Friday, April 14, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017


We had so much fun being a part of this project. Many thanks to the The Scene for putting together a beautiful piece and lifting up trans kids (and their parents) in such a positive way!

(And oh my goodness, do you not just want to hug that little boy with the glasses?!)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rebekah Day and Giving Back

On April 16, we will celebrate what we affectionately named “Rebekah Day”. It will be the second anniversary of Rebekah going out into the world as herself, a girl named Rebekah. Last year I wrote her this letter to celebrate the one year anniversary…. and every word of that still rings true. I will read it to her every year on this special day.

On this year's anniversary, we want to thank those who have paved the way for Rebekah to be who she is. We are deeply grateful to every transgender person who has come before her, living their truth despite the violence, discrimination and struggle, fighting to be seen and respected in a world that said loudly and clearly “you don’t belong here”. The world was and is wrong. You do belong here, and we are so deeply, deeply glad you’re here. Connecting with this trans community has been the biggest gift we have received. I am not transgender, and yet this community has truly welcomed us as parents with open arms.
The people who have shared their trans identities with us, publicly and personally, help us better understand our daughter - her experience, her challenges, and how we can best support her now and also prepare her for the future. We know that hearing one person’s story is exactly and only that - one person’s story. There is no one-size-fits-all trans experience. But, it has been and continues to be a truly holy experience to share space, in person or online, with people in the trans community who generously and graciously share their stories, share their whole selves with us.

We give thanks to every parent who has supported their transgender child in the truest sense of that word, who has had the difficult conversations with families, schools, and communities, who have fought for their child’s safety and respect. Parents who have shared their families’ stories gave us much needed perspective, affirmation, hope and joy as we navigated our family’s own story.

Finally, we are so thankful for allies and advocates - organizations, community leaders, legislators, school administrators and educators, communities, and families. On every level, from local to global, their work changes the societal landscape for transgender people. These are people who work seemingly tirelessly, although I know many of them are so very tired. They are relentless in this fight for equality, and we are so thankful to know they are fighting for kids like Rebekah along with all trans and gender non-conforming people, especially those who are most vulnerable, whose identities lie at the intersection of more than one oppressed and marginalized community. There is much work to be done.
With that in mind, we’d like to invite you to celebrate with us two years of Rebekah being “Rebekah” by joining us in supporting one of the organizations doing this work. Rebekah thought that each year we could pick a different organization to support, and this year she chose Garden State Equality.
Garden State Equality is working constantly to address the needs of the LGBTQ community in New Jersey, and just last month, their office in Asbury Park was vandalized. New Jersey has been a leader in equality, but there is work to be done. In our current political landscape, our work on a state level matters more than ever. Garden State Equality is working in healthcare, policy, legislation, education, community support, and beyond. They stood with 8 year old Joe Maldonaldo when he was kicked out of Boy Scouts for being transgender and as his family fought to change that. They are working with the community in Egg Harbor Township who is fighting the school board to adopt a policy for transgender students. They are advocating with the New Jersey Department of Education and in the legislative bodies for statewide guidance to be in place to protect transgender students in schools. And on a personal level, they have empowered Rebekah in her advocacy, lifting up her voice, and helping her gain confidence in her trans identity and her strength.
Please consider making a donation, in Rebekah’s honor, to celebrate with us and to support the work of Garden State Equality. No donation is too small, and every bit counts. We thank you for your ongoing support and love. Let’s show Rebekah what she can do with the help of her family, friends, and supporters!!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Transgender Daughter is a Beloved Child of God

Originally published on Medium on March 1, 2017 (prior to the Supreme Court vacating Gavin Grimm's case).

I am a lifelong Lutheran, a pastor’s wife, and a mom to three amazing kids. My firstborn child is named Rebekah. She is an excellent student with a deep love of learning. She is adored by classmates and teachers. She’s just as happy mountain biking and swimming in waterfalls and as she is twirling in fancy dresses and performing on stage. She is strong and determined. She is a beloved child of God. She is ten years old, and she is transgender.

