighting campaigns caught fire.

Those who practice fear-mongering are not constrained by facts and evidence. This is especially true for the Christian-centered group of medical and mental health practitioners who reject evidence-based practices in favor of their personal interpretation of biblical principles. These practitioners follow in a long line of racist medical professionals who supported the dehumanization and segregation of Black Americans based on white supremacist-laden Christian doctrine thinly veiled as pseudo-science.

The phrase sexual mutilation has been popularized by anti-trans doctors and legislators to spark outrage. Anti-trans health care professionals who intentionally disseminate false information must be held accountable for their medical malpractice. Their recommendations are so blatantly reckless, intentional, and contrary to medical consensus that criminal prosecution is warranted.

Right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and Family Policy Alliance saw the writing on the wall with respect to gay marriage and shifted their propaganda and political focus to gender dysphoria. They continue to wage disinformation campaigns in an attempt to discredit the medical and mental health community’s Standards of Care and help state legislators draft bans on gender-affirming treatment.

Smear campaigns were launched that falsely accused gender-affirming parents and health care professionals of being child abusers and part of a greater conspiracy to sexualize and groom children. The result was the unprecedented wave of legislation that now outlaws evidence-based medical practices – it is another rejection of the scientific method that will result in the death of children and the destruction of families.

The ACLU and other advocacy groups can only afford to challenge a small percentage of the harmful legislation affecting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities. In the interim, trans youth are dying, seeing no future in a world that criminalizes their very existence. Black, Asian, and Native American youth see their history being denied and a violent backlash against attempts to change institutionalized racial injustice.

The disinformation and lies are not only monetized by right wing media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart, but by the likes of convicted Sandy-Hook-denier Alex Jones, social influencer Chaya Raichik, and podcasters Joe Rogan and Matt Walsh. Whether those lies are intentionally publicized or perpetuated through irresponsible and reckless reporting, the result is the same – injustice and inhumanity against the most vulnerable among us.

I wonder how much time these influencers spent with a transgender child and their parents before they chose to attack us. How much time have they spent learning about the people they are endangering? There is no greater demonstration of bullying, cowardice, and abuse of power. They use their influence to attack kids, families, and those who do not have the power or platform to fight back against the lies.

Trans-affirming educators are often targeted by influencers who make false accusations about them on social media and expose them to abuse and violence. The targeting includes death threats against teachers and doctors and even bomb threats against hospitals like Boston’s Children Hospital.

We can expect the number and lethality of these attacks to escalate, just as white Christian nationalist lies continue to escalate violence against Black communities. Violence like the murderous rampage in Buffalo, NY, and of course the violent rioting by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in Charlottesville, VA – widely seen as the coming-out party for the emboldened alt-Right and what should have been a wake-up call for our country.

The enormous wealth and sphere of influence of Christian nationalism is intimidating enough, but it is the weaponization of Christianity that gives the movement its power. I do not believe we can achieve any semblance of lasting equality and justice for Black and LGBTQ lives until we end the weaponization of religion, and it starts with education.

Education is always at the forefront of change, where knowledge and learning face off against the forces of tradition and status quo. I do not believe we can end the weaponization of religion until we commit to educating society, and especially our young people, on the necessity of not only acknowledging that faith is not fact, but also in embracing the scientific method.

Which leads us to our next problem:  public education is public enemy number one in the eyes of Christian nationalists.

VII. Educators are Always on the Front Lines

From segregation and denial of Black identities to eradication of trans identities, schools and educators always find themselves on the front lines in battles for freedom and civil rights. It is why so much money is spent by the far right on lawsuits and propaganda campaigns that attack public schools and educators.

Following the lead of Gov. DeSantis in Florida, public education is under fire in red states around the country. Legislation is being passed that bans books, teaching materials, and even discussions about LGBTQ identities, as well as any hint of social and emotional learning, social justice, culturally responsive teaching, and content that gives a more accurate depiction of African American and Native American life, past or present.

In 2021, the American Library Association reported 1,597 book challenges or removals, the highest number since they began tracking the crisis. By far, most of the books banned in 2021 were written by or about LGBTQ or Black experiences.

At a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, which was held in response to the crisis, Ruby Bridges herself testified that the children’s book “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” was one of the most challenged books of 2021. The book tells the story of her experiences as the first Black child to integrate a New Orleans school.

The attack on public education by evangelical Christians is not a new strategy. It began with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education 1954 supreme court decision. Some people may be surprised to hear that Christian nationalism as we know it today is deeply rooted in white supremacist ideology. That landmark decision legally ended racial segregation in public schools and prompted enraged evangelical leaders like Bob Jones, Jr. and Jerry Falwell to establish their own Christian schools.

Starting in the 1960’s, a wave of private Christian schools were launched with the express purpose of banning admission of black students and preserving racial segregation. Their curriculum continued the indoctrination of white supremacist and Christian values in K-12 and post-secondary colleges and universities.

Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, their schools defiantly violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bob Jones University and Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University were two of the largest white-only schools in the country and the key to their success was their tax-exempt status as church-related organizations.

When the IRS began investigating Bob Jones University, the university was unrepentant. At least, that is, until the IRS moved to terminate the university’s tax exemption and access to public funds.

Evangelical Christian leaders were incensed at being forced to end racial segregation, but they now had a bigger problem. They needed to ensure that their tax status would be protected at the highest levels of government. They needed a new way to rally evangelical voters.

Paul Weyrich, conservative political activist and devout Catholic, worked closely with Jerry Falwell to re-brand the evangelical movement, coining the term Moral Majority. As Dr. Carol Anderson points out in her book, One Person, No Vote, Weyrich was also the founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization responsible for architecting voter suppression legislation. Legislation, that Dr. Anderson notes, “spread like a cancer throughout the United States.”

Although the Moral Majority and later the Religious Right brands faded over time, the movement did not. It only moved underground as it prepared for its next re-branding as Christian nationalism.

Christian nationalism was funded and organized by wealthy families like the DeVos’ and Hobby Lobby co-founder David Green, among others. They are major players in conservative politics and well rewarded for their loyalty, as witnessed by Betsy DeVos’ term as Education Secretary under Trump.

DeVos was not only unqualified to lead the federal agency responsible for education, but made it her life’s mission to eliminate secular public education. In her term as Education Secretary, DeVos’ priorities were to rescind civil rights protections for trans kids and advocate for public funding of private Christian schools.

From banning books and curriculum on Black and trans lives, to criminalizing trans-affirming health care, the Anti-Woke Movement is sweeping America. But while DeSantis may think he’s the founder of this movement, the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages had him beat by centuries.

For a millennium, the bible was used to affirm the superiority of white Europeans and justify genocide and slavery. The Catholic Church, and later many other Christian denominations, sanctioned slavery and oppression of black and indigenous peoples. Those who survived were forced to abandon their cultures, religions, and freedom – conversion to Christianity was not a choice.

It should come as no surprise then, that Christian nationalists are spending enormous resources attacking the rights of trans and Black communities and their allies. We are part of the Woke Mob that governors like DeSantis are waging war against. Public education in particular is under constant legislative assault from the GOP, with the help of Christian nationalist organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

What makes this war so uniquely dangerous in historical terms is how effectively the GOP has exploited religious fervor. By working hand-in-hand with evangelical Christian leaders and the movements they created, elections have been won and Christian nationalists have been placed in prominent and powerful positions in all three branches of government.

White supremacy and anti-LGBTQ ideology are fully embraced by churches that align themselves with Christian nationalism. It is that ideology which fuels the rage of white Christian voters and sends them to the polls – and to the Capitol.

The result has been a massive, orchestrated onslaught of anti-trans, anti-Black, anti-Woke legislation that has become the top priority of GOP leaders across the country. The stage is being set for an all-out assault on our democracy.

Christian nationalists are intent on creating an America that more closely resembles Europe in the Middle Ages. A time when scientists like Copernicus and other trailblazers of scientific understanding were persecuted for opposing church doctrine. A time when Black and indigenous peoples had value only as property and women were fully subjugated to men. And just like in the Middle Ages, religion is the weapon that is making this possible.

Where does this leave us?

VIII. The Answer Has Always Been Hiding in Plain Sight

I have found no better inspiration than King’s vision of the Beloved Community, a vision his wife Coretta Scott King put into service through the King Center she founded in 1968, which is now led by their youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King. The Community that King envisioned would exist in a World House, where “Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation.

Make no mistake, this was not some superficial call for brotherly love. It was not a call to burn our constitution and start over. Quite the opposite.

It was a demand to fulfill our constitutional commitments, or as King stated in his final speech, “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’” King wanted to hold America accountable for its hypocrisy, not only in its institutionalized racism, but its abuse and weaponization of religion. In a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta around the 4th of July, 1965, King spoke again of his dream,

“The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say, ‘some men’; it says ‘all men.’ It doesn’t say ‘all white men’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes black men. It does not say ‘all Gentiles’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Jews. It doesn’t say ‘all Protestants’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes Catholics. It doesn’t even say ‘all theists and believers’; it says ‘all men,’ which includes humanists and agnostics.”

