Erasing the stigma surrounding transgender identities – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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When originally confronted with the news that her daughter was going to transition, Roz admits she was clueless about what this meant for her child. The word transgender wasn’t even part of her vocabulary. What she did know was this was not a phase. Now, as her son, Hunter was going through something really big that would change the course of his life, and she was going to do everything she could to help him. That’s when Roz started her own research to find resources for Hunter and was approached to share her story.

The floodgates opened. Parents came out of the woodwork to talk; they felt their children were all alone in this journey, and they had nowhere and no one to turn to for advice until Roz unlocked a huge door of opportunities for these kids.

Telling the world you have a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth can seem an impossible task.

In this Smart Sex, Smart Love podcast, Joe Kort, PhD, psychotherapist, certified sex therapist and clinical director of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health in Royal Oak, Michigan, talks with Roz Gould Keith about her journey as the parent of a transgender child, which led to the beginnings of Stand with Trans, a federally approved, not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing programs, educational events and support groups to serve transgender youth. As Executive Director and Founder of Stand with Trans, Roz hopes to provide the tools and resources transgender youth need so they will be empowered, supported and validated as they transition to their authentic life.

Just because you are immersed in this life as a transgender parent, doesn’t mean you are knowledgeable, and Roz has been determined to provide education so trans identities are normalized. She also wants to create more positive awareness around transgender youth. Roz reports that the rate of suicide for transgender youth who have no parental support is alarmingly high. It is critical that trans youth have at least one supportive adult in their life. These kids need to be validated, they need to feel loved, they need support and resources. That is why Stand with Trans was established. The organization is an accepting, supportive place for youth and families to connect and learn from each other.

Learn more about Stand with Trans HERE!

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Unknown Speaker 0:11
Welcome to smart sex smart love. We’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboos, and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. I’m Dr. Joe court. Thanks for tuning in. Hello, I’m Dr. Joe court and welcome back to smart sex smart love. Today I’m pleased to welcome Roz Gould, Keith, who will talk about erasing the stigma surrounding transgender identities. Roz is the executive director and founder of stand with trans. Its mission is to provide the tools and resources transgender youth need, so they will be empowered, supported and validated as they transition to their authentic life. When Raza son hunter came out in 2013, she knew she had to do something to help him. There were very few resources for him, and she knew very little about what it meant to be transgender. That’s when she decided to found stand with trans, a federally approved not for profit organization. Welcome, Roz.

Unknown Speaker 1:12
Hi, Joe. Thank you for having me.

Unknown Speaker 1:15
It’s my pleasure. I’ve wanted to do this for a while I know you’re busy. And I’m busy. And you’re, you’re doing great work. You’re such a great resource here. I know for sure. In the Detroit area, is it outside of Detroit as well?

Unknown Speaker 1:27
You know, it’s interesting. So COVID has forced us to do things in different ways. And for us, really, we we’ve been able to make lemonade out of lemons, because going virtually has meant that our content is accessible to anyone with an internet connection no matter where they live. So over these past nine plus months, we have been reaching a national audience. Well, as well as an international audience. We’ve had kids from a variety of countries attend our support groups, our trans empowerment month. So it’s really been kind of cool to see that evolved.

Unknown Speaker 2:16
That’s great. You must feel so proud of it. Because, you know, this is so personal for you. It started out as a personal journey, and sparked your fire to start standing with trends. Can you talk about that?

