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.