Joe’s son Penel expressed his true gender identity from a very early age, starting with a desire for short haircuts, the complete rejection of dresses, and, eventually, adopting masculine pronouns.

Penel initially came out to his mother, but Joe felt he needed to hear it for himself. Once Penel said to his father, “I’d like for you to call me a boy,” Joe’s acceptance and love never wavered.

“It was as simple as that. At that point it wasn’t really a hard decision because, to me, what difference does it make if I want to call you a boy or a girl?” Joe said. “I want you to feel that I’m confident in you and that I love you.”

While he and his family fully support young Penel, Joe does fear what the future might bring and wants his son to be equipped emotionally so he can be true to himself and not allow hateful people to stand in his way.

“It’s difficult to protect our kids from those who want to hurt them. But I do want to instill the confidence in Penel where he can stand up for himself and express it as well,” he said. “The one thing I want Penel to always know is that I am always here and his family’s always here. And no matter what happens, no matter how hard things get, I’m always here and he’s always great. That’s happiness to me.”

While Joe has become a vocal advocate for transgender youth, many LGBTQ young people lack crucial support from their families, and instead are rejected, leaving them at risk for homelessness, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Watch the video below to see the difference supportive dads can make in their transgender children’s lives. For more information on supporting and caring for transgender and gender-expansive children and youth, visit

Whether you identify as transgender or as an ally, join HRC’s #ThisIsTransgender social media campaign to share your story. Tag HRC on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and send your Snapchat snaps to WeAreHRC and include the hashtag #ThisIsTransgender.

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