Unknown Speaker 2:27
Sure. Seven and a half years ago, when my younger child was 13, not quite 14, he was in eighth grade. And we thought we had two daughters. But he came to me one day and said, I’m transgender. And of course, there’s a lot more to that piece of it. But you know, at that point, I had no idea what it meant to be transgender, I’d never heard the word before. I knew about gay and lesbian identities, but nobody was talking about trans or non binary or gender fluid. So this was really brand new to all of us. And we had to work really hard, which was a heartbreaking piece of His coming out, we had to work really hard to find support and find resources. And we didn’t know anyone else. Like our family, we didn’t know, you know, Hunter didn’t know anyone like him. And in Metro Detroit, unfortunately, there were just no resources for transgender youth. So that was really how it started with our own education. And it took us probably about a year to get the kind of support that he needed and to find the right people. And once we did, and we started, we were approached to tell our story publicly. And once we did that, families started coming out of the woodwork. And they saw themselves in our story. And from there, we just started a dialogue about, gee, what f and you know, parents need other parents to talk to, and kids need to see that their other kids like them, because it’s so isolating. And it’s you know, it’s hard for kids in general and young teens to see around corners, and to even see that they could have a future, let alone feeling like they’re the only one and that they’re weird, and they’re the odd kid. And so that community piece of it was really critical and figuring out how we could bring that and make that happen.

Unknown Speaker 4:45
While we’re talking people listening, you know, even though it’s like nothing to us, we understand this whole concept. Do you mean, you and I but what is transgender some people are like,

Unknown Speaker 4:54
what the hell is it? You know? Yeah, great question. So, being transgender means That your biological sex and your gender identity do not align. So how you feel about who you are, does not line up with your genitalia, basically. So your body parts, and what you’re thinking in your head, like your, your core identity are at odds, basically. So when doctor says, Oh, it’s a girl, or it’s a boy, they’re strictly looking at genitalia, they’re looking at what they can see, to declare the baby’s gender. And, you know, I, it will probably be a long time before we move away from that. But the reality is that that’s the biological sex, that’s not the gender. And we often won’t know the gender until many years later.

Unknown Speaker 5:51
I love the way you said that. So clearly, how do you feel about these gender reveal parties? Because I feel like they’re revealing anatomy. They’re not revealing gender? What do you think?

Unknown Speaker 6:01
Yeah. You know, to each his own, I personally, I never wanted to know what I was having. I wanted to be surprised. So that was, and we were definitely surprised. I’m sorry. You know, I truly am one of those people that felt, you know, I’m having a baby, All I care about is that they’re healthy and happy. And it didn’t matter. So when we had to shift somebody, we didn’t struggle, but we, this was our child. So you know, you’re putting a lot of eggs in this gender basket and going to buy, you know, what people consider boy toys, and all blue clothing or pink. And, you know, honestly, I feel like kids should be able to play with whatever they want to play with. And I remember when target. This was already a few years ago, but when they came out and said they were going to remove the signs in the aisles as bad boy toys and girls boys. This one woman was quoted saying, but how am I going to know what to buy my grandchildren? Yeah, you know, and, I mean, I had to chuckle I mean, you buy them what they want to play with. Right? And I don’t think that, you know, and there was something I saw today about what happens when you give your little boy a baby doll. And then there were several scenarios, they learn how to be, you know, a loving parent, they learn how to be nurturing, they learn how to be a pediatrician, you know, things that you can learn by playing with different kinds of toys that, you know. I mean, Hunter had a baby doll, and he was little he decided his baby doll was a boy doll. And we had to have boy clothes and a boy named but you know, he played with babies. He played with dolls. So you know, it pretend play for kids is just about being creative and letting them explore and not putting them in a box,

Unknown Speaker 8:08
letting them be themselves. I mean, when I was a kid, you know, I was that trans, but I love feminine play, what they call that play in house, playing with Barbies. One Hanukkah, my sister got a spiral graph, and I got football tickets. And we looked at each other and said, Give me yours. Give me mine. And we were like, you know, it worked out my sister straight. And she just liked football. And she was a tomboy at the time. And I was a little sissy boy. And I liked the other stuff. And it should have been okay, but it was not okay. It was a 16th and the 17th. Yeah. Can you speak to the struggle you said about being a trend, a parent of a trans person, we only know really in our pop culture share, and how share was surrounded by trans and drag, and gay and LGBT. And then her son comes out and how difficult that was for her people struggle with that. Can you talk about that?