King preached the social gospel and embodied our constitutional ideals in his commitment to social justice. And of all the barriers he encountered, King made it clear that the greatest threat to Black freedom was not white supremacist ideology, but in the “white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.”

King was deeply troubled by white Christian churches that justified and embraced white supremacy as part of their doctrine, and those that chose to remain silent. It was this weaponization of white Christian ideology that enslaved and dehumanized Black Americans for hundreds of years and ensured that it was deeply intertwined in America’s institutions and into the social fabric of everyday life.

I encourage everyone to read or re-read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail to better understand the context, but I will quote a few passages that deeply resonated with me:

“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.”

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;”

“More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

“Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions.”

“I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: ‘Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.’ In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.'” 

“Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world.”

The white American Kingdom that Christian nationalists seek to build is a fascist Christian state, by any other name. It is the very antithesis of King’s Beloved Community and World House, which so wholly embodies the spirit of our constitution and what America can and should be.

We have the knowledge – the question is, do we have the will?

IX. We Have the Knowledge, Do We Have the Will?

When the stakes are so extraordinarily high, as they are when legislation is passed to criminalize gender-affirming care and to eradicate trans and Black identities, the justification for those actions must also be extraordinarily high. Instead, we have just the opposite.

Legislation is being proposed and enacted based on a weaponized interpretation of Christian doctrine and debunked pseudo-science, blatantly disregarding the overwhelming facts and evidence obtained through the scientific method. Our efforts to date have been largely unsuccessful because a narrow interpretation of Christianity has been deemed superior to facts and evidence by the Supreme Court and statehouses around the country.

This isn’t just about trans kids, Black lives, and reproductive justice. It’s not about any single issue on the political spectrum. It’s about the systemic dehumanization and persecution of all those who do not conform to white, Christian nationalist ideology.

Perhaps we have been blinded by the illusion of progress and an assumption that democracy will always prevail. Perhaps we have convinced ourselves that people are generally coming around to accepting differences and it will be enough to tip the scales on the side of justice and equality.

I remember the words of Dr. Clayborne Carson, the first Director of the MLK Research Institute at Stanford, who often says, “don’t ever forget, democracy is still an experiment.

What we continue to ignore is that systems of injustice do not care if a majority of the population disagrees – those systems have always been disproportionately controlled by a relatively small, but enormously wealthy and influential elite. Even when we make gains, we are only one election cycle from having them reversed.

The weaponization of religion has proven time and time again to be resistant to arguments based on reason. Laws are being passed that have been shown to endanger our trans kids’ lives, including driving them to suicide, by people proclaiming they have a religious right to do so.

It is irresponsible for us to keep debating the humanity of our children thinking we will have a different outcome. It is foolhardy to think we can overcome anti-Black, anti-trans, and anti-LGBTQ religious fervor when reason, facts, and evidence can be summarily dismissed and ignored.

Everything we have been doing to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding by educating and empowering oppressed people to tell their stories is now being criminalized. Civil and human rights are being denied in the name of religious freedom by the highest courts in our land.

Yes, we will continue to fight this legislation in the courts, we will continue to get out the vote, we will try to open hearts and minds – all of these things are necessary, but in no way sufficient.

I have come to the conclusion that unless we collectively acknowledge faith is not fact and enshrine the scientific method in our practice of government, our country will only be free and just for white Christian nationalists.

It may seem impossible, and I won’t argue that the outcome is uncertain. But I do have faith and I believe there is a path.

It is a path well worn by those who marched and sacrificed for the Black Freedom Movement. It is a path that wound its way through black churches and supportive white churches. It is a path that continued on despite the deadly bombings of those churches and the assassination of its leaders.

The path to ending the weaponization of religion and dismantling systems of injustice will reach an impasse if we do not have the support of those churches today. White supremacists have been emboldened by conservative churches and a GOP that now embraces Christian nationalism. We can expect more violence, more legislation that will endanger lives and erase identities — in the name of God.

Our kids’ lives depend on every inclusive church using the power of their platform to counter Christian nationalism.

It is difficult to hold onto a dream. As Dr. King shared in a 1967 interview, in some ways his “dream had turned into a nightmare,” and “some of the old optimism was a little superficial, and now it must be tempered with a solid realism.”

That’s where we are. There’s only one way out of this nightmare, and it’s to keep marching down that path, but with a solid realism.

Peter Tchoryk is an engineer and a dad who discovered he had a lot to learn from his kids. He is committed to making this world safer for LGBTQ and Black communities, people of color, and all those persecuted for trying to live authentically. 




Where do we go from here?

[Photo credit: Bob Fitch photography archive, © Stanford University Libraries]

What every Black American already knows and what we can only hope people are learning from Jan 6th, 2021, is that racial inequities and injustices are still at the root of the divisions that threaten to tear our country apart. The violent images of white nationalists and Neo-Nazis only tell part of the story. We know factions still glorify the 400+ years of slavery and segregation that haunt our nation’s past. But what was finally exposed to the world is a much graver threat.

We have seen the sitting President and GOP lawmakers attempt to overturn the election based on allegations that were rejected by courts, election officials, and the Electoral College. When court actions and other interventions failed, we watched as the sitting President and GOP lawmakers incited insurrection, with some fighting alongside those white nationalists and Neo-Nazis. We know lawmakers and officials from both parties were targeted, including the sitting Vice President.

Events over the past year indicate a large percentage of White Americans do not understand or believe the severity of systemic inequities and injustices that people of color and marginalized communities face today. They do not see the lasting effects of discrimination in employment, justice, education, housing, health care, and the environment, compounded over hundreds of years. They do not have to navigate the lingering Jim Crow and Jim Crow 2.0 legislation at the state and local levels and the rolling back of legislation at the federal level. We are like two separate countries in our worldviews and that division has been intentionally exploited.

The unrestrained violence that Capitol rioters were directing toward lawmakers is what many Black Americans face in their daily lives. It is dehumanization that allowed people to rationalize slavery, genocide, and segregation and that culture persists today. Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, immigrants and their children, and other minorities are often dehumanized in our culture through legislation, policies, and rhetoric. The insurrection of Jan 6th and the attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power through violent means is unprecedented, but the culture that gave rise to that event is not new. Jan 6th simply exposed it for the world to see.

So where do we go from here?

The sitting President has been impeached for the second time, rioters are being arrested, and there are more investigations to come. All must be held accountable. Accountability is more than just walking away – it means taking responsibility. We can’t know someone’s heart, but we know if they admit their mistakes and we know if they take actions to undo the damage and ensure it doesn’t happen again. I am waiting for accountability from those who failed to condemn or actively condoned the debunked conspiracy theories, documented lies, and calls for violence. They are culpable for the attacks on our constitution and democratic process and for perpetuating this culture of dehumanization.

With accountability comes healing and we can move forward again to address the root causes of racism and discrimination. We can begin to create a culture of inclusivity, free from dehumanization.

We have been here before as a nation and we know our path forward will not be easy. But on this day, we rededicate ourselves to the hard work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all those who are part of the African American Freedom Struggle, past and present. We recognize today’s Black Lives Matter movement and the young people across the country and the world who are leading the way in grass roots activism. We commit ourselves to learning from young people as well as those who came before us. And we honor those we lost along the way by doing this work.

The events of Jan 6th and throughout 2020 underscore why Dr. King’s unwavering commitment to Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence is something we need to embrace and teach to every generation. We will continue to support the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, The King Center, Black Lives Matter, the Gandhi-King Global Initiative, and other organizations dedicated to ensuring the education of every generation.

There are universal truths that can guide us as individuals, organizations, nations, and as a human species. Among these are equality, equity, justice, and forgiveness. These truths help guide where we go from here. We will continue to follow a path blazed by the African American Freedom movement and Dr. King, inspired by Gandhi, and now reborn through the next generation of grass-roots activists. Together, we will strive to build the interconnected and inclusive World House and Beloved Community King envisioned.  

#MLKDay #BelovedCommunity #mlk #Nonviolence365 #worldhouse #BLM #equality

Vote 2020

I hate to admit this, but before I had a transgender kid I didn’t look at the world the same way. Let’s just say I was not as thoughtful about how I voted…and that’s putting it kindly. It’s why I feel an obligation to reach out to people who don’t get it yet. It would be pretty damn hypocritical of me if I didn’t.

Things look so clear to me today, but I know it’s not because of any inherent wisdom. In my case, it took seeing the world through the eyes of a transgender kid. It was a blessing, a gift.

It showed me why we have to take a stand when equality and justice are at stake. It showed me why sometimes we have to march, to protest, for rights. It showed me why we have to be there for any of our brothers and sisters who are seeing their rights and humanity denied.

I know there are many moments in history where the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This is one of them. You know where I stand. And you know why.

If you’re one of the few people in our country who hasn’t made up their mind and who hasn’t voted yet, I simply ask this. Be thoughtful about your choice. Look at who will bring us together and not divide us. Look at who treats others with respect and with dignity. You don’t have to look very far.

