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My Life: Our Beautiful Transgender Child
Learning to Love Unconditionally When Your Baby Boy Is Really a Girl
Thursday, March 24, 2016
By Rachel Gloger
This is a story about love and acceptance, and about raising a very young transgender child: our daughter.I never pictured myself raising a transkid. In fact, until my child was given that label by a specialist in Los Angeles, I didn’t even know what the word transgender meant. And I never imagined that this word, whatever it was, could apply to a young child.
Almost eight years ago, I gave birth to my second child. A boy! We were over the moon. We all congratulated my husband on the little rugby player to be, just like his daddy. I remember feeling so content — I had a 2½ -year-old daughter and, now, a newborn son. Bliss.
The years passed, and the story changed. Our boy was never drawn to the dump trucks or cars or trains. Instead, he loved his older sister’s dresses, the high heels, and the sparkly accessories. At first we were amused — he was so young, not even 2 years old. How endearing! What progressive parents we were to break gender stereotypes with our children!
This joy didn’t last.
Soon enough, our extended family began to react with alarm and great concern. “Why is he wearing dresses all the time?” And “Maybe you should take the dresses away!” My husband and I felt ashamed. I felt afraid. Where did we go wrong?
And oh, the tears. As the years passed, and the hopes of this being a phase faded, our little boy grew more and more stubborn. I was limiting the princess dresses to inside our home only. But no amount of park playdates or promises of ice cream or new superhero toys could budge this persistent little child out of those dresses. He would rather stay home, content with the gauzy silks wound around his head, affixed with a tiara.
Sure, I could make him wear the boy clothes. And I did. And slowly my happy child began to disappear. This was terrifying. Our family fell into crisis.
How grateful I am that my pediatrician referred us to a world-renowned expert in Los Angeles, Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, at Children’s Hospital. How thankful I was, four years ago, to find a supportive community of families in Los Angeles that held our hands as we grieved and cried at the loss of the story that we had planned for our son, and then helped us dry our tears as we began to slowly, slowly dream a new story for the same child: our transgender daughter.
About a year ago, we helped launch a support group here in Santa Barbara. We started with three families, and I marveled that we didn’t have to drive to Los Angeles — two other families in our county with transkids! It was a miracle. We didn’t feel so alone. Today, that group is 40 families strong.
I truly feel that we have been given a rare gift. Our beautiful girl — a story of brave authenticity, persistence, and her family’s long, begrudging journey toward truly unconditional love. And now? Four years later, my transgender girl, my daughter, is thriving. It’s been quite a journey, and not the story I planned for my little family.
But it is a story filled with resilience, courage, and a fiercely loving community. A love story, really, about the luckiest parents in the world and their beautiful transgender child.
The author is executive director of the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network, which celebrates the Day of Visibility on Thursday, March 31, at 5 p.m. with jazz, a film, and photography at UCSB’s MultiCultural Center. See sbtan.org.
EdHAT, March 2016
Transgender Day of Visibility
This year Santa Barbara celebrates the International Transgender Day of Visibility for the first time. The multi media event will take place at 5pm on March 31st in the Multicultural Center at UCSB. Santa Barbara's thriving community of transgender children, families, and friends will be celebrated with live jazz by the Jennifer Leitham Trio, a screening of the movie "I Stand Corrected" and an art auction with art by local trans artists and photojournalist Richard Ross. Proceeds go to the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network's Trans Youth programming.
Santa Barbara has a long tradition of mourning transgender victims of violence on the Transgender Day of Remembrance each year on November 20th. However, this is the first year that Santa Barbara celebrates the Transgender Day of Visibility. The Transgender Day of Visibility was established in 2014 to celebrate transgender people and advance awareness of their lives and contributions to their communities. Local attorney Lisa Gillinger says: "We've been talking about celebrating the Trans Day of Visibility for years, how important it is to celebrate the depth and breadth of our lived experiences and our valuable contributions to our community, not just our tears and fears. I'm surprised and thrilled that people are getting behind it with enthusiasm. It's all these wonderful families saying yes, let us celebrate! It's a small gesture in a lot of ways, but it's a mindblower for me. Our community has matured. This event is a punctuation of that."
The March 31st event includes includes the work of photojournalist Richard Ross, whose recent photos of Santa Barbara's transgender and gender-fluid youth will be auctioned that evening. Renowned Jazz bassist, vocalist and composer Jennifer Leitham will be leading her band The Jennifer Leitham Trio as well as hosting a screening of the documentary of her career: "I Stand Corrected." Lisa Gillinger says, "Jennifer is just a treasure and her trio is an amazing group; they just play up a storm. People are going to stop in their tracks."
