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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Drawing on lived experiences, Gender Affirming Evanston aims to support parents of transgender children

Illustration by Olivia Abeyta
Gender Affirming Evanston is planning to organize community events in collaboration with Evanston Pride and PFLAG Evanston in the next few months.

In 2022, a 2nd Ward resident’s oldest son said he wanted to use puberty blockers. His coming out prompted family members to expand their understanding of gender identity, the parent said.

The parent’s son came out as nonbinary at the age of 10 and has since detransitioned. Her youngest child also came out as nonbinary two years later. 

“It just touches every aspect of your life — your family, your school, legal things, friendships — it touches everything,” she said. 

The parent, who asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her children, said as a single mother, she turned to Facebook to find other parents going through similar circumstances. 

She saw a post about Gender Affirming Evanston, an organization still in its infancy at the time. 

Immediately, the parent said she decided to help spearhead initiatives at the organization, along with therapist and Evanston resident ash luna and another Evanston parent, who also asked to remain anonymous to protect the identities of her children.

“It felt so good to meet people who are basically my neighbors going through the same thing,” the 2nd Ward parent said. “We can talk about it.”

Since then, Gender Affirming Evanston has grown into a support group for parents and caretakers of transgender, nonbinary, gender-expansive and gender non-conforming youth. The group meets monthly for 90-minute-long online sessions where members can discuss ongoing concerns and ask each other for advice, ash luna said.

ash luna, who identifies as trans and nonbinary and is a parent of several gender-expansive children, is one of two facilitators for the sessions. They said it was important for them to lend their firsthand experience to the group. 

“At that point, it had just been cis parents getting together and talking about their trans kids — which is wonderful but can sometimes lack the nuances of lived experience,” ash luna said. “Their trans kids will someday be trans adults, and trans adults used to be trans kids.”

Currently, Gender Affirming Evanston focuses on providing “immediate support,” ash luna’s co-facilitator said. But, the organization is planning to hold more in-person events in the future for community education, she added. 

The organization is also working on a Queer Joy Consortium in partnership with Evanston Pride and PFLAG Evanston, under which it will organize community events and information sessions together, the facilitator said.

PFLAG Evanston President Lex Wilder said the partnership with Gender Affirming Evanston and Evanston Pride came about in hopes of reaching a larger audience. 

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t all doing the same work in different places,” Wilder said. “There’s strength in numbers.”

The partners’ first event together will be a gender-affirming care information session at Skokie Public Library on April 30. A social worker from the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago will talk to attendees about what gender-affirming care can look like medically, Wilder said.

He added that holding these types of events in Evanston is important for preventing misinformation and fear from spreading in the community, especially among children. 

“I think the more accurate information that can be out there for people, the better — and better for children,” he said. “They’re vulnerable people, and they need to be seen and cared for.”

Wilder said the consortium is also planning to host a dance party in May. He said he feels a lot of the news nowadays on LGBTQ+ issues is very disheartening and hopes that events can bring joy to the kids.

ash luna echoed Wilder’s sentiment, adding that a lot of the rhetoric surrounding gender is negative, especially since it’s an election year.

“Safety is an ever-pressing concern,” they said. “Our rights to exist are in imbalance … I think that’s something we are aware of and something that comes up as a topic of conversation.” 

Despite these challenges, the 2nd Ward parent said she reflects on her journey as a parent of a nonbinary child as one with both rewards and challenges. 

Although the parent is no longer an active member of Gender Affirming Evanston, she said she feels thankful for her time with the group. At one session, she received guidance from other parents after bringing up her son’s desire to use puberty blockers, she said. 

“Other people had already gone through it and could give a lot of advice,” she said.

She added that she feels lucky to be in Evanston/Skokie School District 65, where schools offer “Gender Support Plans” for children, and is grateful for the support the Evanston community has given her. 

When her children first came out, the 2nd Ward parent said their father abandoned them and has since severed contact with the family. 

“He was not accepting, not affirming,” she said. “He just basically took off and has no contact with them anymore.”

In his place, Gender Affirming Evanston, the Evanston community and her extended family have stepped in. 

The 2nd Ward parent said she hopes to reconnect with the organization and attend the in-person events. 

“Trans kids are everywhere in Evanston,” she said. “They’re in every classroom, in every neighborhood. It is routine, kids have different pronouns, it is becoming totally normal for them in our town, and that’s a good thing.”

Email: [email protected]

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