Unknown Speaker 8:57
Yeah, in fact, there was just an article yesterday or the day before about how she admittedly she’s and she doesn’t think she handled it. Well. And I didn’t get a chance to read that article yet. But remember, yeah, I mean, you can’t remember how many years ago that was, yeah, it was really more of an anomaly. At least publicly trans people have been around for centuries. But you know, just because you’re surrounded by it doesn’t mean that you have an understanding or that you, you know, have enough knowledge to be supportive. I mean, for me, you know, tricky answering that because, for me again, there was no question, whatever issue my kid was having, I was going to be there and I was going to support him. And I knew he was struggling. And there was there was no question, you know, and I’ve written about this that, you know, being gay is not a choice. being trans is not a choice, and the only choice From a parent’s perspective is what kind of parent you’re going to be. So not to be so black and white about it. But that’s, you know, how I how I feel. And I think it’s a lot easier today to have the courage to be that kind of parents perhaps, than 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, I don’t I don’t even know how long ago, it was that Chaz Bono came out. But it was a long time ago. And I remember thinking, Oh, you know, that’s interesting. But it’s, there’s so much dialogue right now and so much in the media and so much, how much access to education, that there’s really no excuse?

Unknown Speaker 10:45
I agree. And sadly, we see people in therapy whose parents don’t acknowledge it. And, you know, I went out to a waiting room one time, and I thought, what I was looking at was a male, adolescent, and referred to him that way. And both parents said, No, it’s her. It’s her. And, you know, then getting him in my room. He was a he, and they were not accepting. So what happens to a trans kid who has parents that just won’t accept it?

Unknown Speaker 11:12
Yeah. So there, there are really startling statistics that talk about, you know, what happens when you have parents support and what happens when you don’t have parents support. without parents support, self esteem bottoms out. In depression soars. Rates of suicidality increase when a parent supports their trans child, suicidality drops to 4%, which, you know, I would love that to be zero, but it’s really on par with any other peer. So that parents support even one supportive adult makes a significant difference in that child’s life. And at all, all kids want to know that their parents are a safe place to land, that they can come out and still be loved, they are so afraid of their parents not loving them anymore, if they tell them. And to me, that’s just heartbreaking. They’re they’re just, that’s what they’re afraid of. And they, you know, either put off coming out, because they have those concerns, or they’ve come out. And it’s, I mean, often it’s not always the case. And often the parents are, yeah, absolutely, of course, we’re going to accept you. But then there are many cases where the parents are like, you’re gonna always be my daughter, and you will always be a girl. And I’m going to always call you soon. And, you know, you can do what you want, when you don’t live here anymore. Or, you know, when you’re 18, we’ll talk about it like, that’s some magic number. But it is critical that a trans youth have at least one supportive parent. Yeah, makes a huge difference. Okay, what

Unknown Speaker 13:12
about an uncle or a grandparent? Does

Unknown Speaker 13:14
that help one supportive adult makes a significant difference in the life of a trans youth? That’s great. You know, and when I talk to youth, and you know, I asked them, you know, do you think that your parents will be open? What kind of conversations have you already had at home, and if they’re pretty sure that they can’t safely have this conversation at home, I asked them if they can talk to, you know, a cousin and aunt and uncle, an older sibling, a neighbor, a parent of one of their good friends, a school counselor. So, you know, I really try to help them find somebody, some adult that they believe to be safe, that they can talk to and work things out. Because they can’t, they can’t work it out on their own. No, they, they need to be validated, and they need to know that who they are is okay. Because otherwise they walk around every single day feeling like they are not worthy, and they are not okay, and that nobody will love them. And, you know, that’s just a bad combination.

Unknown Speaker 14:22
Right? Very, you know, they call it minority stress, and that’s a real thing. And then it can lead to depression, anxiety, suicidality, and it’s so horrible. Yep. What about pronouns? Can you speak to that? Because people get confused and then some of the pronouns don’t make sense to people and people struggle.