#vote2020 #equality #blacklivesmatter #BidenHarris2020

The Most Dangerous Year

A present-day civil rights story about the fight against anti-trans legislation

The Power of Storytelling: “Jazz and Friends” Readings in Michigan

Everyone has a story. Each one is valuable and each one is unique. Many people know Jazz Jennings by now, but if you don’t, I hope you take this chance to learn about her remarkable life. Her story has empowered millions of children and adults alike.

Jazz is a young transgender woman who has become a leader for the LGBTQ community. Along with co-author Jessica Herthel, Jazz wrote a children’s book about her experiences. I Am Jazz is a way for young people to not only learn about a trans child’s life, but to discuss the value of all differences.

Recently, a video of people in our county reading I Am Jazz was shown in several schools and communities in Southeast Michigan. The video included two of our own kids, Sydney and Jacq Kai, ages 12 and 10. One district in particular recognized that its students would benefit from learning more about its transgender and gender-diverse population and arranged to show the video in its elementary schools. The readings generated opposition by some parents, including a petition.

There is still much confusion about what it means to be transgender. The purpose of Jazz’s children’s book and the readings is to share one transgender child’s experience and hopefully open some hearts and minds. I used those very words when our family went public with the story of our transgender son almost three years ago in support of the Michigan State Board of Education Guidance for LGBTQ students.

Any time we do these readings, we expect questions – and some tension. Tension ensues whenever we challenge the status quo. And it’s a reflection of the level of understanding we have as a society.

I wish we were at a point in our society that we didn’t need to share our story publicly. But we aren’t there yet. Many people are simply not aware of all the work by medical, mental health, social work, and educational professionals, and the best practices that are in place for our transgender kids. And of course, it’s difficult to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and really understand their experiences – that’s true for all of us.

If we don’t share our stories, our children’s experiences and struggles are subject to misinterpretation. Misinterpretation can lead to fear or anger, and sometimes violence. Every year we lose too many people to hate crimes, especially transgender people of color. And every year we have too many children who are forced to conceal who they are and succumb to depression and other mental health problems.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The most comprehensive longitudinal study conducted to date shows that children who are supported in their gender identity have mental health outcomes similar to the rest of the population.

The opposite is also true. Kids who are not supported have a very high risk of depression, self-harm, and suicide, because they cannot live in a world that doesn’t accept them – or a world that actively tries to erase them. The more our kids are forced to hide who they are, the more dehumanizing the effects will be.

As human beings, one of the simplest and most effective things we can do to understand one another is to tell our stories. While I’ve come to expect the tension – and even embrace it – some of the reactions can still be discouraging. This reading of a children’s book, a child’s experience, was denounced as a liberalist agenda and a threat to some people’s faith. It was called scientifically inaccurate and an unnecessary waste of school time. And worse.

Ironically, reading stories about other children’s experiences is one of the best uses of our school’s time. If we expect kids to learn and work together, they should know something about each other.

Ruby Bridges-Hall said, “As a child, I never quite understood the power of a story until I found myself at the center of one that catalyzed and emboldened a movement.  Today it is so important that our children learn to believe in the power of their stories and know what a force for change they can be.”

The value of reading about African American children and the Civil Rights Movement is immeasurable, as are stories about Native American children and children of different faiths and cultures. Stories that give a glimpse into the lives of children with physical, learning, and mental health challenges, or kids on the autism spectrum. Stories about kids growing up in single parent homes or who are adopted. Stories about people in the majority and people in the minority. And stories about LGBTQ families.

When kids graduate, they will discover the majority of companies are strong advocates for the rights of our transgender and gender-diverse population. One has only to look at the number of companies publicly supporting these rights and at their policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If our schools want to prepare kids for the real world, they better start educating them about gender identity now.

Our son’s experience is similar to that of Jazz. Gender identity is of course completely separate from sexual orientation, and it forms over time, generally from age two to five. We learned it is not uncommon for transgender kids to show gender dysphoria during that time. This has been shown by a University of Washington study and it is what our family and many others have experienced first-hand. Our son was assigned female at birth but began recognizing his assigned gender didn’t match his identity when he was around two.

Gender dysphoria itself involves a comprehensive diagnosis. Our family obtained the opinion of medical and mental health experts. Gender dysphoria is an intense and typically consistent, insistent, and persistent discord between a child’s assigned gender and their internal identity. Gender dysphoria is not the same as gender nonconformity. And it is not the same as your child pretending to be a dog, dinosaur, or pirate.

It’s hard to put into words how despondent our son was even at a young age because of this dysphoria. I can tell you it was a matter of life and death. After we affirmed his identity, it was like a light switch. He went from despair to a happy kid who couldn’t wait to go to school.

Jacq Kai entered kindergarten as a boy. We are fortunate. His principal Craig McCalla didn’t have any experience with transgender kids, but that didn’t stop him from providing a safe and supportive environment from day one.

Our decision to affirm our son’s identity was made to keep him alive. I’d rather have a child who is alive and happy, than a child who takes their own life because we thought they would grow out of it. We don’t understand every aspect of gender identity and gender dysphoria, but we have enough evidence to know what works best to keep these kids alive and thriving.

Being transgender doesn’t define my son, but it is a part of who he is. He embraces it. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Frankly, he’s much more likely to tell you about his other interests, like his love for football and wrestling and science. He talks often about being a professor and an inventor – and also wants to be a lineman. That’s one thing that has changed. He had his sights set on quarterback for a while.

But what makes our son transgender has nothing to do with his love for football and wrestling or other likes and dislikes. My son’s identity comes from an internal sense of who he is.

Last year, Jacq Kai shared his story with his 5th grade class. Just as he’s been doing since the 2nd grade. He wants people to know and to understand what it means to be transgender. The amazing and perhaps not so surprising result is that kids get it. They have questions, but then think about their own differences and how they would like to be treated. From our experiences and those of educators around the country, kids can be taught about gender identity in an age-appropriate way in elementary school.

Let’s be clear. I Am Jazz is not a textbook and it is not intended to show the broad spectrum of gender experiences nor the science behind it. It is a children’s book that provides a powerful teaching moment to give classmates a glimpse of one transgender child’s experiences. Sharing experiences is a small but important first step. Training and resources are also available for educators to provide more in-depth information and support.

Every major professional organization representing pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and educators recognizes how critical this support is to the well-being of transgender and gender-diverse children. For best practices on caring for transgender and gender-diverse children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their policy and is partnering with other organizations to provide practitioners and parents with valuable resources. It is this vast body of evidence that we follow, because it gives our transgender and gender-diverse kids the best chance to survive and thrive in this world.

In spite of the opposition to the readings, I am encouraged. In fact, most of the commentary has inadvertently proven exactly why these readings are so essential. The next National “Jazz and Friends” School and Community Reading Day is February 28, 2019. We have the opportunity for on-going and meaningful discussions and more stories about diverse experiences across the spectrum.

I am humbled by the many brave educators, parents, and allies who have stood up for our transgender and gender-diverse kids. It seems our educational system is always on the front lines for kids in the margins. When we create safe and supportive learning environments for the most vulnerable, every child benefits. My kids read about Ruby Bridges and other young pioneers in the Civil Rights movement. They read about kids from all walks of life. And I think it makes them better humans. This is the power of storytelling.

Michigan Parents Call for Love, Support, and Understanding for Transgender Youth

“The greatest thing any parent can do for their kids is to show them they are loved for who they are and for being their authentic selves,” said Peter Tchoryk, who lives in the small town of Dexter, Michigan with his wife. Peter and Sarah have three children, including a son who is transgender.

Peter and Sarah know what it’s like to watch their child grapple with discrimination – and through their work organizing with transgender advocacy groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality, they’ve seen the importance of speaking out and pushing back against discrimination.

“We want our transgender youth and families to know that they are not alone and many people are actively working with a fierce urgency to create safe and supportive schools,” Peter said. “It will get better. There are local and national resources to help families with school and community interactions, from training and advocacy to legal help.”

With back-to-school season in full swing, Peter and Sarah want to underline that despite the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind guidance on how public schools can best support transgender students, the root policy – Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 – still exists and provides significant protections for transgender students.

“People need to know that many schools, ours included, successfully provide for the safety and privacy of every child – whether that child is transgender or cisgender, part of the majority or a minority,” Peter and Sarah said. “Our schools provide training to staff on diversity and inclusivity and educate students on differences, including transgender differences. It’s proven and it works.”

While it’s been challenging to see anti-transgender perspectives demonstrated so publicly in the past year, from lawmakers to anti-transgender activists to the President of the United States, Peter knows that as we confront prejudice, we also change minds.

“The positive side of visibility and the national conversation is that many people in our nation are learning the truth of what it means to be transgender or gender expansive,” he said. “We’ve reached a point in our family that anti-transgender sentiment only strengthens our resolve to tell our story, educate, and stand up for the rights of the transgender community.”

About This Story Collection
People across the country are coming together to share their stories and support transgender youth as they head back to school. Read several stories below of parents, children, professionals, and more providing insight into what it’s like to head back to school as a transgender student. Read the entire article by Freedom for ALL Americans.