She hasn’t always been the happy, thriving kid that she is now. In the years before she transitioned to live as her authentic self in the world, my husband and I watched our child grow more and more anxious. We watched as she became increasingly uncomfortable in her own body and confused about her place in the world. We watched as depression took over, and before we knew it, we had a seven-year-old child in crisis. We had a seven-year-old child who pushed out the screen of her second story window and tried to jump out, a seven-year-old child who wanted to die. We have never been more scared in our lives.

With the support of excellent professionals and a lot of of learning, we were able to pull her back from that window ledge and give her space to unpack her identity. We all came to realize she wasn’t a boy. She was a girl. At eight years old, we changed her name and pronouns and she began living as herself in the world. She immediately transformed into a confident, joyful child whose smile lights up an entire room.

My husband is a Lutheran pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As a clergy family, we have lived out this journey publicly in our church and our community where Rebekah has been welcomed with open arms. We may not entirely understand the science around why people are born transgender or even what it all means for our daughter’s future, but we know that God created each and every one of us in God’s own image. God does not love our daughter in spite of her gender identity. God did not put her in the wrong body. This is who she has always been, who God created her to be, and like I've heard from so many who want to dispute transgender identities, God doesn’t make mistakes.

As beloved children of God, we are one. We are one  body in Christ. When we claim our stories, tell our stories, and hear each other’s stories we are better able to enter into community with all God’s children and care for each member of the body. My daughter is transgender, and she is okay.

My family stands with Gavin Grimm in the upcoming Supreme Court case as he fights for the rights of all students to a safe and affirming education. This case may specifically be about a transgender child's ability to use the proper restroom, but it really is so much more than that. This is about dignity and compassion for transgender people. This is about the right to be who you are in the world with the same rights and protections of any other individual.

My husband, Rev. Christopher Bruesehoff, was one of nearly 2,000 faith leaders to sign an amicus brief supporting Gavin Grimm and the rights of all transgender students, standing in solidarity with the trans community. We are proud to be a part of this historic case, the first concerning transgender equality to ever go before the U.S. Supreme Court - and we hope to see the Supreme Court rule on the right side of history in this case this spring.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Privilege through the eyes of an 8 Year Old

Originally published on Facebook February 25, 2017.

In the past two weeks, I've done a handful of interviews about transgender rights and why it's important to our family. The first time my husband and I were interviewed on the news, it was fun to watch the kids' reactions. Rebekah was really proud to see her picture and hear us fighting for her. Oliver was SUPER excited to see mommy on television "mama, mama, see mama", he squealed.

And then there's Elijah. E thinks aloud so we get a running commentary on what's going on in his head on a regular basis. (Yes, this can be just as enlightening, entertaining, and, yes, sometimes painful as it sounds. I love him and the amazing way his brain works.)

At first he understandably said, "Hey! Why does Rebekah get to be on tv?" But then he realized what we were talking about in the interview, "ohhhh it's because she's transgender and she needs us to protect her rights." He continued, "So that means Jaxon might be on tv sometime too! He needs us to protect him, too!"

Jaxon is my nephew, and he happens to not be white. Well, actually he's biracial.

After another night with us on the evening news and the segment showing a few times over the course of the night, he said "Mommy is on tv, again?! Well, I want Rebekah to have her rights. And I want Jaxon to have his rights. I know I don't have to worry about my rights, but I want them to have theirs." And off he went to build something cool.

He's not quite 8 years old, and he gets it. He knows the privilege he has as a white, cisgender male, and he knows we have to fight for and lift up all of those who are vulnerable. If only the rest of the world would catch up.

#ourchildrenarewatching #raisethemright#protecttranskids #stophate

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fighting for Transgender Students

Originally published on Facebook February 22, 2017.