Unknown Speaker 14:38
Yeah. So if somebody says, I use she her pronouns, or I use he him pronouns, then those are the pronouns you need to use with that person. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in trans identities. Or you don’t understand they as a singular, and we can talk about that. But what does matter is, those are the pronouns that validate that person’s identity. And just by using them, you have helped to move this person’s self worth up on the scale. You know, if, if somebody always referred to me as he, or you know, his stuff is over here when it just it wouldn’t feel right. And it would feel like they’re just like, are they not seeing me? So, and it’s in the beginning, and this is an example of how things have changed so rapidly, you know, we would say, what’s your preferred gender pronoun, what’s your PGP, but it’s no longer okay to ask someone what their preferred gender pronoun is just right. You know, what pronouns do you use? Because it’s not preferred. Right? It’s, you know, it’s not like I prefer she heard, but we’ll be okay. If you use he him with these are my pronouns. Right? Right. So it really validates that person and sends a strong message that, you know, you you understand, and you see them and, you know, they’re valid. You know,

Unknown Speaker 16:24
I work with Nick Zaki, who you know, that’s how I know you at the Center for relational and sexual health. And I said to him one day, I said, so what do I do? Because he’s a specialist in trans work? What do I do if I go in my store? Or I’m out in public? And I can’t tell the gender of the person? What do I say, What do I say? And he said, Just don’t use pronouns. And I said, What? He said, Just don’t use pronouns. I’m like, Well, how do you do that? And it was, it’s really not hard. But we’re taught courtesy as Miss Ma’am, you know, Ms. Going up to somebody and I’ve really gotten used to, and it’s easy to just not use, excuse me, you know, Hello, can you help me here? Just kind of starting to talk to the person rather than because I don’t want to miss gender, people. I know, it’s very upsetting.

Unknown Speaker 17:08
Right. Right. And I think, you know, the other thing that’s really helpful, especially now in business is more and more companies are encouraging employees to put their pronouns in their email signatures. And that’s huge. Because it just says to anyone who’s coming to their website, or who is interacting with them via email, that they understand how important using pronouns are. And so I really like that we’re seeing more and more of that. And yeah, and even so if the tables are turned, and you have, you know, a server coming over to the table, let’s say you’re at a restaurant and your customer. And that server isn’t quite sure. All they have to say is How’s everyone doing this evening? Yes, they don’t have to say, Hey, guys are you know, What can I get for you gentlemen? Tonight? You don’t know. So we’re talking more to schools. You know, in classrooms, in business, any kind of situation where you’re interacting, giving a presentation, and you’re greeting them, it’s so common to say Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, it’s so nice to hear today. Right? But you can say good morning, everyone. Good morning, beautiful people. You know, there’s so many different folks, there’s so many different greetings and salutations that you can use when speaking when communicating via email when you know, interacting on a customer service kind of basis. So that is starting to change as well.

Unknown Speaker 18:52
I have appreciated and I hope I would invite other cisgender people who are not trans to kind of take this in it has encouraged me because I’ve been putting it in my emails and in my letters he has him to kind of claim my masculinity my at my I was always as a boy, I was always Joey the sissy boy, Joey the faggot or you know, all that crap. So like, I don’t know, now I’m in my 50s. I’m wearing beard beard oil. I’m working out my pronouns are he hits him. It’s making me appreciate it more the trans community has helped me even though I’m not in the community.

Unknown Speaker 19:25
Yeah, I think that if you’re open to the possibilities, you can learn an awful lot. And I always feel like this journey has just been so incredible, because I’ve learned so much. And yes, I’m able to help others. But it’s just opened my world up in ways that I could never have imagined. So it’s a great way to look at it.