How to Ensure a Safe School Year for Michigan’s Transgender Kids

This week, our two youngest children boarded the bus for the first day of school. My husband, Pete, and I waved good-bye through the school bus window, and hoped that this school year will be as good as the last. That their school will continue to be a safe place where they feel comfortable being their authentic selves.

As a teacher myself for more than 20 years, I know these are the hopes of most parents. Our desires as parents and our children’s essential needs are universally felt despite the diversity of our families and our children. That is why I am so confused and heartbroken by the controversy surrounding transgender children. My son Jacq is transgender; assigned female at birth, but asserting insistently, consistently and persistently that he was a boy as soon as he could speak. After educating ourselves as parents through reading and visits with mental health professionals, Jacq socially transitioned to live as a boy at age 4.

More: 10 things you need to know about the new school year in Michigan
More: Michigan’s transgender community faces poverty, bias, study shows

The August before Jacq began kindergarten, Pete and I met with our school’s principal, Craig McCalla, whose life’s work is creating a school environment where all students feel safe.  McCalla worked with us to ensure that Jacq’s essential needs would be met, so he could focus on learning and developing lasting friendships. With such caring and inclusive educators, it’s no surprise Jacq loves school and is thriving academically and socially.

Unfortunately, not all transgender kids have quiet heroes disguised as principals leading their schools — a heartbreaking 82% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school, and with good reason.  Michigan’s LGBT students are surrounded by homophobic language and transgender slurs on a daily basis, often from the very teachers charged with educating them. Nearly all transgender youth have been verbally harassed at school, over half have been physically harassed (pushed or shoved), and 26% have been physically assaulted (punch, kicked, or harmed with a weapon).

With this painful reality, it is no surprise that transgender students are more likely to miss school, be less academically successful and have lower academic aspirations than their peers. Students whose main concern is maintaining their safety while at school simply cannot focus on learning.  Safety is a prerequisite for learning.

The daunting challenges of school, often coupled with lack of parental and/or community support can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and all too frequently, suicide.

The realities for transgender students may seem bleak, but they don’t have to be.

 Research shows enacting practices like those outlined in the Michigan State Board’s Guidelines for Safe and Supportive Learning Environment for LGBQT Students can reduce incidences of bullying and harassment, allowing all students to thrive. These practices include anti-bullying policies which specifically name sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.  They include enacting policies that allow students to use bathrooms and facilities that match their gender identity. Best practice also encourages the creation of affirming student clubs like Gay Straight Alliances.  Another integral component in creating safe and affirming schools is providing professional development for educators on creating inclusive environments for LGBTQ students.

And guess what?  These inclusive policies not only benefit students who identify as LGBTQ, they have been shown to reduce bullying for all students. When parents and educators prioritize the value of diversity, our children and our students follow our lead.  As we prepare for another school year, we must remember that the need to be valued for what makes each individual unique is a universal need our children share. Our differences are the common thread that unites us and collectively make us stronger.

Sarah Tchoryk is an elementary school instructional coach. She lives in Dexter with her husband, Pete, and their children. 

Small Towns Making a Big Stand

Post also found on and

Terri and Jaimie are moms who live in Grass Lake, MI. When you live in a town as small as Grass Lake, everybody knows your name. Especially when you’re as active in the community as Terri and Jaimie are. It’s what makes towns like Grass Lake special. It’s what makes towns like Grass Lake the kind of place you’d want to raise a family.

Grass Lake sits in between two somewhat larger cities, Jackson and Ann Arbor. In some ways, Grass Lake is probably representative of most rural areas in the country. Not a lot of diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. But it’s more diverse than anyone thought. Terri and Jaimie are both moms to young transgender kids.

What makes Grass Lake not so typical is that the School Board recently decided to allow transgender children to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity. And they made it clear, posting the policy on their website.

At the Grass Lake Community School Board meeting on Monday, over 100 people were present to make their voices heard. I attended the meeting, along with about 75 others in support of the school board’s decision. We heard testimony from parents who love their children, on both sides of the issue.

What always strikes me about these meetings is how passionate the community is – and how are ultimate goals are the same. We all want our children to grow up in a world where they can learn and live peacefully and productively. That is a starting point for collaboration.

What also strikes me is the level of uncertainty some people have over what will happen if schools are inclusive toward transgender kids and the larger LGBTQ community. We don’t have to guess what will happen. We have evidence from years of successful practice and the experience of school systems, educators, medical and health providers, social workers, and of course families. In fact, when you create a safe, welcoming environment for LGBTQ children, you make the school safer and more welcoming for every child.

Allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms matching their identity will not make bathrooms unsafe for others – the fears are simply unfounded. There is much evidence debunking these bathroom myths.

People don’t often stop to realize that transgender people, transgender kids have been around as long as everyone else – they have just been forced to keep hidden. They have been using the bathrooms, facilities, and public spaces just like you and me. Many schools across the nation are already complying with Title IX – transgender children have been using bathrooms matching their identify for years. This includes Michigan schools.

And there has been no surge in assaults in the over 200 cities and 19 states (plus DC) that have ordinances allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms matching their identity. I can tell you where there has been a surge in crime, and that is against the transgender community, especially transgender people of color.

In spite of the evidence, the debunking of irrational fears, and the real experiences of millions of people, some still insist on denying basic human rights — bathroom rights included — to the transgender community. What is more worrisome is the continued dehumanization of our transgender community at the highest levels of government, federal and state. The resulting fear and uncertainty can cause otherwise caring people to ignore the evidence and circle the wagons around their own children.

This is what makes our public schools unique – and so valuable. Their mission is to ensure every single child, even those living on the margins, have a safe and supportive learning environment. Separate bathrooms and segregating transgender kids does not provide them with a safe or supportive environment – it does just the opposite. It endangers them and it dehumanizes them, just like it did with our African American community. Just like it did with anyone who lives on the margin. And schools across the country have successfully managed privacy for all students while allowing transgender children to use the bathrooms and facilities that match their gender identity. But it does underscore the need for guidance and education on these topics, which is what we’re all about.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are on a spectrum, like so many other things in life. We know that gender identity manifests as early as two years old. And we have on-going longitudinal studies that show transgender kids are not making this up. There are results in the Journal of Pediatrics showing that supporting transgender kids in their identity lowers their risk of mental health problems to the same levels as the rest of the population. It may ultimately have an impact on the 40+% of the transgender community that attempt suicide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and every major medical and mental health organization recognize that affirming a child’s gender identity is critical to their well being. Pediatricians also recognize that legislation like bathroom bills put our kids at great risk – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Allowing transgender kids to live authentically will not only make a better, safer world for them, it will make a better, safer world for all kids. It will not only make the world safer in terms of physical threats, but mentally and emotionally as well. And when we educate kids on the truth of transgender and gender expansive kids, every child will benefit, because every child has differences and needs to know they are valued. This is how we make a better world.

And when we consider the goals of our educational system to prepare kids for life and for meaningful, productive careers, think about this:  the majority of companies in our country also recognize the rights of transgender people to use the bathrooms and facilities that match their identity. Diversity powers innovation, enlightenment, and groundbreaking discoveries. It’s one reason why companies signed on to a Supreme Court “friend of the court” brief supporting transgender student Gavin Grimm and against the “bathroom bill” in Texas.

As we approach the start of another school year, schools across the country are grappling with transgender policy. The Department of Justice, Department of Education and the current administration have made the situation much more dangerous for transgender youth and the entire LGBTQ community with its recent rescission of school guidance and rejection of supportive policies for transgender soldiers and their families serving in our military. The lack of guidance has also made it more difficult for school systems trying to be inclusive toward the LGBTQ community.

The current leadership in the State of Michigan has not stood up for equality of all its citizens, opposing basic human rights for the LGBTQ community at every turn. But at the request of educators and parents, the Michigan State Board of Education (SBE) last year adopted guidelines for the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students.

These guidelines are based on the best practices and input from educators, health and mental health providers, social workers, organizations dedicated to preventing bullying and sexual assault, attorneys, and many other who wanted a seat at the table. In addition, input was received from the public over numerous SBE meetings and an open forum on the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) website. While these guidelines are neither law nor policy, they provide a starting point for schools that want to ensure every child has a safe learning environment. Workshops and training are taking place throughout the state.

It always starts with education.

My wife and I live in a small town, too. Dexter, MI is not unlike Grass Lake, though much closer to Ann Arbor. Since we discovered our son was transgender, my wife and I spend much of our time trying to explain it to people, trying to educate. We feel fortunate that our eyes were opened by our son, because it was an awakening. An awakening to reality, the truth, and the daily struggles of those who are marginalized, either by birth or by society.

Though it’s difficult to see the world through another person’s eyes, we try to share this experience. We understand how difficult it can be, because it took having a transgender child to really open our eyes. Some people get it right away, especially if they or a family member are marginalized. For others it may take longer, and that’s why we continue to tell our story.

We commend our Dexter Schools and Grass Lake Community Schools for supporting and defending the well being of every single child – even those living on the margin. Stay strong – our kids need you.

