Letter: Parents of transgender kids support gay policy

Re: Ingrid Jacques’s May 13 column “Parents aren’t buying LGBTQ policy”: If you’re looking for families who know firsthand that these Michigan State Board of Education guidelines are needed, look no further. We are parents of transgender kids.

When Peter’s son, Jacq Kai, assigned female at birth, transitioned to life as a boy at the age of 4, he became a happier child who was able to learn and grow. Nicole’s son Reid, also assigned female at birth, has begun to thrive and find happiness in his new, male life.

We were part of the working group of more than 70 parents, educators, health professionals, mental health professionals, social workers, community leaders, and attorneys who weighed in on the guidance. We have been at the meetings to voice our opinions since introduction of the guidelines.

Many courageous individuals from the LGBTQ community have spoken out in favor of the guidelines at each of the public meetings. At Tuesday’s meeting among the 150 speakers, comments opposing the guidance outnumbered those supporting it by only less than 20 people. At an April meeting, support was more in favor of the guidance than against.

But there is much confusion about what it means to be transgender. Schools are unclear about their obligations to support transgender students under federal laws. There is no handbook to guide teachers or principals. And so, few understand what a huge difference these guidelines would make for transgender kids and their schools in Michigan.

The board first moved to draft the proposed guidance to help schools as they worked alone to figure out how to offer an equal education to LGBTQ youth. They responded to calls from parents like us who wanted to know what the best research says about how schools can serve our kids. The board responded to the fact that the Office of Civil Rights is investigating a Michigan school district for violating students’ rights regarding gender identity. The guidance is needed and the public comment period is about improving it through an informed dialogue.

We are just a few of the thousands of families who are trying to make our schools safer, more inclusive, and better achieving for every kid.

Nicole Ellefson, Williamston

Peter Tchoryk, Dexter