Unknown Speaker 19:52
So tell us how parents and teens and young adults can find standard trends and you know what happens when they go

Unknown Speaker 20:00
What happens when they like so they call you? How do they How do they show? How do they access? Yes. So can with is the website and we put all kinds of opportunities on the calendar. So it might be a support group for a parent or a youth, we now have tween teen and young adult group. In particular, we have a non binary young adult group. And because we have found that within that age group, and the non binary identity, they really have, it’s a different conversation. So we’ve launched that a few months ago, but we have a lot of resources on the website. We’re on social media, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and tik tok, we really wanted to engage with youth. And there is a huge LGBTQ youth population on tik tok. So, we decided to learn how to use and we hired an influencer, who happens to be a trans man. And then we actually met him because he just found Stan was trans, I guess on Instagram, and did a tic tac video about the organization. So we reached out to him, and he taught us how to use Tick tock, and we now have I think 17,000 followers, tick tock was crazy. But, you know, it’s, it’s been a powerful tool, and we’re going to start to wrap some more strategic thinking around, you know, what do we deliver to these kids, because they’re really looking for information and support? You know, we get questions like, Well, how do I know if I’m trans enough? How do I know that? Yeah. Also, many, many kids, especially now during quarantine, are with people who either don’t know, their name, their their name that they would like to use, as a trans person, or as a different gender, or they refuse to use it. And so we, we ran a series one week about using your using your name, and we had kids, just drop a message and tick tock if they wanted us to say their name. And so we got so many comments with all of their names. And so we were doing shout outs all week long with, you know, and they loved it. It just, that’s all they wanted, was for someone to say their name, you know, and it’s so simple.

Unknown Speaker 22:55
Yeah. So can can the young person come to the organization without parental approval? Oh, yeah. Oh, good. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 23:01
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And of course, now, it’s everything is virtual. So they can register for groups, no matter where they live. And so they’re not, you know, they’re not, you know, they’re not traveling anywhere, or they’re not alone with an adult. It’s all virtual. And all of the youth groups are run by licensed mental health professionals who have a specialty and working with trans adolescents. Awesome. So it’s not therapy, it’s just support group and conversation, and they guide the conversation. And the kids really have a lot to say, yes. So, you know, and these are kids as young as nine who need community. So it’s really exciting to be able to offer that. And then I get a lot of, you know, I do get a lot of personal requests, and, you know, emails, and I just got one this morning from a woman who was she has three kids and her oldest went to school with Hunter, and she was looking for some advice and more education and, you know, as a family, they just wanted to learn. And so I get, you know, such a range of requests, you know, from, can you recommend a book to, you know, tell me about pronoun. So, the fact that people want to learn is just,

Unknown Speaker 24:30
you know, that’s what it’s all about. You provide such a good service, and you know, you’re such a warm, welcoming person as it is it just makes sense that you’re doing this and I wonder if How can people find you so you said they can go to the website, but are there other ways they could find you?

Unknown Speaker 24:45
Well, social media, like I mentioned, it’s scan with trans for all of the social media platforms except for Instagram, which is Dan with Trans Am I Otherwise, yeah, just if you google stand with trans, we have an ally parent program, which is a national, we have volunteer parents, all across the country, there’s 200 or more parents who have been trained their parents of trans youth, or trans individuals on astral youth. And they are available to text with somebody to just offer love at the other end of the phone. So we have, you know, this, this network that’s there, there’s a published list on the website that a trans individual I use, a parent even can just go to this list and text someone and say, Hey, we need to chat. multiple ways to access. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 25:43
it’s great that you’re here. It’s great that people can access you. Thank you for coming on the show. It was great. Maybe we’ll do a part two. I say that to everybody, because it’s such a short amount of time, but this was a good one. It does. Well, thank

Unknown Speaker 25:54
you so much. And you’ll let me know when this is going to air. Oh, for sure. Um, conversation.

Unknown Speaker 26:02
Yes. And if you enjoyed this episode of smart sex smart love podcast, remember to rate review and subscribe. And you can follow me too, on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and now Tick Tock at Dr. Joe CT. Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy. Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex smart love. I’m dr. john CT. And you can find me on Joe That’s See you next time.

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