Post submitted by Children, Youth & Families Coordinator Pallavi Rudraraju
HRC recently sat down with Jaspret Brar and Priya Shah, proud parents of two elementary school-age daughters, one transgender and one cisgender, to learn more about their family’s story. Brar and Shah are members of HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a coalition of some of the nation's leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people.
With the help of incredible individuals and advocates in the community, including Shah’s own students, Brar and Shah began the journey of educating themselves and their own communities about transgender equality in Orange County, California. Shah is working with her school district to fully implement the state’s Student Success and Opportunity Act, which mandates training on gender identity for school staff, ensures that transgender students are referred to by their correct names and pronouns, and are able to use the restroom that accords with their gender identity.
Here is their story.
1. What drew you to HRC and inspired you to join HRC Foundation's Parents for Transgender Equality Council?
We were honored to be approached about joining HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council. We had been watching HRC’s growth when it comes to issues facing transgender people, and we had been inspired in our own journey by the stories and advocacy of so many of the PTEC families. We were looking forward to learning from them, and we believed it was time to create a bridge between the local advocacy work we are doing and national initiatives, especially at a time when transgender people are under attack at the federal level.
2. Can you tell us a little more about your work for transgender equality in Orange County? What are some ways allies and parents of transgender children can get involved?
The two biggest challenges we have faced in Orange County are both in the realm of education. We had to work directly with our public school district and school board, working with administrators, principals and teachers who were allies, to ensure that board policies were updated in accordance with state law and that principals and teachers were trained properly to care for transgender students.
The second challenge we face in Orange County is around the issues of comprehensive sexual education and transgender student equity in schools. Both national and state-level anti-LGBTQ groups, in accordance with some religious institutions and local elected officials, have launched a misinformation campaign to stir fear around transgender protections and create hostile environments for transgender youth.
3. What advice do you have for parents of transgender and gender-expansive children who might be unsure of how best to support their trans child/children?
Learning that your child is transgender can be disorienting. You will have so many questions, as will the people around you. Priya’s students taught us first and foremost: Tell your child that you love them unconditionally. Your family will be going on a journey along with your child, and that journey needs to be grounded in love. Let your child determine the pace of new labels or pronouns.
We began seeing a psychologist who specializes in gender identity and began attending support groups. Two other excellent resources for you and your family are local LGBT centers and organizations like HRC and Gender Spectrum, which have many resources you can share with your child’s school, doctor, etc.
4. As API/South Asian American parents of of a transgender child, can you speak to the unique challenges and opportunities you experience at the intersection of multiple identities?
Often, people will ask us if it has been difficult to affirm our transgender child in “our community.” The assumption is that South Asian and/or API communities will not support non-traditional sexual orientations and gender identities. Our experience could not be further from this. Many API cultures have a long history of acknowledging that there are many more sexual and gender identities than the Western two sex/two gender model. Our South Asian community encircled us with love and support when we shared our family’s story with them.
That being said, models of “coming out” or mainstream prescriptions on how to treat family members who do not immediately accept your child’s gender identity may not always apply to your family and situation -- and that’s OK. This is why it is important to have more representation of how families love and support their transgender and gender non-conforming children across cultures and identities.
To learn more about HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, click here. For more information about HRC Foundation’s work with transgender youth and their families, visit our Children, Youth and Families Program.