Transgender Child Awareness Week: December 5-11, 2010

Thanks to a tip from reader-and-friend Janelle, today I attended a benefit for TransActive, an entirely volunteer-run organization supporting transgender/gender non-conforming children and youth. It is one of the only such organizations in existence, started here in Portland, Oregon, and serving families in the Pacific Northwest and all over the USA. While there, I was blessed with witnessing Portland Mayor Sam Adams proclaim December 5-11 2010 as Transgender Child Awareness Week; this is the first such declaration from a government agency recognizing transgender children anywhere in the United States of America, and possibly in the world. (Please correct me if you know of other such proclamations.)

The text of the proclamation:

Whereas, TransActive Education & Advocacy, founded by Jenn Burleton, Hayley Klug and Kaig Lightner is based in Portland and is an international leader in providing education, services, advocacy and research that benefits transgender and gender non-conforming children, youth and their families; and

Whereas, transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth are among the least understood, most marginalized and underserved of populations despite constituting at least one percent of all children and youth; and

Whereas, isolation, marginalization and rejection contribute to alarmingly high rates of depression, low self-esteem and suicidal ideation experienced by transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth; and

Whereas, transgender children who receive the love and support of their families, friends, neighbors, communities, schools and culture have every opportunity to thrive and be successful; and

Whereas, transgender children and youth have identities that are, in every way as authentic, valid and natural as cisgender children and youth; and

Whereas, transgender adolescents deserve access to pediatric medical care and healthcare coverage that affords them the opportunity to experience physical puberty in a way that is congruent with their gender identity; and

Whereas, all Oregon children and youth are guaranteed the right to express their gender identity as they experience it by the Oregon Equality Act, and they have the right to be educated in a safe, respectful and supportive school environment as required by the Oregon Safe School Act.

Now, therefore, I, Sam Adams, Mayor of the City of Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses,” do hereby proclaim December 5 through December 11, 2010 to be Transgender Child Awareness Week in Portland, and encourage all residents to observe this week.

I originally had three giant and boring paragraphs here, but I shall replace them with two slightly less giant and I hope not so boring points:

1) Parents, this is our deal. It’s not something for those people over there to worry about or pay attention to; we’re the ones raising the next generation of trans kids right now. By the time trans kids are aware enough to tell us that the gender we have assigned them into is not what they know themselves to be (if ever they work up that courage), we have had thousands of opportunities to affirm that we love them, that there is a vibrant and diverse and beautiful transgender community, that genitals do not equal gender, that their worth is not dependent on their adherence to our assignment of their gender, that “male” and “female” are sometimes useful generalizations but not at all strict, easy to recognize, or discrete categories, that gender roles are meant to be broken, that we will always love them: do not miss these chances. If it turns out yours is a transgender child, think of how much easier this will make hir life; if it turns out yours is a cisgender child, s/he will grow up all the better off for these early lessons, and hir transgender peers will be safer for it. Don’t wait until you know your child is trans; don’t leave all the work to parents of transgender kids: start now.

2) Please, if you are able, contribute to TransActive. None of the people running it make a single cent off all their work they do for transgender and gender non-conforming children in Portland, the Pacific Northwest, and all across the United States, though they deserve to; all of the funds go to running and expanding their programs and their ability to help transgender youth. The success of this organization, one of the only of its kind, can lead the way for other organizations like it, and through them we can make the world a better, safer place for transgender kids and adults. If there is an organization in your state or country that supports trans youth, let me know about it in the comments, and help them in whatever ways you can.

The official declaration of Transgender Child Awareness Week might only apply here in the City of Roses, but please take this opportunity to educate yourself, your friends, and your community, and to support those working to make the world a little less hostile a place to grow up transgender.

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12 Responses to Transgender Child Awareness Week: December 5-11, 2010

  1. Thanks for this. I think that flipside of this is that to *not* raise your child with the possibility and affirming the acceptability of their being trans is to risk the incalculable damage that being raised cis is for a trans child… The only ethical response is to raise your child in the conditional, waiting for them to tell you who they are.