The beneficiary of the event, the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network's Youth Group, was established one year ago to provide a supportive space for local parents of transgender and gender fluid children. Beginning with three parents, the monthly group now hosts over forty Santa Barbara families. This year the TransYouth group celebrated summer with a beach barbeque and the winter holidays with a party for trans community members from age 3 to age 70.
Local parent Kathy Abad says, "When we found out our child was transgender we were confused. We didn't know what this meant. When we met with other parents we were still reeling, but we formed a group that is so supportive, educational and most of all hopeful. We now have tools to help with obstacles we have had at school with teachers and other students. This has led to us being a lot more educated and empowered to work with our child's school on policy implementation which will not only help our child but also future transgender students."
Fund for Santa Barbara Executive Director Marcos Vargas adds, "We applaud the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network for making our community safer and more just." ____________________________________________________________________________ ______________ About SANTA BARBARA TRANSGENDER ADVOCACY NETWORK SBTAN educates individuals and organizations on best practices for transgender & gender expansive clients, patients, students, congregants and families; creates and develops spaces, actions, and policies that advance the welfare of transgender and diverse gender non-conforming individuals, their families, and allies in California's central coast communities. Join us at sbtan.org
Ed Hat SB NON PROFIT OF THE WEEK August 23, 2015
In just a few months since it began this year, the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network (SBTAN) has made a significant impact in the Santa Barbara Community. SBTAN is the county's first organization specifically devoted to the support of transgender children, adults and seniors. SBTAN has three parts:
1. A training team that educates schools, hospitals, universities and faith communities how to support trans people
2. A website (sbtan.org) a gathering place for information about trained institutions and individuals, and
3. Activity and social groups for transgender people of all ages.
SBTAN has already been awarded five thousand dollars in seed money from the Fund for Santa Barbara to promote and expand their services to the community.
On the Fourth of July the Santa Barbara Transgender Community held its first Family BBQ. Forty people attended the beachside celebration, including transgender children and their siblings and parents, transgender and agender teens and their friends, and transgender adults from all over the county.
One of the beneficiaries of SBTAN training has been the staff and congregation of First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara. According to the Reverent Allysa De Wolf, "To say our church is blessed to work with Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network is an understatement. It is incredible to walk alongside these hero and heroines as we all learn how to live within our beautiful, God-created selves. Simply, this work is inspiring!"
The fastest growing group in SBTAN is the TransYouth Group. Started in February by two families, it has since grown to 30 families, most from the city of Santa Barbara. This monthly parent-facilitated group is for parents and grandparents of gender creative children who range from the ages of 2 to 18. Children and their siblings meet for a play-group while families discuss their experiences with each other.
In a short time, the TransYouth group has become essential for the individuals and families involved. As one of the group's parents says, "When we learned our teenager was transgender, we felt hopeless and didn't know what to do. Then this group formed and it has immensely educated our family and been a huge support for us; having turned us from feeling embarrassed to truly being proud of who our teen is as a person. We realized that our son is, along with the others in the group the most amazing human being we could ever have wished for. This group allows us to reach out to the community and help other families that may be new to this journey. With this group we not only feel supported, but are able to advocate for others in our community. It also allows us to help the transgender adults and children in our community that maybe don't have any support from their own families. They lift our spirits and we lift theirs. This is our community. I really don't know where we would be in our journey without *TransYouth Santa Barbara."
Trans young adults have begun meeting at the same time. They often support the families of trans children by planning artistic or group activities for the children. As Easton Martinez, one of the young adults says, "SBTAN is a vital program for Santa Barbara County, providing excellent support to Trans youth and their parents. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to attending every month!"
This group has been praised by LA pediatrician Dr. Johanna Olson, who is nationally recognized for her work with trans children and their families. Dr. Olson says, "The Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network is a remarkable collection of valuable resources for the community, families, and allies. Not only does the Network provide support for the local community, but for those folks in the surrounding geographical locations with no resources available. The support and positive environments for family members and parents created by the Network is critical to the health and well-being of transgender youth."
In addition to this group, SBTAN's website has information about a Santa Barbara Meetup group for trans adults interested in art openings, museum trips, and more, a social group for transgender people and their allies held weekly at UCSB, and a peer led support group for transgender people held at PPF. As the director of UCSB's Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Dave Whitman says: "SBTAN is a truly empowering and invaluable resource for how it has worked towards not only building community for transgender people, but for its commitment to education and advocacy. SBTAN is about creating connection within the transgender community, and promoting understanding, acceptance and love across the (gender) spectrum and to those experiencing these topics and identities for the first time. One of the most beautiful impacts of SBTAN that I have seen has been its ability to bring families of transgender people closer together, as well as transgender people closer to each other- that widespread support is crucial for the success and well-being of this beautiful community."
Families of trans children, children of trans parents, teachers of trans students and doctors of trans patients can find resources, education, information and community at sbtan.org.
Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network was founded in 2015 by two cisgender women. Rachel Gloger is an educator, author and advocate with a specialty in the needs of transgender children, their families, educators and pediatricians. She has trained educators and educational administrators as well as school advocates and UCSB teaching students. Rachel founded the Trans*Youth group for families of transgender children in February of 2015.
Max Rorty is a medical social worker, author and lecturer with expertise in training mental health and medical professionals. She has trained Santa Barbara and Ventura county EMTs and paramedics, oncologists, psychologists, MFTs, and the clergy and congregations of multiple faith communities. She is the author of "Transgender Individuals and Families" in the Handbook of Oncology Social Work.
Max Rorty, on the left and and Rachel Gloger, on the right.
SBTAN trainings are available to individuals, institutions, employers and educators at sbtan.org
SBTAN Offers Transgender Training to Marian Intern Doctors
BY DAVID MINSKY of the SANTA MARIA SUN, July, 2015
A Santa Barbara support group that offers training throughout the county on how to properly deal with transgender individuals is also training doctor interns at Marian Regional Medical Center.
According to Max Rorty, Santa Barbara County Transgender Advocacy Network (SBTAN) has been offering training to medical staff at county hospitals for the last two years, Marian Regional Medical Center included. SBTAN is not a nonprofit, but it’s an extension of the Pacific Pride Foundation, which is a nonprofit, according to Rorty.
In particular, the training includes how to use proper pronouns on medical charts or when addressing transgender individuals. Essentially, Rorty said, they train medical staff how to take care of women with prostates and men with ovaries.
For example, a man with ovaries ought to be referred to as “he” rather than “she,” according to Rorty. The proper medical treatment, however, would not change.
“Everything in the medical charts must reflect a man with ovaries,” Rorty said, adding that the entire medical staff must refer to their patient with the correct pronoun. “You have to reflect the anatomy. It’s tricky because you don’t want to actually call them ‘she.’”
Even while society becomes more aware of transgender and discrimination issues, Rorty said there is still a tendency to accidentally alienate people.
The point of SBTAN is to help communities become all-inclusive. Besides medical professionals, their training extends to mental health professionals, members of the clergy, and schools, too.
There are many ways that transgender individuals are excluded, Rorty said, one being the lack of public restrooms for transgenders. Rorty and SBTAN want to encourage individuals and public institutions to install unisex bathrooms for transgender people
“Often our community members feel unwelcomed, and we need to make sure that everybody in their community has equal access to all of our resources and institutions,” Rorty said.
Other ways include not being able to indentify with a particular gender on legal documents.
“There’s a lot of little ways our infrastructure and paperwork obstruct access for transgender and gender non-normative people,” Rorty said.
One of the ways communities tend to struggle with this is how to deal with gender non-normative, or people whose gender expression is not obviously male or female, according to Rorty. Gender identity is distinct from expression, Rorty said, such as a person who looks or dresses like a woman and might actually identify as a man.
“Sometimes gender expression doesn’t give us clues about gender identity,” Rorty said.
Another focus is to get schools in the county to sign on with transgender training. So far, Rorty said that SBTAN has a contract with the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
An Expanding Network: Our Trans* Community
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
UCSB Humanitas Newsletter by Trina Lazzara
Imagine for a moment that you are a male student walking into your first section this fall. You may be thinking about the bike accident you just avoided, wondering what the TA is like, or considering leaving to crash a different course. Now imagine that on top of all that, part of you is worrying that someone in your new class will refer to you as “she” or “her.” What if you don’t have the time, the energy, or the courage to tell them you’re a guy, and everyone in the class ends up misgendering you for the whole quarter? What if you do tell them you’re a guy and they keep using the wrong pronoun, intentionally or otherwise? How would you feel if this happened to you?
If you are trans* (transgender or gender non-conforming), this experience probably sounds quite familiar. And if you are not trans*—that is, if you are cisgender—and you have not thought about this issue before, you can easily avoid making a mistake by using a gender-neutral singular they or by simply asking people what pronouns they go by.
This is one of many strategies we can use to create trans-inclusive spaces on campus. Because although UC Santa Barbara provides a variety of wonderful resources for transgender students, these will not make trans* students feel accepted in classrooms and lecture halls.
Trans* advocacy is not just for trans* people, nor should it be. This is a message that our school’s Resource Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity (RCSGD) has been spreading far and wide. The Center provides Safe Zone workshops on a variety of subjects related to gender and sexuality, including transgender identities and terminology, the trans* community, and intervening as an ally to stop microaggressions and hate incidents.
The RCSGD is linked to over a dozen LGBTQ student organizations, among them SASS (Society for Accessible and Safe Spaces), a support group for transgender students, and the Trans* Task Force, a group open to all students, faculty and staff who want to “implement initiatives to support and affirm the transgender community” (for more information, contact RCSGD Director Dave Whitman at firstname.lastname@example.org). The MultiCultural Center also holds a weekly Transgender and Trans* Social Group to which people of all gender identities are invited.