Last year, my daughter dressed up as Matilda for Love of Reading Week at school. It fit her perfectly. She's a hardworking, curious student with a deep love of learning and books! With a supportive educational environment, she is absolutely thriving. Matilda had to fight for her own supportive educational environment. Transgender students (and their parents) have been fighting for their's for years, and we aren't about to stop now.
We've heard from sources inside the Trump administration that they are planning to rescind the Obama administration's guidelines to schools on how to protect transgender students under Title IX. This sends a very clear message that the rights of transgender students do not matter as much as any other student's rights. This sends a very clear message that the EDUCATION of transgender students does not matter.
We are lucky that my daughter has been supported and affirmed in her public school setting, but we shouldn't have to worry if that will change with any changes in school administration. We shouldn't have to worry about what happens if we move. It shouldn't come down to luck. Every single child, including my daughter and every kid like her, deserves access to a safe education free from bullying and discrimination.
My daughter used this quote that resonated deeply with her in her presentation, "So Matilda's strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: you are not alone." - Roald Dahl, Matilda
We are not alone. You are not alone. We will fight for transgender students. We will fight for safe, bully-free, discrimination-free educational settings where all students can thrive. And we will #standwithGavin as he heads to the Supreme Court for all transgender students.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What Makes Your Light Shine Bright?

Originally published on Facebook on February 20, 2017.

I spent the weekend at an elementary school retreat at camp with some awesome young people talking about being bright lights in the darkness.

For one activity, we finished the sentence "my light shines bright when...." on pieces of paper to fill a lightbulb. How would you finish that sentence? What can you do today and this week to be light in the darkness?

I know my light shines bright when I get good sleep. My light shines bright when I spend time in nature. My light shines bright when I care for my family and my community. My light shines bright when I make people laugh. My light shines bright when I am brave and kind. My light shines bright when I listen to others. My light shines bright when I tell my story.

I love that being of service to others and caring deeply for myself are both things that make my light shine bright. It's not one or the other, it's both! What makes your light shine bright?

#lightoftheworld #braveandkind #selfcareisntselfish

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Gender Revolution - A Conversation in Faith

Originally posted on Facebook on February 7, 2017.

Last night, at a Lutheran church, we screened the National Geographic documentary #GenderRevolution just a few hours before the television premiere and followed it with a panel discussion of clinicians, advocates, clergy, and parents of transgender kids. We threw together the event on just 8 days notice, and we had just about 50 people join us from the local community and beyond.
The film was great (watch it! It's available On Demand starting today, and will be streaming from the web in a couple weeks), and the panel and conversation was interesting and informative (even for me who served on the panel!). But two things stick out for me, as a parent of a transgender kid and as a person of faith.
First, seeing fifty people gather to have this conversation, share their stories, and ask questions about how we can do better for the trans community was extremely affirming for my 10 year old daughter. She didn't want to be a part of the panel ahead of time (which was more than fine!), but afterwards she said "you know, it would have been good if a kid could answer their questions, I could have answered their questions". This opportunity and conversation helped her find her voice and encouraged her that even people in our little part of the world care and want to listen and learn.
Second, a church creating this opportunity is significant for both people of faith and people who are not connected to a faith tradition. I know there are many, many churches doing things like this and so much more, but the church-based opposition is still louder. With so many in the country using faith as a weapon against the LGBTQ community, people of faith and our communities absolutely must boldly, intentionally, and loudly stand as places and people of welcome, support, and advocacy. It is not enough to say "well not all Christians..." in our own defense. It's not about us. It's about a community being actively marginalized by the 47% of people of faith who do not support them. We're the majority. Let's make that clear.

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Trans Daughter's Resistance

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility: #TransResistance

A photo my daughter taken at a rally for transgender students

While visibility alone is not enough, trans visibility is, in and of itself, a tool of resistance, an act of revolution.