Peter and Sarah Tchoryk are on the Human Rights Campaign Parents for Transgender Equality National Council and work with many families, schools, and companies to help create a world where every child can grow up to live peacefully and productively. Peter is the CEO of Michigan Aerospace and Advisor to the Springmatter Fund. Sarah is a 5th grade teacher in Brighton, MI. They have three wonderful kids and three grandkids — all unique.

The Rest of the Story

Our story begins like so many others. Our then 2-yr-old child began insisting he was a boy. This of course would not be unusual, except we assumed he was a girl based on gender assigned at birth. In most cases a good assumption. As soon as he could speak and express himself, however, it became clear that assumption was incorrect. We came to learn that the insistent, consistent, and persistent behavior of being a different identity is a tell tale sign. It is not a casual dislike of the clothes, hairstyle, name, and anatomy of the assigned identity. It is a desperate, despondent, and fierce rejection. One that threatened his life.

When it came time for Kindergarten, our Principal, Craig McCalla of Cornerstone Elementary in Dexter, MI, had no previous experience with transgender issues. But he assured us his job was to create a safe and supportive learning environment for every child. Every. Child. It’s why he implements solutions that protect the mainstream and majority of children. It’s why he implements solutions that protect even the smallest percentage of marginalized children.

Our schools very successfully explained to our son’s 2nd and 3rd grade classes what it means to be transgender in the context of all differences. Do you know what happened? The kids got it. They asked few if any questions of my son and instead talked about how they feel when their own differences are not honored.

You can do this because gender is completely separate from sexuality. It’s worth saying again – gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things. You can do this because schools already teach about differences and diversity at age-appropriate levels. They already teach kids about their peers who may be of a different race or religion, or have learning or physical challenges, or a host of other differences. And as Adam Briggle, the dad of another transgender child, expressed so well, “I’ll tell Max (my son) as he gets older that his experience of gender is somewhere on the margins of society. But that’s all right. In fact, lots of great stuff happens on the margins.” That’s a message every child should hear.

Like Grass Lake, Dexter is a small town, too, though not quite as rural. We are thankful because our school board, Superintendent, educators and staff have all been extraordinarily supportive. After four years, the school system is more welcoming than ever before. They don’t just tolerate, they embrace. They provide training to help their staff become even more effective educators. They see the value in every child and actively work to help every child — even those who live on the margins. And it’s just the beginning.

Gender and sexual orientation are two different things. Many people are learning that both gender and sexual orientation are on a spectrum, like so many other things in life. We know that gender identity manifests as early as two years old. And in addition to the millions of people with personal experiences, we have on-going longitudinal studies that show transgender kids are not making this up. There are results in the Journal of Pediatrics showing that supporting transgender kids in their identity lowers their risk of mental health problems to the same levels as the rest of the population. It may ultimately have an impact on the 40+% of the transgender community that attempt suicide.

There is evidence and experience in welcoming schools around the country that demonstrate that allowing transgender kids to live authentically does not in any way threaten other children. In fact, when you create a safe, welcoming environment for LGBTQ children, you make the school safer and more welcoming for every child. Every child has differences.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and every major medical and mental health organization recognize that affirming a child’s gender identity is critical to their well being. Pediatricians also recognize that legislation like bathroom bills put our kids at great risk – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Of course, in spite of the evidence, the debunking of irrational fears, and the real experiences of millions of people, some still insist on a traditional binary definition of gender.

Allowing transgender kids to live authentically will not only make a better, safer world for them, it will make a better, safer world for all kids. It will not only make the world safer in terms of physical threats, but mentally and emotionally as well. And when we educate kids on the truth of transgender and gender expansive kids, every child will benefit, because every child has differences and needs to know they are valued. This is how we make a better world.

Our school systems have always been on the front lines of justice. From Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine integrating the first schools in the south, to the inclusion of physically challenged kids and those with learning challenges, and now today with transgender kids and the entire LGBTQ community.

But we know it doesn’t end there. After the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, states and communities still resisted integration and fought it tooth and nail. And when some gains had been made through efforts like the bus boycott, many white people called on the black community to slow down and not push so hard. They would say cool off and give everyone more time to consider things. Dr. King’s answer was essentially this, if we cool off any more, we’ll be dead. When people are dying as a result of injustice, there can be no more cooling off.

Just like with segregation of African Americans, it was never just about separate schools or bathrooms. The separation of facilities is merely a symptom. It is not the underlying problem.

Many of the same justifications for segregating our African American population are being used today against our transgender community. It wasn’t long ago when many parents said white children would not be safe in a bathroom with black children because of the potential for sexual assault. Some still believe that today.

Many people said they had a right to privacy, white privacy, and did not want to be around black people in bathrooms or changing facilities. Or schools. Or churches. Or restaurants. Or waiting rooms, or busses, trains, theaters, or parks. It spreads quickly. And it doesn’t stop on its own.

African Americans also faced dehumanization by churches and faith-based organizations that used the Bible and pointed to many verses in scripture to justify segregation and even slavery.

When these arguments failed to keep hold, they morphed into arguments of safety and cultural inferiority, complete with false but widely disseminated scientific and philosophical arguments.

When even those arguments failed to hold, and after 100+ years of segregation, people simply dug in around Jim Crow laws. Unjust laws that defied our own Declaration of Independence and Constitution and the self-evident truth that we are all created equal. Many people saw the Civil Rights movement as a way for the African American community to get special treatment and even pointed out that they were, after all, only a relatively small percentage of the population.

The events in Charlottesville, VA and in many other parts of our country show how far we still have to go.

I’ve sat in many school board meetings and have heard similar arguments. Instead of African American rights and segregation, it’s about transgender kids and allowing them to use the bathrooms in which they identify.

Some people say they love our transgender children, too. But they go on to say that providing for the wellbeing of a small percentage of transgender kids is simply too much to ask, too much of an inconvenience – even when the lives of our kids are at great risk. Even when a perceived inconvenience can be turned into a teaching moment that will make this world safer and better for all.

I guess we should not be too surprised, because there was a time when people used this argument against small percentages of many other kids. In addition to race, religion, and nationality, there is a depressing history of neglect, seclusion, and mistreatment of kids with physical and learning disabilities, kids on the Autism spectrum, kids with hearing or vision impairments, and kids with Down Syndrome, to name a few. We’ve been here before.

This is what makes our public schools unique – and so valuable. Their mission is to ensure every single child, even those living on the margins, have a safe and supportive learning environment. Separate bathrooms and segregating transgender kids does not provide them with a safe or supportive environment – it does just the opposite. It endangers them and it dehumanizes them, just like it did with our African American community. Just like it did with anyone who lives on the margin.

So why help small percentages of marginalized kids in the first place? Why welcome kids who are marginalized into the mainstream? If the moral and social obligation is not enough for you, consider this – diversity is what powers life. You don’t have to be a scientist to see this. It’s evident all around us. Without diversity in nature, life ceases to exist.

Diversity also powers innovation, enlightenment, and groundbreaking discoveries – diversity not only in race, nationality, or culture, but diversity borne from different experiences. The experiences of marginalized and disadvantaged communities give them insights that those growing up in privilege will never have. It’s also one reason why organizations and companies value diversity and inclusivity.

And when we consider the goals of our educational system to prepare kids for life and for meaningful, productive careers, think about this:  the majority of companies in our country also recognize the rights of transgender people to use the bathrooms and facilities that match their identity.

Here are just the companies who signed on to a Supreme Court “friend of the court” brief supporting transgender student Gavin Grimm to use the bathroom of his identity, in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board:

Here are the companies standing up against the “bathroom bill” in Texas, led by the likes of AT&T, IBM, Dell, Kimberly-Clark, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, Apple, Google, and Facebook, and who have signed a letter to the governor:

These companies and many more will sign on to court cases in the future. And there are millions of small and mid-size companies around the country that are inclusive to transgender people and making their voices heard, too.

Our hearts go out to the kids whose parents refuse to understand the truth of being LGBTQ. Those kids are missing out on a great gift. When they enter college and then the workforce, they will learn that companies allow transgender people to use the bathrooms of their identity. They will learn that companies value diversity and inclusion and expect employees to honor differences. They will have LGBTQ coworkers and bosses, because our marginalized, disenfranchised kids will be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators, too.

Our goal is to give every child a chance to learn about the power of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity from a very young age.

It starts with education.

Peter and Sarah Tchoryk are on the Human Rights Campaign Parents for Transgender Equality National Council and work with many organizations, companies, and schools to help create a world where every child can grow up to live peacefully and productively. You can reach us by sending an email through the contact form at and you can find more information about our story at

Why MLK’s Dream Is More Relevant Today Than Ever

We must stand up to hatred and injustice wherever it lives, and in the words of King, meet ‘physical force with soul force.’

Our hearts are broken for the families who lost loved ones in Charlottesville, VA. The bravery and sacrifices of Heather Heyer and all those injured standing up to hatred will not be forgotten.

