The tide is turning. Slowly, and with so much effort, but it is turning. Whereas even a few years ago, too many of the stories surrounding LGBT people were about, at best, tolerance and, at worst, rejection, we’re now much more likely to hear stories of families embracing the gays and lesbian and trans people in their life.
These are just a handful of those stories, because thankfully, there are more out there. Of transgender kids who come out and their parents, who despite prejudice, and worry, and their own confusion, accept their kid, and better still, embrace them and love them all the same.
1. Ryland and His Parents, Hillary and Jeff Whittington
In 2007, Hillary and Jeff found out they were having a baby girl and decided on the name Ryland. Around Ryland's first birthday, they found out that their child was deaf, though Ryland soon learned to speak and hear with a cochlear implant. And when Ryland could talk, he would scream “I AM A BOY!”
Jeff says Ryland started to feel shame and would say things like, “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy.” When they did their research and saw how high the suicide rate is for trans kids who aren’t accepted by their family, they decided not to take any chances.
“Relative to the horrific things that people have to endure with their children all over the world, this is nothing,” they say. “We signed up as parents with no strings attached. This is our family, and this is our amazing son...He is still healthy, handsome, and EXTREMELY happy!”
Ryland confirmed this at the Harvey Milk Diversity Break (watch here) when he said, "My name is Ryland Michael Whittington. I'm a transgender kid. I am six. I am a cool kid...I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life.”
2. Jacob and His Parents, Mimi and Joe Lemay
When Joe and Mimi’s child, then named Mia, was 2 years old, he started telling them, “I’m a boy.” They hoped it was just a tom-boy phase, but Mimi recalls, “I found him poking at himself angrily, saying things like, ‘Why did God make me this way? Why did god make me wrong?’ A child shouldn’t have to live like that.”
After they were involved in a near-car accident, Mimi and Joe realized they needed to let Jacob live his life as he wanted. So they helped him transition, and brought him to a new school where he would represent himself as a boy from day one. Now 5 years old, Jacob is happier than ever, his mom says.
“I want him to know how proud I am of him, how brave I believe he is,” Mimi says. “And how no matter what, I am in his corner and I love him. And I always will, because he’s my son.”
3. Kai and His Mother, Yolanda Bogert, and Father
Kai knew he was trans when he was 10 years old, but wanted to “find the right moment” to tell the rest of his family. But when he told his mom, Yolanda, the reaction was...well, underwhelming. In the most wonderful way.
Kai recalled to Australia’s Today that it was “extremely boring and dull...She just went, ‘Oh, you’re trans? Oh, cool.’” But Yolanda did put a retraction in the local newspaper to fix a long overdue error:
Yolanda says, “I just wanted to celebrate somehow.”
4. Coy and Her Parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis
When Coy was 4 years old, she tearfully asked her mom, Kathryn, "When are we going to go to the doctor to have me fixed? To get my girl parts?" Kathryn and Jeremy, a former Marine, took Coy to a psychologist, who agreed she was trans, and once Coy started living as a girl, her parents say she had less anxiety, was happier, and felt more accepted.
Even at school, she was referred to by staff and students using female pronouns and given the freedom to dress as she chose. Then, in first grade, the school revoked her bathroom privileges, unless she agreed to use the boys’ bathroom.
"This automatically singles her out and stigmatizes her," Kathryn said. "It sets her up for future harassing and bullying...The school has a wonderful opportunity to teach students that differences are OK, and we should embrace their differences, instead of teaching them to discriminate against someone who is a little different."
So they sued. Under the Colorado Anti-Discrimination act, a trans child should be able to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. And they won.
"It's important for us to talk about this, because a lot of people have been so afraid to be their true selves for so long," Kathryn says. "They've known from very young children who they are but were afraid to tell. We want to help create a society where it's OK to be who you are."
5. Milla and His Mother, Renée Fabish, and Father
When Milla was 2, he started to refer to himself as a “boy-girl,” because while he was physically female, he didn’t feel that way. When he was six, he refused to wear girls clothes and wanted his hair cut off.
“One day Milla came to me in tears asking if there was any medicine I could buy to turn her into a boy,” Renée, from Brisbane, Austrlia, says. “She started making comments like, ‘Why was I born like this?,’ ‘I want to be a boy — not just look like one. I want to be a real boy.’”
