Transgender Kids Are Changing the World

"We must listen to their truths and share their stories."
02/03/2017 05:42 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2017
Julie Tarney

With everything that’s been going on lately, including widespread rumors that the LGBTQ community will soon be the next group threatened by the current administration’s discriminatory executive actions, I took a break from the headlines yesterday. While I will never give up championing equality for all the marginalized among us, I know how easy it is to become overwhelmed by worry and fear.

So instead of news and weariness and a knot in my stomach, I turned to the voices of kids. They’re my go-to for tapping internal strength and the positive mental attitude that tells fear to take a back seat and shut the f*ck up. Children feel our connectedness as one big human family, until somebody teaches them to fear our differences, that is. And until someone tries to destroy it, the youngest among us know their individual worthiness and the joy that comes with just being themselves.

I re-watched the YouTube video about then-eight-year-old Willa Naylor, the trans girl to whom Malta dedicated its Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act. Her story is one of the most uplifting ever.

Next I read my coffee table copy of I Am Jazz, about transgender teen Jazz Jennings, who knew as a toddler that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.

Jazz, now a national figure, is a role model for my 11-year-old transgender hero and friend, Conner McClaren. Conner had a beautiful personal essay published in the Jan-Feb issue of New Moon Girls magazine. She shares with young readers the story of her life as a girl who just happens to be trans as well as her goal to be an advocate for LGBTQ equality.

Like Willa, Jazz, Conner, and my own gender-nonconforming child who at two told me that inside his head he was a girl, trans kids need to be heard and loved unconditionally. They know who they are. And knowing one of those children is going to be what changes the hearts and minds of those who fear them.

I’m eager to see the upcoming National Geographic special, “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric.” I hope you get a chance to see it, too. The two-hour program about the ever-evolving notion of gender identity airs Monday night, Feb. 6. (The show will repeat at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 10 and Monday, Feb. 13. ) Couric talked recently with Matt Lauer about the “Gender Revolution” special.

Let’s remember that it’s today’s youth from every group – people of color, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, disabled people, all religions – who shape popular culture and broaden national conversations. We must listen to their truths and share their stories. Because when everyone, including those in our three branches of government, can listen, learn and fear not the most vulnerable among us, then we can take actions to end discrimination at all levels.

My own fears, for now, remain quiet. And I’m back on track knowing that everything will get better. There are just too many parents, friends, allies and advocates for human dignity also fighting against fear of “the other.” The opposite of fear will always be love.

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You can read more from Julie on her personal blog, My Son Wears Heels, and also follow her on Facebook.

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