A present-day civil rights story about the fight against anti-trans legislation
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
Peter and Sarah Tchoryk
“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.
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.
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.
Post also found on Medium.com and HRC.org. 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 […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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]”
“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.”
“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.
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2017-06-07 15:49:412019-05-28 15:36:54A Letter To Texas On Spaceflight, Dreams And Transgender Kids
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2016-06-20 00:00:232017-04-23 23:00:24Our Son Has a Dream, Too
“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
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2016-06-19 16:27:122017-04-23 23:01:10The Simple, Self-Evident Truths of Transgender Kids, Equality, and Title IX
Let Us Challenge Traditions Rooted in Biases and Irrational Fears
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.
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2016-06-15 14:32:352017-04-23 22:57:42Jacq Kai's Story
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.
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2016-06-14 22:52:282017-02-17 19:41:26Calling 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.
http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png 0 0 Pete T http://embrace.today/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/embrace_gray-header-300x138.png Pete T2016-01-01 03:59:352017-03-26 04:01:24Human Rights Campaign 2017 Convention Parents Panel
One of my 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.
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
Watch parents of transgender children talk about love for their children and the impact that anti-Transgender legislation has on them and their children.
Posted by Meghan Stabler on Saturday, March 11, 2017