Around 160 people attended the third annual Stand with Trans Family Picnic on Sunday, August 12 at Royal Oak Memorial Park. This is a significant increase in attendance by families, youth, young children and adults.
The first year Stand with Trans hosted the picnic, they had around 50-60 people attend. When asked what she attributes this growth to, founder of Stand with Trans Roz Gould Keith said, "We have a broader reach. Our voice is bigger and louder and more families are now working through their journey with their trans child. They are looking for resources and community as it becomes more and more okay to do that."
Stand with Trans has been there since 2015 for young people and their parents to provide resources specifically for trans youth, including gender specialists and support groups with other families with trans members.
After her son, Hunter, came out as trans, Gould Keith said, "Little by little we cobbled together a plan. Five and a half years ago, nobody was talking about anything trans-related. We always knew we would support him, but we couldn't find the resources. Once we started to tell our story, we discovered that there were so many other families out there who were in the same situation, and they needed community."
Stand With Trans has grown to host nine support group locations with 16 support groups since then.
Bill is the father of a transgender daughter named Bella, who transitioned when she was six years old.
"I find it affirming to be able to talk to other parents; find out they have gone through exactly the same steps we have in discovering that their child or infant is transgender," he said.
Bill appreciates the event, partly because it also gives him connection with older trans people who can share hurdles they faced and how they overcame them.
He noted that Bella doesn't want people to know that she is trans, and praised the school system she's a part of for hand-picking the teacher and classmates most likely to be accepting of a trans student when she advanced to the next grade.
Matt, parent of a trans child, said he, too, finds Stand with Trans affirming.
"We started meeting and going through the parent group – it's just nice to know that there are other people who are in this world with us," he said.
Other parents of trans youth have expressed online what kind of impact Stand with Trans is having on their families.
"I am a mother of a transgender teen. I don't know what I would do without the guidance and unwavering support of SWT, especially Roz Gould Keith. This group gives me hope and seems to be helping my teen feel less isolated and more hopeful," wrote Julie G. on the Stand with Trans website.
"Stand with Trans has been a lifeline for our family," wrote Jaye Lacerte. "The support and validation that we feel from other families, and from the leadership, has been tremendous. Our family has also participated in social events, like the summer picnic, and the last two yearly conferences. These have been both informative and fun."
In addition to Hunter, there are a number of other trans men who came out in middle and high school who received support from Stand With Trans early in the program. Charley, Nolan, Jayson, Cecil, and Jay paused their festivities to share with Between the Lines what that did for them.
"It's good having a community to fall back on," said Hunter. He explained that the organization brought them together as friends. Some of them had known each other before coming out, but they weren't close until they began their transitioning process.
Jayson said that having a support system helps him feel secure about his future as a trans man in a society that is still largely transphobic. "I used to be very unsure of myself."
"Job discrimination is a big thing," added Hunter.
"People have misconceptions about trans people," Nolan said. "They think we are all supposed to look and act a certain way."
The event brought together trans people of all age groups, along with their family members, enjoying games and the spread of shared dishes. The crowd represented people of various demographics, including disabled participants and people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
"It was interesting for me to see all the new faces," said Keith. "It always makes me feel great."
Save the date: The 4th Annual Trans Empowerment Workshop is on Oct. 6 at Orchard United Methodist Church, 30450 Farmington Road, Farmington Hills. Parents of trans individuals, trans youth (any and every identity) and young gender expansive children are invited for all day skill building, learning and activities. Lunch and snacks are included. Registration link coming soon. For updates, visit facebook.com/standwithtrans or standwithtrans.org.