Renée says she and Milla’s father could see Milla becoming “withdrawn and depressed.” “She was going to bed in tears every night,” Renée recalls. “As parents we promised to love our kids unconditionally. We have been advised by Milla’s doctors to allow her to transition as soon as possible.”
“The only thing that has changed for us is the pronouns,” Renée writes in a Facebook video announcing Milla’s change. “We support him whole heartedly. He is still healthy, still full of personality. And now extremely happy!!”
6. AJ and Her Mother, Debi Jackson
"My daughter is six years old,” Debi says at the start off her speech at the parenting-centric storytelling show, Listen to Your Mother. "She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female and started living full time as her true gender, when she was four.”
Debi goes on to explain how their family lost most of their friends and some of their family when they accepted their daughter’s change, and refuted common misconceptions about young trans kids (“We are liberals pushing a gay agenda. Nope, sorry. I’m a conservative Southern Baptist from Alabama.”)
Watch Debi, who now runs the advocate Twitter account @transgirl_mom, give her entire touching speech below:
7. Jazz and Her Parents, Jeanette and Greg Jennings
Jazz has identified as a girl since she was 1 and a half-year-old. So it was no surprise when, at 3, she was officially diagnosed with gender identity disorder. And, at 5, Jeanette and Greg embraced her living as a girl.
“Jeanette and I are in 100 percent agreement as to how we should raise Jazz,” Greg has said. “We don't encourage, we support. And we just keep listening to what she tells us.”
Meanwhile, Jeanette has said, “We'll say things like, 'You're special. God made you special.'” And when Barbara Walters asked Jeanette during a 20/20 special how she responds to the criticism from other parents she said, "I don't really care what anyone thinks."
Jeanette has since started the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, while Jazz, now 14, has become a popular YouTuber, author, Clean & Clear model, and she just landed a TLC show called All That Jazz.
8. The Anonymous Father of This Trans Child
Horace Mitchell Elementary School in Kittery, Maine read Jazz’s book, I Am Jazz (cowritten with Jessica Herthel) to some of their K-3 classes recently during a lesson about tolerance and acceptance.
Of course Fox News’ Sean Hannity had a problem with that and published an email on his site from an upset mom whose child “asked his mother if he was ‘transgender’ or not, and also whether or not he could be “a girl in love with a girl.” The mother says that up until time the topic was brought up in school, her son had never said anything like that before.” (And heaven forbid she just talk to him about it.)
But an anonymous father of a trans student in the school district released a statement supporting the school, “People in this country, parents in this country are outraged by bullying, teen suicide rates and the depression in children. The staff of Mitchell School is doing something about this. By teaching acceptance and love they are shedding a light on (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) issues.”
And when the school eventually apologized for reading “sensitive material” without first telling the parents, the dad continued, “LGBTQ issues should never be classified as a ‘sensitive subject.'
"There is nothing sensitive about the way we are born," he continued. "Blonde hair, brown hair, gay, straight or somewhere in-between, we are all people and we all need acceptance.”
9. Qbdoo and His Mom, Francisca Motana
Francisca, a Brooklyn mother, says she first started noticing her 8-year-old son, Qbdoo (or “Q”) was unhappy about two years ago. He would become frustrated with his body, his clothes, and himself.
“This was to the point of total paralysis every morning getting ready to go to school” she says. “He had always been a happy, cheerful, smiling child, but his happiness started to fade.” That happiness returned when Francisca helped Q transition into living his life as a boy.
Now, Q is hoping to help kids like him. He even wrote a letter to help protest conversation efforts and fight for equal rights: “I don’t know why I am a boy I just know it,” the letter says (you can hear him read it here). “Some people forget that I am a boy. I feel frustrated, but I remind them and they remember.”
As for Francisca, she says, “Tell me, what is more powerful and liberating than being fully yourself? I know that in the end, the most dangerous thing I could do would be to try and erase his identity by trying to make Q be something he is not.” She concludes. “I don’t want to change him. I’m ready to change the world.”
Cheers to these kids for living their truth. Cheers to their parents for being so supportive. And if you want to hear more personal stories from transgender people, watch ET special correspondent Janet Mock’s chat with trans women: