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Being a Trans-Affirming Parent is Support, Not Abuse

By |2021-05-13T11:46:47-04:00May 13th, 2021|Opinions, Viewpoints|

I’ve posted quite a bit about trans kids, but I haven’t talked about their parents. Republicans are characterizing parents like me as dangerous, reckless, abusive and, in some cases, worthy of incarceration. Since they’ve spent so much time talking about us, I would like to weigh in on my own behalf and on behalf of affirming parents everywhere.
Parents who affirm their transgender children are some of the most involved, thoughtful and careful parents I have ever met. We live in a crisis landscape, and we understand what it means to take care of each other. Transphobia and bigotry are demons we fight daily. I am an activist at the local, county and national levels, but I began this journey as a parent in crisis.
I didn’t understand what it meant for my kid to be transgender, and I needed help. The community of affirming parents was there for me. I can say unequivocally and without hesitation, if you contact me at noon saying that you know a parent who is in crisis, I’ll have two people who are willing to speak to that parent in under an hour. Give me a day, I’ll have six people lined up and more help than the person actually needs. That is not because I am an activist; that’s because I am a parent. Any affirming parent who has been plugged into our community for a couple of months could easily do the same.
I am proud to be on the advisory board of Stand with Trans and a member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Council. I have never seen a request for emotional support through those organizations go unanswered and typically the need is met in a matter of hours. Sometimes the call goes out to affirming parents across the nation. Several people reading this post can vouch for what I’m saying.
We look after our own.
I know parents who can quote parts of the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act and Title IX. I learned about Michigan’s Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act in support groups. We want to see it amended to include gender and sexual orientation. Affirming parents can cite school policies (or the lack of policies) on trans inclusion in our district and surrounding areas. We let each other know which teachers are affirming.
We can talk in detail and at some length about various transition treatments, including hormones and surgeries whether those procedures are relevant to our kid or not. I have never seen the decisions around hormones and surgeries taken lightly. NEVER.
Our kids often go through a period of academic problems due to bullying, dysphoria, depression and anxiety. Most affirming families have at least a pediatrician and mental health professional involved, but we consult all kinds of experts. We believe in science and evidence-based approaches to transition care.
Many families live in communities where their children are not affirmed. I have seen parents who work full-time drive 45 minutes one way on a weeknight every week so their child can spend an hour and a half in a support group or just play with other trans kids.
These are the people Republicans are calling abusive. I am not abusive. My friends and chosen family are not abusive. We love our children, and what we really want is to be left the hell alone to raise our families in a peaceful, inclusive society. But until that day comes, we will never stop fighting for our kids.

About the Author:

Yma Johnson is the mother of a nonbinary college student and a passionate advocate for youth rights. She is a grant writer and nonprofit development consultant who began her career as a journalist in Puerto Rico 25 years ago. She serves on the advisory board of Stand with Trans and co-founded the group's Ann Arbor chapter. In 2020, Yma joined the Human Rights Campaign’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council. She co-chairs the Washtenaw County Health for All Steering Committee. She is also a member of the Washtenaw-Livingston County Transgender Task Force. Yma holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Eastern Michigan University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.
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