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.