Last month, our transgender daughter’s picture went viral and our family discovered a whole new level of visibility as we continued to advocate for trans young people. It’s been exciting, encouraging, overwhelming, and more than a little scary. We discovered a small taste of what many other public families of transgender young people know. There is an enormous heartwarming community supporting and loving our kids. There are also far too many people filled with hate, anger, and, seemingly, a lack of meaningful hobbies as they go out of their way to vilify transgender kids and their families. We know the rule, “don’t read the comments”, but sometimes the comments find you via private messages, email and beyond.
As our newsfeed filled with my kid’s face, family and friends were generally supportive but some wondered. They said things like “We love and support Rebekah, but why did you have to do all this? Why couldn’t you go about your daily lives and just let her be a girl? Why did you have to go so public? With all the hate in the world, don’t you worry about her privacy and her safety?”
That right there seems to be the question of Transgender Day of Visibility for me this year. Why visibility? Isn’t it safer/easier to just lay low? Day to day, her trans identity doesn’t have much of an impact on her. She’s fits into society’s expectations for girls. You don’t know she’s transgender when you meet her. She has a supportive school that protects her rights and identity. She has a supportive family. We know that being so public will impact her for the rest of her life. We’re not naive about any of this.
We could tell Rebekah to keep her identity quiet. We could hide our family’s story. We would absolutely be safer. We wouldn’t be receiving hateful messages calling us sick and horrible criminals, accusing us of abuse and threatening to have our kids taken away, or suggesting the world would be a better a place if our family died of cancer. We wouldn’t be trying to walk these fine lines of preserving the normalcy of everyday life, ensuring the safety of our family to the best of our ability, and carefully, intentionally trying to use this voice we’ve been given, not knowing what Rebekah will think of any of it ten or twenty years from now. Life might be a lot more calmer, quieter, easier.

But we know Rebekah is only able to be who she is, live a life where joy, love, and acceptance greatly overpower the fear and uncertainty because of the transgender people who bravely came before her, who lived their truth despite the violence they faced, who fought for their rights and against discrimination.

The rights of the transgender community are under attack, and those who are not as fortunate as Rebekah are the ones most impacted — those youth who don’t have supportive families, communities, or schools, those youth who don’t fit so neatly into the gender binary, those who already face discrimination based on their color, culture, creed, ability, income, and/or immigration status.
We are called not to hide behind our privilege, but to boldly tell our story and fight for those who aren’t in a position to do so publicly. And in that visibility, there is joy and hope. There are the messages we receive of love, support, and encouragement. Messages from people in the trans community telling us we’re in this together. Parents reaching out for support and resources. Young people thanking us for seeing them, valuing them when maybe their families or their schools don’t. The allies stepping forward, finding their voices, and taking action to support the trans community.
None of that is because our family is so special, or even because Rebekah is special, although we do think she’s pretty great. It’s because the trans community is strong, determined, brave, and resilient. They show us that every day just by existing and living out their lives when society tells them they don’t have a place here. The very act of being visible as a transgender person is an act of revolution.
We have watched Rebekah become more confident in herself and her identity as she uses her voice to stand up for her rights and the rights of all transgender kids. Being boldly, proudly, and joyfully visible sends a message to the community and the world, that this is not a secret, this is not a source of shame. My daughter’s identity is one to be seen and celebrated. As parents, as allies, we will continue to raise up trans voices, to see and celebrate trans identities, and to mobilize for transgender justice.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I'm the Scary Transgender Person the Media Warned You About

I'm the Scary Transgender Person the Media Warned You About 

(also known as "that time my kid went viral").

Originally published on Facebook on February 27, 2017.

Forgive me, guys. I have to be a gushing mom for a moment. This 10 year old girl stood up yesterday at a microphone in the street and told 200+ people why we need to stand up for not only trans rights but all rights. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BRAVE AND KIND!
We know how good she has it. We know the difference a supportive family and a supportive school make. And we know that rescinding the guidelines on supporting trans students disproportionately affects the most vulnerable. Black trans youth. Latinx trans youth. Immigrant trans youth. Muslim trans youth. Economically disadvantaged trans youth. Youth who live at the intersection of these identities and more, youth who are marginalized two and three times over just because of who they are, where they live, what they believe, or where they come from. This is why we will keep fighting.
#protecttrranskids #existenceisresistance #braveandkind


Here is video of her speech from that day. She is fierce and authentic. She will change the world just by being herself. And I am absolutely a proud, gushing mom.

Infectious Love

Originally published on Facebook, January 29, 2017.

