Jennifer Slipakoff has been raising a trans daughter for more than a decade. / Courtesy photo

The Joy of Raising a Trans Child

Not even two full months into the year, 462 anti-trans bills have been introduced across the country. Six have been introduced in Georgia, four of which impact young people: HB1045, which would require schools to give notice and receive consent before providing students with sexual orientation or gender identity instruction; HB836 and HB939, both of which would require multiple occupancy restrooms and changing areas in elementary and secondary public schools to be “designated for exclusive use by males or females”; and SB438, which would require public schools to operate separate sports teams for “members of each gender.”

These stats paint a bleak picture of the realities of being or raising a trans child, but the truth is much more hopeful, at least according to Jennifer Slipakoff. Slipakoff is raising a trans daughter and has been for more than a decade.

Slipakoff’s 16-year-old daughter, whom she requested remain unnamed for her safety, began her transition at the age of four.

“Her transition was very organic; it started just really simply as being interested in girls’ clothes, girls’ toys,” she told Georgia Voice. “We have a son who is a couple of years older than my daughter, so we always had boys’ toys in the house. But we noticed that our daughter was playing with them in a very different way than the way that our son was playing with them … She started wearing girls’ clothes in kindergarten, so that’s when her social transition began. We got her name legally changed, and she’s just been being who she is ever since.”

Back when she was first transitioning, around 2012, the landscape for navigating trans issues was much different from now. Slipakoff says there weren’t many resources to turn to, and she and her husband were simply trying their best to make sure their daughter knew she was loved.

“We wanted to make sure that we were supporting her in the best possible way and making sure that she felt like she could be who she was and that we would unconditionally love her,” she said. “We were kind of stumbling around in the dark, trying to figure out how we manage these conversations with school, how we manage them with family, how we manage them with friends, and we just tried to do our best and just make sure that she felt loved and taken care of and supported.”

In the early days, Slipakoff and her husband worked to educate themselves and the people around them to create a safe and positive space for their daughter, both in and out of the home. She says her daughter has a supportive school community and the support has allowed her to flourish.

“She’s really confident,” Slipakoff said. “She knows that she’s fully supported.”

However, being a trans young person, even when supported by your family and community, is not without its challenges.

“The problem comes with sports,” Slipakoff said. “The Georgia High School Association ruled last year that trans kids can’t play on the appropriate sports team that aligns with their gender, so she’s been unable to play certain sports and that has been really difficult. It’s impacted her in a really negative way, so we’re working through that.”

Slipakoff said she “naively” expected things to only get better for trans kids in the years since her daughter’s transition, but with the recent onslaught of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ laws being introduced in growing numbers across the country and state, that is unfortunately not the case. She protects her daughter as best she can — and herself, by refusing to read the comments on any LGBTQ news piece, especially those concerning children.

Despite these hardships and how the far right portrays trans children, raising a trans child is not an awful or difficult experience, nor is her daughter a depressed, struggling child. Overall, it’s an overwhelmingly joyful experience.

“We’re a happy family,” Slipakoff said. “My daughter is a happy kiddo. We love her. We celebrate her. We’re not doing these things in spite of who she is, we’re doing these things because of exactly who she is. It’s important to celebrate your kids, especially when they’re choosing to show up authentically or when they’re not able to show up authentically because of their safety.”

Slipakoff’s family is a testament to how life-affirming support, acceptance, and unconditional love are for trans kids, and how believing and trusting in your child can set them up for success.

“Follow your kiddo’s lead,” she said. “They know what’s best for them, they really do … The world offers us so many obstacles, why would you want to be one of them for your kid?”