Beyond our campus, the RCSGD is also connected to the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network, orSBTAN. This new grassroots organization grew out of a local support group, Trans*Youth Santa Barbara, and was officially launched in March 2015 by director Rachel Gloger and founder Max Rorty. Just months after its inception, SBTAN has already become an official project of Pacific Pride Foundation. Director Gloger is amazed at how much has happened in so little time: “SBTAN has truly grown into a beautiful network…we now have over thirty local families of transyouth, a growing group of transgender adult mentors and speakers for our teens, and also a growing list of organizations reaching out to us for trans* sensitive trainings.”
UCSB is one of the institutions that has been trained by SBTAN; the Housing Department and the Hosford Clinic in particular got trans* sensitive training, as well as some Student Health employees. Trans* students and friends are encouraged to make use of SBTAN’s various support groups and their many resources, fromdoctors to therapists to faith communities. Of course, all of these trans-inclusive groups cannot guarantee a trans-inclusive community, but they go a long way. Gloger is cautiously optimistic: “We have a lot of work to do in this community, but I think that the landscape is shifting in our town, and that Santa Barbara is ready to make some changes to ensure safety, dignity, and health for its transgender community members.”
For the UCSB trans* community in particular, this school year will come with important changes. This fall will be the first time students applying to the UC system will have the option to choose among six gender identities: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming, and different identity. And by Winter 2016, all UCSB students should have the option on GOLD to input a preferred name different from their legal first name; that way, class rosters, the UCSB Campus Directory, and other university records will display the name they want to go by without legal documentation (for more information, contact the Office of the Registrar staff).
There are also a lot of great events coming up. After the “Coming Out Monologues,” which will take place on October 5, the “Trans Revolution Series” will start, with three visiting transgender activists: Sergeant Shane Ortega (October 6), CeCe McDonald (October 22), and Jennicet Gutierrez (November 5). Look at the RCSGDFacebook and Instagram pages for updates, and keep checking the Events page on the RCSGD website for the upcoming fall calendar.
Lastly, keep in mind that although the recent changes at UCSB are certainly getting us closer to a truly welcoming environment, it always comes down to individual students choosing to model trans-inclusive language and behavior. So consider checking out the RCSGD next time you’re in the SRB, and when you walk into your first section this fall, remember: be gender-neutral!
Local Church Hosts LGBTQ Youth Conference
November 9, 2015 at 5:00 am by Sierra Deak
The First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara hosted the LGBTQ Youth Conference on Saturday at the church’s State Street location to provide engaging workshops for middle and high school-age LGBTQ youth and their families.
The free conference, which ran from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., included a variety of workshops for both children and their parents. The parent workshops included a mental health forum led by two clinicians, a panel on LGBTQ youth health and a PFLAG, previously known as Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, discussion on how to be a supportive ally for LGBTQ youth. The youth workshops included a sexual education discussion, a college panel on identity expression and a series of “coming out” monologues. There was also a tutorial on “dragging” and a drag performance closed the conference.
Reverend Alyssa De Wolf said attendees of all ages were able to benefit from the conference, particularly parents of LGBTQ youth. “I think the parents especially had a lot of time to meet other adults and other people who are working with LGBTQ students and I think got a lot of extra resources today too,” De Wolf said. “We’re trying to really strengthen not just the kids, but really strengthen the people who are working with kids so that we can be a better and stronger community.”
De Wolf said she hopes the church’s future LGBTQ Youth Conferences will be longer and feature more speakers. “My vision is that it grows and grows,” De Wolf said. “I envision bringing in bigger speakers, more people, doing it maybe even more than one day, but really getting the word out and making it the sort of thing people come to every year and that kids especially get excited about every year.”
Drag performer and 2012 Santa Barbara Queen of Pride Deja Re said she hoped kids left the conference feeling sure of their environment. “I think them having this safe place to go to and to really express themselves is great,” Re said. “It’s so great to see these kids at such a young age really know who they are and who they want to be.”
Third-year sociology major Isabelle Tranner said she learned from people sharing their experiences of coming out to their friends and families. “I really liked sitting in on the ‘coming out’ panel,” Tranner said. “It was just people discussing their experiences coming out, and some of the issues and joys of coming out and that was really interesting to hear, especially from people younger than me.”
Director of the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network Rachel Gloger said she hopes LGBTQ youth can feel physically and mentally safe and fully accept their identities. “The more safe spaces we can provide for these kids, the stronger their sense of community will be and the stronger their mental health outcomes are,” Gloger said. “I think the outcome of these events is just letting our town know that we have a lot of LGBT kids that we’re really proud of, and we’re proud to support them."
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