Elijah, my almost 8 year old, asked me why I was upset yesterday. He and his 10 year old sister have learned about the refugee crisis in school, and so I explained to them why I was upset in the simplest terms possible, that our president declared that we would not allow many of these refugees into our country right now. I explained that homes and lives were ready for some of these refugees and that they were being turned away, some of them even at our airports. Elijah, with a look of utter shock and dismay on his face, immediately said, "Mama, I think you're going to have to go march again."
I smiled and told him that, yes, people were protesting. I also told him we would do a lot of things. We would speak out. We would write and call our legislators, our voice in the government. We would donate money to organizations who will help fight for these people in court. We would do all things, but I needed them to do something really, really big.
I told them I needed them to be the bravest and kindest kids they know and that I would be the bravest and kindest person I know. We talked about how we have to reach out to and support people who are different from us, every day and in every way. We talked about making sure someone isn't excluded or hurt at school because they don't look, act, or live like someone else. I told them that by doing that they could change the world.
Rebekah looked at me skeptically. Her face seemed to say, "change the world? yea right." So I tried to explain how meanness and anger can spread, but Elijah took over for me. He explained about how they read a book in guidance class at school about a boy who was being a bully at school. He said the boy wasn't a mean person, but he was acting mean because his sister was being mean to him at home. I said, YES! And just like meanness and anger can spread and make us meaner and angrier, kindness and love can spread. Elijah exclaimed, "LIKE AN INFECTION!"
Yes, like an infection. These kids are going to INFECT the world with kindness, love, and bravery, and they ARE going to change the world.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Project Semicolon: Sharing My Story in Honor of Amy's Legacy

I am so very sad to hear that Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, died last week. Project Semicolon is a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.
Amy saved lives with her work. People were inspired and encouraged by her and the symbol of the semicolon, but more than that, through Project Semicolon, people realized they weren't alone.
From the moment I discovered Project Semicolon, I knew I needed a semicolon tattoo. I knew I needed this physical, visible, daily reminder that no matter what I was facing this wasn't the end of my story. I needed this symbol to tell me, without words, that no matter how hard it seemed, the pain wouldn't last forever. I needed to be able to look at it and know that I wasn't alone, that others all over the world were fighting the battles of depression and anxiety alongside me.
A friend reached out asking if I wanted to get one with her, and it was a done deal, another strong reminder that we are not alone. She worked her semicolon into waves inspired by her love of and connection to the water, a constant in her life, a place of strength and peace.
I put mine between the two words that anchor me daily. Love and grace. The things I both aspire to but also find solace in. Each day I want to give love, live love, embody love - for myself, my family, and the world. Love is the only thing that makes sense to me in the face of hate and suffering. When I have no idea how to respond, what else to do, how to push through, love is what calls me forward. Love is expansive and light. Love heals. It is a comfort, a gift, and a calling. It is messy and real.
Love and grace. Grace because we are human and our world is broken. Without grace, I can never measure up. Grace tells me, shows me, time and time again that no matter what I do, no matter how I mess up, I AM loved. Grace will save me every time. Grace means that I can stop fighting to earn my right to exist. Grace says I am enough, right here, right now, exactly as I am. And grace frees me from deciding who else is worthy, compelling me to focus entirely on loving them, just as they are, in all their mess and beauty, in all their humanity.
Every day I'm thankful for this tattoo. Things still get hard. Sometimes the darkness settles in, and I don't know how long it will stay. But every day I'm thankful to know I'm not alone, and that this is not the end of my story. Today I'm especially thankful for Amy and her work in this world. In her honor, I will keep sharing my story,
I will keep telling people that the pain is real, but depression lies. This is the truth. You are not alone. Your story isn't over. You matter.
If you are struggling, please reach out. To someone, anyone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline '1-800-273-TALK (8255)'