Heather Heyer Photo from GoFundMe Page

The scenes of white supremacists bring flashbacks and foreboding. This is not some isolated event. The problems in our country are systemic.

In a couple weeks we will mark the anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream speech. It has never been more relevant. And 54 years later, never more evident how far we have to go. 

And not long from now, April 4th, 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. On that date in 1968, many feared the Dream might die. On that date, we know some were hoping the Dream would die – the tragedy in Charlottesville shows us too many still do.

Our country has an on-going sickness, stemming from our history of slavery, dehumanization, and discrimination of African Americans and genocide against Native Americans. It has resulted in a systemic spread that reaches all minorities and anyone who is different from the mainstream. And I believe this sickness will be fatal unless every one of us stands up for diversity, inclusivity, and equity.

Last year our seven-year-old son told us he wanted to be like Martin. He heard Dr. King’s Dream speech in school and it sparked something inside him. He was in 2nd grade. And he got it.

Our son happens to be transgender. Like any parent of a transgender child or any marginalized child, we can’t help but wonder what kind of world he will be living in when he grows up.

Dehumanization of any minority, any group of people, will lead to dehumanization of others. It is why Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Coretta Scott King spoke of this with respect to how the LGBTQ community’s struggle for human rights paralleled the African American struggle. In Chicago, 1998, Mrs. King likened homophobia to racism and anti-Semitism, stating

“This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group.”

It was not long ago that our country saw fit to enslave and then segregate African Americans. It was within my lifetime that African Americans were forced to use separate schools, churches, bathrooms, areas on trains and busses, restaurants, and even separate drinking fountains. Our country has been a slave nation and a segregated nation much longer than it has been a free nation.

The images of white people, taunting and threatening African American children who tried to integrate schools in the South will always be emblazoned on my mind. And those images are now joined with the screaming faces of white supremacists, torches in hand, in Charlottesville.

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

I’ve seen similar expressions on people speaking against transgender families – despite the evidence showing all children benefit when schools are inclusive. Despite the evidence showing that safety is not compromised. Despite the evidence showing that the vast majority of medical professionals, mental health professionals, and companies are inclusive, recognize the truth, and value our transgender community.

I also see organizations like the American Family Association using their interpretation of faith as a weapon to condemn others. They deceive, promote intolerance of other views, and incite fear so they can influence public policy. And these types of groups and the arguments they make are not new.

Not long ago, many churches and faith-based groups used scripture and these same tactics to justify segregation and slavery. This type of deception and misplaced fear fuels the dehumanization of people of color, different religions and nationalities, the LGBTQ community, and anyone whose differences are an easy scapegoat for systemic problems. Our country has not yet proven it can overcome this.

White nationalists, white supremacists, and alt-right groups fuel the lie that diversity is a threat. At our highest levels of government we see minorities falsely blamed and maligned for systemic ills. The worst part is that these fear-based campaigns ensnare many otherwise caring people who are deceived into vilifying those who are different. It fuels hatred. It fuels violence. Our country is still far from living up to its ideals and far from living up to the Dream.

Photo by Peter Tchoryk

So where do we go from here?

The answer is always in our young people. They are already redefining grassroots activism. We saw this in Charlottesville, too.

Dr. King spoke of a great “world house,” where we can all live peacefully and productively. There is much work to be done in addressing the root causes of social injustice and poverty. It will require a level of courage and a redemptive love for mankind we don’t often see. It will require us to develop what Dr. King called a dangerous unselfishness.

But we can get there if we build on the foundation of nonviolent direct action and economic empowerment to achieve equality and equity. We can get there if we work side by side with other marginalized communities who embrace this vision.

To fulfill the Dream requires a commitment to empowering all children with the knowledge that their differences are the very source of innovation and enlightenment in our world. It requires a commitment to providing all our children with the safe and inclusive learning environments they need to thrive in this world. It requires a commitment to ensuring all people can live their lives authentically and standing up for all those who face discrimination.

I hope every kid wants to be like Martin. I think it’s our only chance. Our Sister’s Keeper #HeatherHeyer 

Peter and Sarah Tchoryk live in Michigan and have three kids and three grandkids. They strive to create meaningful opportunities for all kids — and fulfill the Dream.

A Letter To Texas On Spaceflight, Dreams And Transgender Kids

Our son reflecting on the Dream, where Dr. King gave his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Aug. 28, 1963 (photo by Sarah Tchoryk)

How many of our kids dream of going into space? How many dream of just getting through the next day?

As a kid of the 60’s, I’ve been inspired by NASA and the space program for as long as I can remember. It was the reason I went into engineering. I dreamed of endless possibilities.

But for many, the possibilities were far from endless. It was a daily struggle to survive. It still is.

I was born a couple weeks after Dr. King gave life to the Dream – and only a couple days before the horrific bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church and vicious murders that ended the lives of four little girls and twoyoung boys.

As a nation, how do we reconcile our ability to land a man on the moon within a decade and our inability to end the systematic, violent oppression committed over centuries?

How is it possible for otherwise loving people to ignore the dehumanizing effects that result from segregating and isolating others? People who say they harbor no ill-will against the oppressed, but perpetuate a culture of ill-will.

Dr. King spoke of the strange paradoxes of a nation founded on the principle that all men were created equal, fighting to maintain a culture of institutionalized segregation and discrimination.

This culture persists today.

On what is being called “Discrimination Sunday,” Texas legislators would have made their Jim Crow-era counterparts proud. One of the bills passed by the Texas House, SB2078, includes an amendment preventing transgender K-12 children from using bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Perhaps we should not be surprised.

Bathrooms and public spaces were used like a weapon during the Jim Crow era, as segregationists preyed on fears that African Americans would assault white women and children or pass on diseases. Many of the same scare tactics used to justify segregating African Americans are being used today against transgender people, including children.

These scare tactics were used to great effect in Houston and North Carolina and adopted as a model by other states trying to pass anti-transgender legislation.

How is it possible states can pass this type of legislation despite the overwhelming evidence debunking false claims about safety?

This is not just about bathrooms. And we’ve been here before.

In her enlightening book, Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly introduced us to the extraordinary contributions African American women made to NASA and our space program. It was also a stark reminder of the culture of normalcy around segregation and discrimination that endured into the Space Age.

African American women like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson made great contributions scientifically – and in breaking down barriers of segregation and discrimination. They took a stand.

I ask that the people of Texas take a stand – this time with transgender children and their families.

“All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation … ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. [MLK]

Segregation and “separate but equal” are a thinly veiled rejection of the truth that we are all created equal. Segregation dehumanizes. It isolates and denigrates – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston spoke passionately against the legislation:

“White. Colored. I was living through that era…bathrooms divided us then, and it divides us now.

America has long recognized that separate but equal is not equal at all.” “I can also tell you that separate restrooms for transgender kids, which is what we will be discussing for this bill, are also based on fear and not fact.”

Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of nine African American students who integrated Little Rock Central High School, told TIME that she agrees transgender children should be allowed to use bathrooms matching their gender identify:

“I grew up in a Jim Crow environment where you had one sign that said, ‘Colored’ and one said ‘White.’ Here we are looking at some of the same situations … To me, it’s just going backwards. I think that they should demand their rights.”

Thankfully, the lessons of the past are not lost on all.

Businesses including IBM, Dell, Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and many others recognize the value of diversity and signed a letter opposing this harmful legislation.

As a parent to a young transgender child and the CEO of an aerospace company, I appeal to the millions of companies and organizations in Texas and elsewhere to do the same.

To those who may have been silent about injustices in the past — it is never too late to speak out.

To those who may have made the wrong choice in the past — it is never too late for redemption.

And as we speak out against injustice, we know of a wondrous power:

“For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit. It calls on them to engage in that something called love … When I say ‘love’ at this point, I’m not talking about an affectionate emotion. It’s nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper. I’m talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men … And isn’t it marvelous to have a method of struggle where it is possible to stand up against an unjust system, fight it with all of your might, never accept it, and yet not stoop to violence and hatred in the process?”

So now, through this redemptive power of love, we can dream of endless possibilities.

Peter and Sarah Tchoryk live in Michigan and have three kids and three grandkids. They strive to create meaningful opportunities for all kids — and fulfill the Dream.

Our Son Has a Dream, Too

Photo Credit: Samantha Brandt Photography, LLC

“Our Son Has a Dream, Too” as seen in Huffington Post

My seven-year-old transgender son told me several months ago that he wants to be like Martin when he grows up. You know, the one who had a dream. I told my son I didn’t know he was on a first name basis with the great Dr. King. I asked him to go on and he explained that he heard the speech about being free and equal. And he wants to be like that. To be like Martin. I don’t think my son realizes what he’s getting into with that career path. My son does not yet know the full extent of the discrimination he will face. He is too busy being happy and being a child.

There is no argument that could ever convince me that my son is not who he says he is. I have seen it first-hand. Others have, too. There is no traditionalist view that could justify the suffering and death of so many kids for the sake of “that’s how we’ve always done it.” There is no possible interpretation of our founding forefathers’ intentions that would lead me to believe they wanted state-sponsored discrimination and segregation against our LGBTQ community. Or that our forefathers would ignore the tenants of equality and justice for all, the very basis of our independence.

