Category Archives: Transgender Children

What Life Is Like for Me & My Transgender Daughter – Kimberly and Kai Shappley

Source: The Story of My Transgender Daughter Went Viral.

I used to say, “After this fight is won I’ll go back to my ‘normal’ life.” But I can’t.

It’s been more than a year since I first shared the story about my transgender daughter, Kai, but the ball started rolling long before it published in April 2017.

Kai transitioned publicly right before she entered kindergarten. Around that same time, the superintendent of our former school district in Pearland, Texas, gave an interview to the Houston Chronicle in which he compared bathroom use by transgender students to pedophilia and polygamy. That’s when the momma bear in me came out and an active political role became a necessity.

I started by attending school board meetings and giving speeches. As a Christian mom to a transgender kid, I couldn’t stand by and let this far right, ultra conservative, Christian man be the mouthpiece for my faith.

I couldn’t stand by and let this ultra conservative man be the mouthpiece for my faith.

We struggled with the school district all the way into Kai’s first grade year. Despite multiple requests to do otherwise, they continuously used her birth name (Joseph) and wouldn’t let her use the appropriate bathroom. My daughter, who loves school and wants to be an astrophysicist when she grows up, would come home crying.

So, over spring break of that school year, I felt it was necessary to move my family to Austin, Texas. On Kai’s first day, one of the first things I noticed was a rainbow poster stating, “We’re an LGBT affirming school district.” Suddenly, Kai was just a kid with normal childhood issues. But the reality continued to hit that our battle wasn’t over.

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National Geographic Features a Transgender Girl on the Cover of the January Issue

Until very recently, transwomen and transmen were virtually invisible in society. Concerned and even afraid of their neighbors’ potential reactions, many transgender individuals preferred to remain “hidden” and keep their gender identities a secret. However, the past several years have seen a major upswing in the visibility of transgender persons in the media. Openly transgender celebrities like Chaz Bono, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laverne Cox have graced the covers of national magazines and increased awareness of transgender issues in the United States. While there is still work to do, we’ve definitely come a long way.

And this month, a landmark moment for transgender youth: the first transgender child to be featured on the cover of a national magazine. Avery Jackson, a 9-year-old girl from Kansas City, was chosen by National Geographic to be the face of their special January issue on gender issues. Dressed head to toe in pink with a shock of matching pink hair, Avery appears strong and brave beneath a headline declaring “Gender Revolution”. According to the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Susan Goldberg, Avery perfectly sums up this concept, capturing the complexity of today’s conversation around gender. “The best part of being a girl”, Avery says, “is now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy”.

Although Avery’s biological sex at birth was male, she has lived as a girl since the age of five. According to her mother, Debi Jackson, Avery identified as a girl from an even younger age. She went from being a happy and outgoing two-year-old to becoming angry and depressed around the age of three or four. She hated going to preschool. According to experts at Johns Hopkins, this is actually the age that gender identity begins to solidify in children. When allowed to dress as a girl, however, Avery’s depression would lift.

Goldberg says that National Geographic chose to focus their January issue on gender due to the current emphasis on these issues in the United States. As a society, the beliefs and viewpoints we have about gender are shifting radically. For transgender youth, this is an immensely positive thing. Like Avery, more and more transgender individuals are discovering their gender identity at a younger age. With the support of their families and friends, transgender kids who are allowed to express their gender identity can thrive and avoid the feelings of isolation and depression often faced by their peers. And according to experts, transgender children like Avery provide further evidence of a biological basis for the transgender experience.

One common misconception about transgender children is that they are receiving hormones or other medications to treat their condition. According to doctors who work with transgender patients, treatment in young children is primarily supportive, and may include therapy to help in coping with gender dysphoria and the challenges that come with being transgender. However, no medications are indicated until the child enters adolescence. At this stage, transgender youth can begin taking puberty-suppressing medications to prevent the development of secondary-sex characteristics that are incongruent with their experienced gender. Therapy typically continues, and the patient may begin hormonal treatment once they are more intellectually and emotionally mature.

Our very own Caroline Gibbs, who heads the holistic therapy division at ICTC, has worked with Avery and her family over the years. When she served as the director of the Transgender Institute in Missouri, Caroline had an interesting conversation with Avery that was profiled in the Washington Post. Even at the age of six, Avery was confident and resolute in her identity as a girl. “Can you tell me something about yourself? Are you a boy or a girl?”, Caroline asked. “I’m a girl”, Avery responded. “I just am”.

For her part, Avery says that she never intended to be a symbol of gender diversity. “I just wanted to be myself”, she says. “I’m just a girl”. Still, the editors of National Geographic commended Avery for her bravery, pride, and confidence in her choices. In a YouTube video filmed when she was seven, Avery proclaimed “You can be who you want to be. I am proud of who I am because I’m transgender—and I’m a girl”. It’s likely that Avery will prove to be an inspiration to many children (and adults) around the world, both transgender and cisgender.