Only 20% of Americans say they personally know a transgender person. I can promise you that many more Americans have seen, talked to, or even worked with a transgender person. Not knowing that a person is transgender doesn’t take away from the fact that there are millions of transgender people living in America. Not knowing about someone’s identity is a privilege and not a right, but not knowing also means you are seeing the and when it relates to all of the pieces that accumulate to make someone who they are. Transgender people are not just trans any more than cisgender people are just cis; it’s an adjective to describe one aspect of our lives.
This is true for transgender youth as well. Jen Grosshandler and Gearah Goldstein co-founded the GenderCool Project three years ago in order to give voice and visibility to transgender youth in this country. The hope is to show all people, including the trans youth and their guardians who may be struggling, that being transgender is a super power. Through the lens of 18 diverse Champions, the GenderCool Project is introducing all Americans to transgender people and youth who are doing amazing things.
Transgender kids need to be seen for who they are. Because they’re awesome. They are friends, siblings, students, actors, writers, athletes, dancers, and gamers. They have aspirations of being accountants, artists, doctors, scientists, and politicians. GenderCool highlights the and in their lives.
Grosshandler, mom to a transgender daughter named Chazzie, says, “GenderCool started as a positive, storytelling campaign and it’s now a real movement! Our mission is simple: Replace misinformed opinions with real, positive experiences [of] transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving.”
GenderCool and its Champions are testifying on Senate floors to combat anti-transgender bills; they are shifting the culture around what it means to be transgender; they are working with companies like Nike, Dell Technologies, and General Mills to break down barriers in business so that the next generation of workers has inclusive, equitable, and safe places of employment. And now they are writing books.
GenderCool is partnering with A Kids Book About, a media company that publishes books about “topics that matter” for kids 0-9. Topics have included feminism, racism, adoption, religion, and mental health. And with the help of GenderCool Champions, the media company is offering three new books called “A Kids Book About Being Transgender,” by Gia Parr; “A Kids Book About Being Non-binary,” by Hunter Chinn-Raich; and “A Kids Book About Being Inclusive,” by Ashton Mota and Rebekah Bruesehoff.
These books are written by transgender and non-binary youth for all youth (and adults!) to better understand how to support all identities. The books are available for pre-order and will be delivered in time to strengthen your Pride game in June.
Jelani Memory, co-founder and CEO of A Kids Book About says this is the first time the media company has worked with a non-profit. “We felt it was critical to educate on and elevate topics around inclusivity, gender, and identity for the next generation, using our unique publishing model and writing process to highlight the underrepresented voices of transgender and non-binary teens.”
Goldstein added, “These beautiful books will help people replace their opinions with real, positive experiences learning about our Champions who are thriving throughout the country with the love and support of their family, friends and community.” That’s the key: when transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming kids are supported they are much more likely to succeed. When given unconditional love and affirming care, their risk of isolation, self-harm, depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide ideation and attempts decrease. When transgender kids are accepted, they get to be kids and themselves.
Kids are not too young to know their gender identity—we don’t question cisgender kids—nor are kids too young to talk about gender and gender expression. We all carry a sense of self in terms of how we relate to gender. Some of us know our assigned gender at birth was wrong and others agree with the assessment. Other people figure out who they are later in life or are always on a path of exploration. There is nothing wrong with any of these options and there isn’t anything wrong with expressing yourself in ways that feel right to you.
Kid are often open-minded, so we need to embrace their simple but often accepting views of the world and people by giving them the tools to support themselves and their friends. We can’t simply tell our kids to be kind or inclusive without having conversations about who they need to be kind to and offer ways to actually do that.
Ashton Mota, who co-authored “A Kids Book About Being Inclusive” with Rebekah Bruesehoff, says that it was important for him to also include his Afro-Latino identity in the discussion. “I know that I represent a large group of individuals who don’t have a voice or a seat at tables where important discussions around identity and inclusion are taking place,” Mota says.
All teens just want to be seen and heard, but society needs to make shifts to be sure transgender teens have those opportunities too. Bruesehoff adds, “People always tell me I’m brave for being myself, but I hope we can create a world that makes room for all of us and celebrates all our uniqueness.”
Get to know these GenderCool Champions and other transgender kids. You will realize that they are wonderful just the way they are and pretty spectacular.
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