As a gay teen, I needed to escape Grass Valley
April 28, 2014
I just read The Union's article, "Jadee's journey from daughter to son," and wanted to say thank you for allowing Cory Fisher to write such a kind and supportive story about a transgender person. The article got Jadee's pronouns right, made Jadee sound like a human and provided empathy and compassion. I have read so many ugly and misinformed articles on transgender people, and Cory's is one of the best.
I am not a transgender person, simply a gay, male, cisgender (or nontransgender person) who was raised in Grass Valley until I was 18, then moved to Long Beach, Calif. I needed to escape Grass Valley because there was no lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) community in the foothills when I graduated from Bear River High School in 2003.
Grass Valley was such a wonderful place to grow up; so safe and serene … except if you were a LGBTQ person. Hopefully that has changed. I think Grass Valley needs a LGBTQ community center!
Today, I work with LGBTQ youth at a LGBTQ center in Southern California and manage all youth programs and services. We operate a LGBTQ youth after-school program where youth can interact with LGBTQ peers and adult mentors and engage in programming and workshops that help to empower young LGBTQ people to become proud and successful members of their community. This is what Grass Valley needs!
Our LGBTQ youth are coming out at much younger ages, and that presents us with many interesting and important questions.
The "T" in LGBT has been misunderstood for such a long time. At our LGBTQ center, we provide transgender ally trainings and presentations on LGBTQ 101 to variety of community groups. We have event created a transgender student guidebook for educators after the passage of the wonderful AB 1266 (Student Success and Opportunity Act — or commonly called the "transgender bathroom law"). This guidebook will help educators understand and support their transgender students and hopefully inspire schools to create permanent change on their campuses.
I am thrilled to learn that Grass Valley has a Parents, Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) group! This type of support group is so crucial in allowing families a safe space to talk about issues from a group of peers that understands and supports.
In Los Angeles, there exists a new support group for transgender families called Transforming Family, and we are bringing a version of this to our center this summer. At this group, parents of transgender children meet with a parent facilitator and therapist in one room, while teens (ages 13 to 18) meet with a teen facilitator and therapist in another.
And finally there is a child-play group for transgender children and their siblings. Grass Valley needs this support service!
Jadee is such an amazing person and I know that it must have been hard to come out in our small town of Grass Valley. Heck, I had to move to Southern California just to come out as gay!
Our LGBTQ youth are coming out at much younger ages, and that presents us with many interesting and important questions. Are our institutions prepared to care for LGBTQ youth? How do we care for LGBTQ youth? What Jadee and other LGBTQ youth need to know is that they are supported and affirmed by California state law. LGBTQ youth have the right to be out and open on campus. We are so lucky to have these rights because not every state has such protections. But not all institutions know of these legal protections and sometimes it requires a young person, like Jadee, to advocate for LGBTQ protections in the school, workplace, etc.
Finally, I would like to send a bit of encouragement to Jadee's mom, Julie. Thank you for loving your son unconditionally. Whether you know it or not, accepting and loving your son as transgender greatly increases the likelihood that he will be successful and healthy for the rest of his life.
Will it be hard for you and your family? Probably. But always remember that you have legal support and a LGBTQ community that has your back. So thank you, Julie, for loving your child. You are doing the right thing.
Finally, thank you to The Union newspaper and Nevada County for doing the right thing and publishing an article that speaks about not only family acceptance and human diversity, but about love.
We need love above all else in this world, and your publication has proven to me that Grass Valley is not only capable, but hopefully willing, to support and affirm its LGBTQ population.
Kyle Bullock is the youth program manager of The LBGTQ Center of Long Beach.
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