    As you rightly point out, parents have thousands of opportunities to make ts/tg/gq liveable possibilities for their child – and thousands to rule it out, to make it so unthinkable that for the small minority of trans children, by the time they’re brave enough to articulate their sex/gender it’s *too late* – there’s already been all kinds of damage done.

  2. Pingback: Raising (Potentially) Trans Children at Questioning Transphobia

  3. Thank you so much for your supportive and elegant words. Your unconditional love and acceptance of your child is what makes it easy for those of us who work at TransActive to continue doing what we do.

    Have a wonderful holiday season!

    Jenn Burleton
    Executive Director
    TransActive Education & Advocacy

  4. 1% – that indicates a possible trans child in every school.

    • There was a trans child in my school, although we didn’t know it at the time. He was raised as a girl and has since transitioned.

    • The Nerd — And that more than several of the children of my readers are/will be trans/gender variant/genderqueer, and that 100% of the children of the people reading this will know someone who is tg/gv/gq, whether or not they ever know it.

    • It’s actually more than 1%. These are mostly Australian figures, as best i recall them:

      It’s 1 in 500 people are Transsexual (Lynne Conway’s estimate)
      It’s 4% of all live births Intersex (Peter Koopman, University of Queensland)
      It’s at least 3% of students surveyed ‘Gender Questioning’ (LaTrobe University writing Themselves In 3 2010)
      Possibly as much as 10%-20% Transgender (Anecdotal, from Thai school which designated one toilet for Transgender students)
      And thats along with:
      6% Primary Schoolchildren already aware their sexual orientation is Same Sex Attracted (LaTrobe University writing Themselves in 3)
      10% Highschool students Same Sex Atracted. (LaTrobe University writing Themselves in 3)
      20% Adults Same Sex Attracted (i’d have to look that Australian study’s name up though, don’t recall it offhand)

      Of course there is overlap between some of those categories. But when you look at an average school and those percentages it really demands change.

      • “Possibly as much as 10%-20% Transgender (Anecdotal, from
        Thai school which designated one toilet for Transgender students)”
        I don’t know that much about Thai culture, but I do know that being
        a receptive gay male partner is really badly seen. If you’re the
        penetrating partner, they don’t even consider you gay. But if
        you’re the receptive partner, you might as well be transgender. One
        would have to know how many of the estimated transgender population
        in Thailand is of the trans masculine variety. That would be a more
        conservative estimate (probably underreported given I never heard
        about trans men there). 10-20% surpasses the US and Canada
        gay+bisexual population ratio (but I bet millions that it’s
        underreported to studies), and at best the cross-dresser population
        in the US is estimated at less than 10% too. If anything, Thailand
        people are conflating cross-dresser and transsexual (if you count
        that they’re always treated as legally male regardless of surgery
        or hormonal status).

  5. My daughter (7) has a trans child at her gymnastics club. She is 13 and was raised as a boy until a year ago. I don’t know much about how her family have been or her school, but I do know the gym club has been wonderful.

  6. Wow… I just had one of those blindingly obvious AHA moments, and thought I’d share.

    Even though one of my sisters-in-law is trans, and a lovely lady I went to high school with and have now reconnected with online is trans, it Never Once occurred to me to think about the possibility of my daughter (almost 6) being trans. I myself am bi, so I pretty mention to her that there are folks who love folks that share their own gender and such (e.g. “mommy, boys marry girls, and girls marry boys.” “well, yeah, a lot of them do, but some boys marry boys or girls marry girls… and some folks don’t want to get married at all.”), but I honestly have never considered that she might at some point not identify with the female identity she has now.

    THANK YOU for giving me an opportunity to flip that switch in my mind. I only hope it stays active, so that I can be on the lookout for opportunities to show her that being — as you put it in your comment — tg/gv/gq is okay, too.

  7. er, “pretty regularly mention to her” >_<

  8. Pingback: Transgender Child Awareness Week « Something More Than Sides

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