Some say they don’t understand why we just don’t segregate transgender kids and call it a day. Apparently the lessons learned from our segregationist past and the struggles of our African American community are lost on many people. Separate schools, bathrooms, restaurants, even water fountains – if you want to dehumanize a group of people, there is no better start than segregation.

Some say that my son’s rights aren’t civil rights. That we have no right to compare his battle to The Civil Rights Movement. All my son knows is that when he learned about Dr. King, and what that great man stood for, he wanted to be like him. I want my son to be like him, too.

This isn’t just about bathrooms. This is about the human condition. Our son is a boy. He was born that way, even though his body doesn’t have boy parts. This happens sometimes in nature. It’s not any different than a child being born with a physical limitation. Or with autism. Or with Down Syndrome. Or with extraordinary musical talent. Or with the ability to inspire a nation in the name of justice and equality. It just happens sometimes. It’s life. It just is.

And our story is not unique. Thousands of families have nearly identical experiences to our own. Our experience is, opening your heart and mind to marginalized communities and their challenges will make you a better human being. It will make your kids better human beings. If we just have the courage to stand up for those in need, we can make this world a safer place – a better place – for all.

Legislators have now brought the battle to our doorstep. You can add Michigan to the list of states with bathroom bills. In North Carolina, my son can be prosecuted for using the bathroom with which he identifies. Even though all the evidence points to the contrary, legislators continue to use fear as a weapon against my son and our community. They make it impossible for kids like our son to live in this world. They promote a culture that is divisive and intolerant to marginalized communities.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the backlash is perhaps the wake up call this country needed. Well, we are awake now. And by “we,” I mean the sleeping giants. People like me and my wife, who hadn’t gone public with the fact that our seven-year-old son is transgender. People who have no connection to the LGBTQ community. People who hear the rhetoric and say enough is enough. People who already have too much on their plate, who now raise their voices in support of equality, common sense, compassion, and truth.

Just as in the days of The Civil Rights Movement, the legislators and all those waging war on the LGBTQ community will be proven wrong. History will deal with them harshly. But the damage they cause in the interim is long lasting, and can be fatal for many in our community. People who cannot fathom living in a world that treats them as subhuman. And many of them kids. It is for them we fight. We cannot wait. I will not wait.

I was not born an advocate and I am not worthy to be called by that name. But I have seen the truth. I cannot unsee it. I have learned what it means to be marginalized through my son’s eyes. I cannot unlearn it. I cannot be silent. I will not be silent.

My voice joins the thousands – the millions – of sleeping giants who are now awake. And the despair I had just a short time ago is being replaced. By confidence. Not just hope, but confidence. I am now certain America will become what it is capable of becoming. The light. The beacon that we claim to be, when we preach to the world about liberty and fairness. The fire that has inspired so many to give their lives in the pursuit of the American dream.

Our son has a dream, too. A dream that I am now certain will become reality. A dream that will not meet its end on the legislative floors of state houses. A dream that will not be crushed by those selling fear. My son’s dream will live because it is shared by all those who have been oppressed since the beginning of time. It is shared by those beautiful souls who were lost in Orlando. It is shared by those who have been marginalized, by birth and then by society. It is shared by those who have empathy in their hearts. It is shared by those who understand the nature and value of diversity and how we are all different in so many ways. And yet the same.

We are a nation grieving. Again. Orlando is suffering. Our nation is suffering. Our hearts are breaking. But we will remember those beautiful souls. We will honor them. And we will make sure their dreams of a better world come true.

We can all help. When we unite and stand up for equality and justice in our towns and in our states, we give life to the dream. But we cannot wait. I will not wait. I ask that you join me. #WeAreOrlando

The Simple, Self-Evident Truths of Transgender Kids, Equality, and Title IX

Treat others as you want to be treated. Such a simple, universal rule. The golden rule. So simple we teach it to our youngest children as soon as they reach an age when they antagonize their siblings. So universal that it pervades religious doctrine and kindergarten classrooms alike. A self-evident truth if there ever was one.

Here’s another one, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Our country’s founders created a nation on the basis of this fundamental truth. Simple. Universal. Self-evident.

The great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of the strange paradoxes of slavery and segregation in a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal.

A country that allowed irrational fears and biases to shape our society for over a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. A country that allowed Jim Crow laws in our states to affect the worldview of generations of Americans, feeding inherent biases that subsist even now. A country with good intentions, but that paved the way for segregation and institutionalized discrimination of an entire race of people — a race that still feels the effects to this day.

If there’s one thing we should learn from this, it’s that we must confront these paradoxes wherever they exist.

This struggle hits home for our family. Our eight-year-old son is transgender and faces discrimination that affects his life now and into the future. He is up against a culture that condemns him for the way he was born and legislation that makes living authentically nearly impossible.

The LGBTQ community has few protections against discrimination and can be denied employment, housing, and health care. What rights do exist are challenged at every turn. Our states are inundated with bathroom and religious liberty legislation that would legalize discrimination against millions of LGBTQ people, millions of kids. Just for being born different.

One of the few pieces of supportive guidance for transgender kids is now in danger. In May of 2016 the Departments of Education and Justice issued federal guidance on Title IX. Their interpretation recognized the truth about gender identity and provided students with protection against discrimination, including safe access to the facilities with which students identify. It has been a lifeline for transgender kids.

Later in 2016, however, a preliminary injunction was issued. As it heads to court, the Department of Justice has recently withdrawn its support for a partial stay on the injunction. This sends a message that our government is not heading down the path of equality for our transgender and gender non-conforming kids.

Title IX is much more than a bathroom issue, as Laverne Cox beautifully described Gavin Grimm’s historic case coming before the Supreme Court. It is about the ability of transgender kids to exist in our schools and public places. It is about creating an environment where transgender kids are not segregated. It is about creating a culture that does not demonize them for being born a certain way – a culture that does not treat them as an abomination. It is about survival.

What we truly need are civil rights for the entire LGBTQ community. The rights that everyone else in our country enjoys. Fair, equal rights. But until we have equality for all, Title IX is all our kids have.

Thankfully, many people are now learning that both gender and sexual orientation are on a spectrum, like so many other things in life. We know that gender identity manifests as early as two years old. And we have on-going longitudinal studies that support the experiences of what millions of transgender people and their families already know.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and every other major medical and mental health organization recognize that affirming a child’s gender identity is critical to their well being. Pediatricians also recognize that legislation like bathroom bills put our kids at great risk – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

In spite of the evidence and the real experiences of our families, some still insist on a traditional binary definition of gender. Some cannot accept that kids experience gender dysphoria at an early age and that it is not a choice.

When we challenge traditional views, some derisively call this pushing an agenda. Dr. King faced this, as do African Americans today. If you call ‘equality for all’ an agenda, then yes, we are pushing it. Equality should not be a partisan issue. It is too fundamental to our country and to our humanity.

Some accuse the LGBTQ community of seeking special rights. As if non-discrimination and human rights are special treatment. Like a tax break.

I can’t wait to explain this to my son. Congratulations kid, you’ve won some special treatment. Looks like you might get to use the bathroom you identify with. Knock yourself out. Oh, by the way, when you get older you can still get fired or denied housing or healthcare just because of the way you were born. Yes, you’ve got those special rights. That special treatment.

But it does not have to be this way. For many of us, our worldview has been shaped by interpretations of religious doctrine, long-held biases, and fears built on misconceptions and misinformation.

Let us challenge these interpretations and traditions rooted in biases and irrational fears. Let us adjust our worldview when we grow and learn the truth. Let us treat others as we want to be treated and sacrifice for equality and equity. Let us, in the words of Dr. King, ”develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” I believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

It is not the easiest path, it is the hardest. To do what is difficult, in spite of the pain. To do what is right, in spite of the cost. But if we take this path — if we teach our kids these simple, self-evident truths — we will make this world a better, safer place for all.



Jacq Kai’s Story

Photo Credit: Samantha Brandt Photography, LLC

Hello, world. I’m the Dad of a transgender kid. I’m hoping our story will open some hearts and minds, much as ours were opened by our son. My son’s picture is in a presentation given to the Michigan State Board of Education for this proposal: “Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students.” His name is Jacq Kai, but he prefers Kai. We felt it was critical to give a face and a name to this issue as many people are openly condemning us when they have never talked to or met a transgender child. Though if Kai has his way, he’ll be playing quarterback at Michigan. You’ll certainly get to know him then. This is our story.

Our family has not been stealth about our transgender journey. But we also have not been outspoken in the media until now, because of the inherent danger to transgender kids and the response you see in many communities. The risks, however, are completely outweighed by the urgency we feel in explaining this issue and helping kids who have no voice.

I’m an engineer and my wife is a teacher. Looking back five years ago, our life was quite ordinary – until our daughter Jacqueline, at around two years old, started insisting she was a boy. I can’t do it justice here to emphasize how extremely painful and nearly unbearable life became for her. The forcefulness and consistency of her appeals led us to seek expert advice from multiple doctors and therapists. It was clear. Jacqueline was a boy.

