As I stood in a sea of people, I saw a tuft of pink hair jumping up and down in the distance. Curious, I stretched my head to the left and saw a very familiar young girl enthusiastically waving a blue, pink, and white striped flag in the air. Her mother, also very familiar, stood near her, beaming, but firm. As I excitedly contemplated introducing myself, I lost track of them in the crowd and I sadly went home with many important things left unsaid. And so, a week later, I will say them here in hopes they one day see it.
Five months ago, I came to know that beautiful little girl. She has bright pink hair and an even more vibrant personality. She’s a Girl Scout and loves gymnastics. Avery Jackson is an incredibly special and inspirational 8-year-old, far wiser than many beyond her years.
Five months ago, I also came to know Avery’s mother. Debi Jackson is that Mom we all aspire to be. Strong, courageous, resilient, passionate, and most of all – kind.
There are many things to know about the Jacksons – but most important is that they personify love in action. They immerse their children in proactive demonstrations and deeply important subjects, giving them an invaluable experience in what loving without expectations really means. They support those without a voice, and sometimes simply lend them a few more.
Despite being practically superheroes, they are like most American families – except for one small (yet, big) detail: Avery is transgendered.
Five months ago, Avery spoke out about life as a transgendered girl in a YouTube video. I could paraphrase or quote her brilliant words, but do yourself a favor and watch it yourself (grab tissues and your local legislator’s phone number, because it’s about to get real).
One thing Debi always says is to “love without expectations”. For me, this means loving my daughter in a boundary-less way, a love that is all-encompassing. Give every second you can to causes that need your voice – demonstrate love in action by small acts of kindness that lead to a much greater world around you. Not only should we love without expectations, we should love without exceptions. Every child should experience this kind of love from every direction, but particularly those who are apart of the LGBT community.
Love destroys hate and malice. Love repairs wounds and nurtures us from sickness to health. Love saves lives. According to a study performed by San Fransisco State University, “highly rejected LGBT youth are more than 8 times as likely to commit suicide, 6 times as likely to experience high levels of depression, and 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs”. More than 50% of transgendered people will have attempted suicide by the age of 20, with 90% of them reporting physical or sexual harassment while they’re in school. How can we progress as a society with ANY of our children not feeling safe, loved, and needed in the very environment they’re expected to learn and perform beyond their limits? Too many voices have been silenced – voices that could have been those of doctors, scientists, presidents, artists, and human rights advocates. Voices of those that could have cured cancer or discovered a new source of sustainable energy – voices of daughters and sons. This is why it’s important for those of us who stand next to the different or disenfranchised to not do so quietly.
Voices like Debi’s and Avery’s are hard not to hear. Though small, she has been loud enough to reach thousands of people – and probably saved many lives. Debi’s has changed the way I talk to my own daughter about gender identity. Though she’s only 2, she absorbs everything like a sponge and this is one message I want her to receive loud and clear.
And so, on this beautiful October day, my hair is pink. Not because it’s breast cancer awareness month, albeit convenient, but because it’s important that outside of demonstrations and rallies, Avery and every other transgendered child get small nods of respect and appreciation. It’s important that Avery knows she has impacted my life in ways she will never know – but in ways she will always reap the karmic benefits from.
It’s important for kids like Avery to know that my generation supports and loves them, and that we will soon be the ones replacing the discriminatory legislators. It’s important that Avery knows that there is a 2-year-old girl sitting next to me who will experience life in a completely different way because she chose to speak up. It’s important that Avery knows that being a normal girl, she is profoundly special to me.
It’s important for people like Debi to know that they have changed the world by preaching a simple concept: love. During her speech at the Unity Temple, she perked ears at her frank conversation about what it’s like to be a parent of transgendered child, listing just a few of the hateful things that have been said about her amazing daughter. However, the louder message was how important it is that we evoke change – I am and will be a different and better parent because of knowing Debi.
Avery, you are wise beyond her years. Debi, you are a shining example of what happens when love drives you to make effective change in the lives of people you don’t even know. You have taught others how to tune out the hateful white noise and replace it with the melodic sounds of unconditional love.
And for that, I am deeply thankful.