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Women's March on Washington

Originally published on Facebook, January 21, 2017 

Hope. Today filled me with HOPE. Surrounded by amazing people filled with love, kindness, and fierce determination, I marched in Washington D.C. I marched with my oldest kid and her grandmother. We were three generations of peaceful resistance, three generations of voices raised for those who face discrimination.
I watched my daughter take it all in. I watched her exude strength and pride as she held her sign that read "When they go low, we go high", as high up in the air as she could. She was the picture of "though she be but little, she is fierce". I was moved by the kindness and love from so many we marched with who went out of their way to tell her they loved her shirt that read "Protect Me" with a trans flag, that thanked her for being there, who were moved to their own tears by her authenticity and courage, who told her "you are why we march". I was brought to tears watching her joy and relief as she internalized that message of love and solidarity while reading signs, listening, and learning more about all the other reasons we march, for all the children who deserve better.
Hope. The challenges ahead remain, but I'm rooted in and renewed by this community's strength and spirit. Tomorrow, the real work begins. Letters and meetings with legislators. Community organizing and education. Listening to the stories and needs of our neighbors and beyond. And continuing to tell our story. We're ready. #bringit2017 #womensmarch #transkids#ourchildrenarewatching

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Happy Birthday to My Mom!

Originally published on Facebook on January 22, 2017. Posted today for my mother's birthday - Happy Birthday, Mom!

Yesterday in D.C. I went to grab a quick selfie with the crowds and signs me behind me. The picture I grabbed isn't what I expected but it's even more poignant. That's my mama behind me. You see, she's always behind me. 

As a kid whether I wanted to play sports, take dance, or be the youngest person on church council, she was behind me. When I was determined to go away for the summer to work at camp at 15 years old, she was behind me. When I told her I was skipping my senior year of high school and going to college early, she was terrified but she was behind me. When at 17, I traveled the country doing day camps for kids who had recently experienced natural disasters, she was behind me. With every big idea I had and next adventure embarked on, she was behind me. When I graduated college at 20, got married, and started a new and unexpected job she was behind me. When I tackled graduate school, a full-time job, and becoming a mom all at the same time, she was behind me. When I gave birth to two of her grandchildren at home, she was behind me. When we decided homeschooling was the best fit for our kids for a period of time, she was behind me. And when we told the world who my daughter was, a young transgender girl, she was behind me.

This week, I had the opportunity to go to Creating Change Conference, an amazing conference sponsored by the National LGBTQ Task Force, she said "Go, I'll help with your kids" even if it had meant not being able to go to a march on Saturday. She said she figured freeing me up to do the work I'm doing is her contribution to the movement at this point. And it's a HUGE contribution, always having her behind me, behind my family, behind my daughter.

So I went to the conference but shifted some things around so we could go to DC... my transgender daughter and I, with this woman behind us.

I haven't always made it easy for her with my affinity for crazy adventures and rejection of any type of normalcy, but she continually shows up, doing what needs to be done at any given time to empower me and now my daughter, to lift us up and to support us... sometimes quietly in the background doing my dishes and laundry when life gets crazy or taking my daughter to dance class and sometimes marching with us and half a million other people for women, for equality, for trans kids, and for justice for all people - regardless of color, culture, creed, ability, economic status, sexuality, or gender identity.

I marched for her as much as I do my daughter.

#whyimarch #strongwomen #womensmarch#transkids #threegenerations

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bring it, 2017.

Originally posted on January 1, 2017.

#2016bestnine is super fitting today. 

Today, this courageous, authentic New Year's baby is 10 years old. She made me a mom and has taught me everything I needed to know along the way. Her bright spirit and huge heart lead the way as we continually navigate the unplanned and unexpected. She knows who she is. She cares deeply about injustice. She never stops dancing, singing, and making music. She works hard at everything she does, continually striving to be better and do better. And at the end of the day, whether she succeeded or failed, whether it was good or bad, she knows snuggling with her family, where she is safe and loved, makes it all okay. Unconditional love and abundant grace.

Of course, that tattoo in the middle isn't Rebekah's. It's mine. The mountains. The mountains we will find, climb, and move. The peaks and the valleys we are certain to experience.

We don't know what lies ahead in 2017. The future is filled with uncertainty. But we're going to fight with everything we've got to make this world a safer and more welcoming place for Rebekah and every other transgender and gender non-conforming kid.

And Rebekah... she's going to keep changing the world, just by being who she is and living her truth.

#rebekahturns10 #protecttranskids#thisiswhattranslookslike #bringit2017

Seeing Ourselves in the Divine

Originally published on December 18, 2016.

