This Mom Is An Inspiration

It’s time to cry, you guys — and time to applaud and draw strength from an extraordinary family, who teaches us that we truly can enact the change we want to see by living it ourselves. Debi Jackson, who has a six-year-old daughter named AJ, took the podium at Kansas City’s Unity Temple on the Plaza in May as part of a "Listen to Your Mother" series. Her eloquent and poignant speech shares her daughter’s story and debunks many of the myths surrounding trans people in general and trans children in particular, and the parents of trans children. The speech is now going viral — and with good reason. Seriously, you guys. I’m a mess right now, but it’s a good mess. The best kind of mess possible, in fact.

Assigned male at birth, AJ told Jackson at age four, “Mom, you know I’m really a girl, right? I’m a girl on the inside.” Jackson and her husband struggled with it, but when AJ showed signs of depression, her parents listened to her. “The day I let her go to school in girl clothes, she was happier than I had seen in a very long time,” Jackson said. The kids were great, as were the teachers — but it was after the kids went home and told their parents that they began to behave differently towards AJ. The Jackson family lost most of their friends, and even some family members; they went into hiding for a year while AJ grew out her hair. But when they finally emerged, Jackson said, “It was with a very happy and confident daughter.” What parent wouldn’t want that for their child? Who wouldn’t want that for any child?

At the 3:22 mark, Jackson addresses the variety of uninformed comments she and her family are often faced with. From “We are liberals pushing a gay agenda” (nope, she said; she’s a conservative Southern Baptist originally from Alabama) to “Kids shouldn’t have to learn about sex at such a young age” (it’s a good thing gender identity has nothing to do with who we’re attracted to, then, isn’t it?), she responded to them one by one, debunking each with thought and feeling. It’s the final one at the 5:04 mark, though, that will both break your heart and give you strength: Jackson’s response to the statement, “God hates transgender people. They are sinners and going to hell.” Here — watch it for yourself:

I barely have words to express how powerful Jackson’s entire speech is. But the thing I keep coming back to in the first half of it is how the behavior of the children at AJ’s daycare changed after they told their parents about her: It shows just how much we influence our kids. If we show signs of intolerance, they’ll pick up on them and internalize them, perpetuating the cycle. We cannot bring about the change we need if this is the kind of behavior we’re passing onto future generations.

I have hope, though, that we can bring about the change we so desperately need. Amidst all the awful trans "jokes" and injustices out there in the world, we have stories like AJ’s, and Wren Kauffman’s, all the way up to Laverne Cox's. The more attention we can bring to these stories, the brighter our future will be.

Image: Listen to Your Mother/YouTube