We decided to ‘science the heck out of it’ and dove into learning everything we could. There is an excellent longitudinal study led by Dr. Kristina Olson at the University of Washington that shows transgender kids are not making this up. There is also a new study in the February issue of the Journal of Pediatrics showing that supporting transgender kids in their identity has a huge positive impact on their mental health. It may ultimately have an impact on the 40+% of transgender people that attempt suicide. That would be good.

When it came time for Kindergarten, our principal, Craig McCalla of Cornerstone Elementary in Dexter, had no previous experience with transgender issues. But he assured us his job was to create a safe and supportive learning environment for every child. Every. Child. Just like he helps kids with autism, physical disabilities, or your child when they fall behind in reading. He is our hero. The problem is not everyone has a Craig McCalla.

The reason I’m telling you this is that it was the impetus for trying to provide the best information to people who are making decisions on our kids’ behalf. There is very little information to help educators address the practical issues they face on a daily basis, including compliance with Title IX. Transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX, which includes the right to use restrooms matching their gender identity. Educators, however, are requesting guidance on compliance as well as information on other LGBTQ issues.

Attempts are still being made to pass discriminatory Anti-LGBTQ legislation that prevents transgender people from using the restrooms with which they identify. In 200 cities and 17 states where transgender rights to restrooms are protected, however, there is no evidence that sexual predators have exploited equal rights laws to commit crimes.

When you create a safer environment for LGBTQ kids, you create a culture of respect, tolerance, safety and inclusiveness for all kids. The proposed guidance is based on studies and best practices from other schools and communities that have enacted similar guidance with successful results. It’s not perfect and I’m sure it will evolve. But it’s a start.

If you have data or a better way to address an issue, then by all means share it. That’s what this is all about. It’s not policy – more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. Let’s have informed dialogue.

For example, issues have been raised about student privacy. The ACLU advises schools that they have a legal obligation to protect the privacy of students related to their sexual orientation and gender identity. We know the very best thing for LGBTQ students is for them to have loving, supportive families, and the guidance calls for meaningful family engagement to help make this happen.

I was awakened to the life and death struggle of these kids and the LGBTQ community. It inspired me to take an active role in making this world a better place – not just for transgender kids – for all kids. I ask that you join me. The proposed statement provides needed guidance to schools. And it will save lives.

Bio: Peter Tchoryk and his wife Sarah live in Dexter, MI, have three children and two grandchildren; Peter is the CEO of Michigan Aerospace Corporation and Springmatter, and Sarah is a 5th grade teacher.

Calling All Real Superheroes


“Calling All Real Superheroes” as seen in Huffington Post

We are enamored with superheroes in our country. It’s a part of our culture and I think captures our inherent desire to overcome adversity and help others. To fight for good. The problem is we actually need real ones today. And lots of them.

I’m encouraging my kids and grandkids to be their own superhero. I want them to know that each one of them is strong and each one of them can make this world a better place. This is an especially important message to kids who are marginalized in some way, and in our case, our transgender son.

But it is my message to everyone. This isn’t the time to be afraid. This isn’t the time to back away and let others fight the fight. It’s time for all of us, the sleeping giants, to realize we have a greater mission in this world. Get your mask. Get your cape, if you’re so inclined. It’s time to enter the fray.

So what kind of superheroes do we need? Much of the suffering and violence in the world today is caused by those who cling to a world-view that is narrow and unbending and unaccepting of any differences. A world-view that cultivates intolerance. A world-view that sanctions discrimination and denies rights to those who are different. I think this is a good place to start for our superheroes.

If there is one thing our country should agree on, it is embracing differences. If there is one thing our country should get right, it is equality and justice for all. And yet, while we preach against the oppressive forces in our world, many of our own citizens and leaders seem unable to accept differences right here in our own country. People who should know better, but continue to deny rights to those who deserve them. First and foremost, our superheroes should be a voice for equality and stand up for the underdogs.

I’d venture that most people would already say they stand up for the underdogs in this world. And I’ll bet every parent has talked to their kids about standing up to bullies. Yet many of these same people fail to support those who need it most. The marginalized communities. People of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and the most persecuted and least understood, our transgender and LGBQ communities.

Ironically, I’ll bet many of those same people who vehemently oppose equality for marginalized groups love taking their kids to see superhero movies. They love watching the defenders of equality and justice stand up for the oppressed. If only people realized they have an opportunity, in real life, to be a superhero to a kid in need. Especially for transgender and gender non-conforming kids, who see a world of adults condemning them just for being who they are.

Gender identity seems particularly hard for some to grasp. I know there are some who will never get it. I guess that’s life. And that’s why we will always need superheroes. But I believe many more will open their hearts and minds. For some, all it will take is getting to know a transgender child and their family. It’s why we tell our story. For some, it will require a deeper understanding of the nature and science of gender identity. It’s why we strive for education.

Our family, among many others, has been working with Michigan’s State Board of Education to provide basic guidelines to our educators so they can help create a safer, more inclusive environment for LGBTQ kids. The guidance is now being revised after multiple public forums and thousands of on-line comments were considered. The updated version will be released and reviewed later this summer.

The recommended guidance, however, has led to a firestorm of resistance. Much of the tempest has been directed at transgender students, their families, and the people standing up for us. Some of it comes from people who believe the predator myth, though it has been thoroughly debunked. Some of it comes from religious extremists, who condemn anyone who believes differently. And some of it comes from the legislators. It led to two bathroom bills being introduced in Michigan, part of the massive wildfire of legislation spreading across the country by those who seek to deny civil rights for the LGBTQ community.

And that was just the beginning. Along with ten other states, Michigan’s Attorney General now seeks to overturn federal guidelines for schools on protecting the rights of transgender students. Specifically, their lawsuit challenges the inclusion of gender identity under Titles VII and IX, despite the strong justification for it. The guidance offered by the Federal Government is essential for the health and safety of these kids. They are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. They have no protection against discrimination. And they are at the highest risk for harassment, bullying, assault, and suicide.

Not everyone is giving in to the fear, however, as a dozen states have now filed a counterpoint brief showing why these protections are strongly in the public’s interest. Thankfully, there are people who recognize we have an obligation to provide rights for all our citizens.

The truth is we have an obligation to humanity. And when we see inequality and injustices being committed against our fellow human beings, it is our duty to act. In the words of Elie Wiesel, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”

Our military has recently taken sides, ending the ban on transgender people being able to serve openly. They realized our transgender soldiers make our military stronger. They make our country stronger. The contrast between the U.S. military’s position on transgender service and those opposing transgender rights is stark. Our military personnel put themselves in harm’s way for everyone’s sake. That makes them heroes. And by standing up for the most vulnerable, our military personnel are superheroes in my eyes. They have taken a bold stand, joining the Department of Education, Department of Justice, and our President. I am grateful.

Our family is also fortunate to have superheroes in our everyday lives. People who know they will face criticism, yet advocate for the transgender kids in our schools. People like our elementary school principal, Craig McCalla, and the President of Michigan’s State Board of Education, John Austin. Leaders who take a stand for all kids, including the most vulnerable. The classmates and friends of my son who know he is transgender and treat him just like any other boy. My son’s sisters and the siblings of many other transgender kids, who are often their fiercest allies. And of course the strongest of all, our LGBTQ and other marginalized kids, who not only deal with their internal struggles, but face a society that opposes them just for being who they are. It comes down to courage. And they have it.

I’m calling for people to summon their courage and not give in to divisiveness, hate, and fear. I’m calling for people from all walks of life, the sleeping giants, to awaken and become a superhero for a kid in need. Hold our leaders accountable to support the rights of all our citizens, including LGBTQ and all those who are marginalized. Some will do the right thing. Make your voice heard against those who try to deny equality. Embrace all differences, whether of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and all those who do not fit within a neatly labeled box. Show the world we are not hypocrites when it comes to equality and justice for all. Lead by example and we will make this great country of ours even greater. We will make the world a better place for all kids.

I’m calling all real superheroes.

Oh, and if you must have a cape, make sure it’s quick release. Remember The Incredibles.

Human Rights Campaign 2017 Convention Parents Panel


Sarah McBride with Sarah Sult Tchoryk, Peter Tchoryk, Ron JR Ford, and DeShanna U Neal

“One of the favorite parts of my job is working with the exceptional parents on HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council. This morning I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with four of our parents – Pete and Sarah from Michigan, JR from DC, and DeShanna from the greatest state in the union – at our annual Equality Convention. These are some fierce mama and papa bears and we’re lucky to have them on the front lines.” [Sarah McBride]

#ProtectTransKids: Mother Delivers Tearful Plea for Transgende…

Burying a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. For DeShanna Neal – a mother of a Black transgender daughter – that fear is all too present. DeShanna worries that her daughter Trinity won’t make it to adulthood, but she is hopeful that one day she’ll be treated just like every American.

Posted by Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Video: Human Rights Campaign 2017 Equality Convention Parents Panel