My daughter was assigned the role of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the church Sunday School Christmas program this morning. 

When I reminded her it was today, she touched her hair still in braids from the night before, "oh I forgot.... well I hope Mary had curly hair.... curly blonde hair??"

I laughed, " um, no. Mary was not blonde-haired blue-eyed with pale skin...."

She looked at me confused. She said, "but that doesn't make sense since Jesus was...."

And so I explained to her and her brother. I explained what people who lived in the time and place of Jesus looked like. We looked up pictures.

She was confused, "but how come in the pictures I always see he doesn't look like that." And so we talked about how when people first began to make depictions of Jesus they made him look like themselves, everyone wants to see themselves in God. I pointed to the different nativity sets we have depicting people from different places and cultures.

And we talked about how why the blonde-haired, blue-eyed depictions of Jesus persist today and why that matters, what it says about and informs how we view the "other", and what is our responsibility in light of that...

When we finished talking, my son said "thanks for the pep talk, now can we have breakfast?" Of course. They are used to me and my "pep talks". But I can see that it sinks in, and it informs how they process the world around them, how they begin to become more aware of their own privilege and think about the lives they are called to lead in this world.

We ate breakfast, headed to church, and my transgender daughter played the role of Mary beautifully... seeing herself in the story of Jesus's birth.

#raisethemright #ourstoriesmatter#welcomingchurch #transkids

Our Stories Matter: PANS/PANDAS Awareness

Originally published on December 17, 2016.

I love this kid so much. He is brave, kind, joyful, witty, and creative. He loves to build and create, and he could spend all day making gifts for people year-round. He loves to laugh. But many days his brain and his body make it hard for all that to shine through. 

He has PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). PANS and PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep) are when an infectious trigger, environmental factors, and other possible triggers create a misdirected immune response results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as OCD, rage, impulsivity, focus concerns, severe restrictive eating, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in academic abilities, sensory sensitivities, and more.

Some children suffer debilitating flares while others function enough to continue to go to school but not remotely at the same functioning level. Symptoms may relapse and remit, and the treatment itself may exacerbate symptoms. For many, my kid included, it takes years to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. The research surrounding PANS and PANDAS is growing, and as information grows, more kids are getting accurately diagnosed and treated.

Just as I share our story as a family with a transgender child, I will share parts of our story as a family with a child with PANS... because our stories are bridges to awareness, empathy, connection, and support... and because if I can help just one family whose child is struggling with this, whether they know it or not, it will have mattered.

#ourstoriesmatter #pansandpandasawareness#loveandgrace

Additional Information:

Girl's serious disease may have started with strep
New England PANS/PANDAS Association

Transgender Day Of Remembrance

Originally published November 21, 2016.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed yesterday, Nov. 20. People gathered all over the world to name, honor, and remember those whose lives were taken in acts of anti-transgender violence. They gathered in community sharing their grief, outrage, and fear. They gathered in solidarity in the face of the hatred, violence, and discrimination. And I sat as a witness, overwhelmed and humbled. I read names aloud. I absorbed the horrific details of their deaths, rage-filled and terroristic murders that reverberate beyond the individual, attacking and degrading the entire community. I hugged strangers and heard their stories, stories of struggle almost too great to name, but they named it. I stood in awe and deep, deep gratitude for their strength, authenticity and resilience. 

I was asked to speak, to share our family's story, and to be honest, I felt like I was crashing a party that wasn't mine, a party that was no party at all. I'm an outsider to this community, standing in the doorway looking in for the sake of my kid, my kid who has been so incredibly fortunate in her life this far. But if I could express one ounce of gratitude, if I could share about the large and growing communities of parents of trans kids also filled with gratitude and ready to fight for this community, if I could share hope... that because of all of those who came before her, my kid lives a life where acceptance, love, and support are the norm... well, I was willing to try to do any of that. 

{Here's video of what I did end up saying}

I'm still not sure I belonged there, not up in front talking for certain, but I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to connect and share space with this beautiful and fierce community of people.