#BlackTransLivesMatter Toolkit for SURJ Families.

SURJ Families know that there is work we can do even with very young children to support the fact that #BlackTransLivesMatter. We celebrate families of all configurations and wish to instill within our children a more nuanced understanding of gender and an active engagement with social justice.

SURJ families who participate in the movement for Black Trans Lives can support and facilitate transgender people expressing themselves freely no matter what role they play in our families or communities. There is a lot here, don’t let it overwhelm you. The goal is that you start somewhere, and keep coming back to this work over time and deepen your understanding and work.


We seek to make our schools and communities safer for Black and transgender people of every age. Even if we don’t know any transgender people personally, they are members of our community. Our children may experience being in class with a transgender child or with a child whose parent is transgender. Children can begin to express and assert their gender identity as early as 2 years old.

As our children move through educational systems, SURJ families can help leave a legacy of safety by speaking up for the rights of trans people, creating trans-friendly spaces, and developing policies that will remain even after our kids have moved on. It is imperative for care-givers to become educated about issues surrounding gender identity so that we can support our children in coming into and loving their full selves, beyond simplistic stereotypes and the gender binary. It is also important that we prepare our children to become active in defending the rights of all people.

In a world where we talk a lot about the very real threats to Black and trans people’s lives, it’s also important to think about what creating space for trans people brings to our community. Out transgender musician, Antony, of Antony and the Johnsons has spoken out about the importance of nurturing gender nonconforming children:

“What we are dealing with is people whose spirits are different. And it's much more subtle and there's a lot more potential there within each of those children and within each of those adults that remains unacknowledged and sometimes even unexplored, because people, even individuals, fall victim to society's impression of them or society's reduction of them. And what you tend to notice about a transgender kid, you know, they're usually the ones that are kind of dancing by themselves in a little circle of light, and they see colors more brightly, and they're very sensitive to the feelings of kids, other kids, and adults around them. And my suggestion is that they have a little gift inside their hearts that could be a real asset within the family. And I think that's true of gay kids, too, you know?”

-Anthony of Anthony and the Johnsons 


Children whose parents come out as transgender may face harassment or bullying at school. SURJ families can be strategic allies, ensuring that these children do not become ostracized and always have a friendly ear to talk with about their feelings. Parents who come out as transgender may also appreciate support from SURJ families in whatever context is most appropriate--at school events, as a sports coach, etc.

For white parents, talking to your children about racism can be uncomfortable. It’s painful to acknowledge how deeply injustice is rooted in our society. It can feel hard to teach our children that while they have an important role to play in changing this world for the better, the work is challenging and will last a lifetime. However, it is never too soon to start having these important discussions with your little ones. Studies have shown that children see race and difference as young as three months old, start to chose playmates by race as early as two, express race entrenched race-related values (like a preference for whiteness) by the age of four, and that values around race can very little from age five to age ten.

“Children need to understand that anti-black racism in this country is an intricate system of oppression built on a foundation of hundreds of years of enslavement, followed by segregation, housing discrimination, economic suppression, police brutality, unfair sentencing, mass incarceration and many other practices. All of these have worked against black people and our ability to survive and thrive and we have fought, and are still fighting, an uphill battle against systemic oppression, even in 2015.”

-Mia McKenzie founder of blackgirldangerous.org

For more information for grownups, see SURJ’s “White People for Black Trans Liberation Toolkit.” A few articles about race and gender for grown-ups:

You can also follow these folks on social media as a way to learn more in an ongoing way:

It’s ok not to know or understand everything, and to get started. We learn alongside our children. It’s ok to make mistakes and keep going.

Here are some ideas about actions you can take as families with different age groups:

Babies and young children:

2 minute action:

Challenge ideas of gender that start before a child is born. When people ask ‘is it a boy or a girl?’ Consider answering with a smile and something like:

  • We won’t really know until our child is old enough to tell us.

  • Well, the baby seems to be a girl, but we won’t know _____(name)’s gender until they figure it out for themselves.

15 minute actions:

  • Teach kids that people’s bodies look lots of ways, and only a person gets to decide if they are a boy, a girl, trans, or another identity.

  • Help them get comfortable with the idea that “sometimes we don’t know & that’s ok.”

  • Start teaching young kids that “we include, we don’t exclude” and ask them how we can help a friend if they’re excluded or hurt: “Stand by them. Ask if you can hold their hand. Tell a grown up.”

  • Read some of these books with your very young children, name ‘trans’ and other gender identities in the same way you name race (link to www.raisingraceconsciouschildren.org).


  • My Princess Boy: http://www.powells.com/biblio/9781442429888: A mom’s story about a young Black boy who loves to dress up.

  • Red: A Crayon's Story: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780062252074-0: Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. A colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels.

  • Meet Polkadot: http://dangerdot.com/faq-the-polkadot-series/ Polkadot, is a non-binary, transgender child. This book is an accessible introduction and primer to the the diversity of gender identity, the importance of allyship, and the realness of kids like Polkadot.

  • Benjamin and the Word: http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781558856875-0: This bilingual (English/Spanish) book deals with bigotry and the power of hateful words on children.

  • 10,000 Dresses: http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-9781583228500-2 Bailey dreams about magical dresses but Mother & Father tell Bailey "You're a BOY! You shouldn't be thinking about dresses at all." Baily and a new friend, Laurel, begin making dresses together and Bailey's dreams come true.

  • What Makes a Baby: http://www.powells.com/biblio/18-9781609804855-0 This is a children’s picture book about where babies come from that is written and illustrated to include all kinds of kids, adults, and families. The colorful story doesn’t gender people or body parts, so most parents and families will find that it leaves room for them to educate their child without having to erase their own experience.

  • One: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780972394642-9: Red is a hothead who picks on Blue, a quiet color. The other colors don’t like what they see, but they don’t speak up and things get out of hand - until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count. As children learn about numbers, counting, and primary and secondary colors, they also learn about accepting each other's differences and how it sometimes just takes one voice to make everyone count.

  • It's Okay to be Different: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780316043472-6: This book inspires kids to celebrate their individuality through acceptance of others and self-confidence. It’s messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence are in a colorful, accessible, child-friendly format. (Teaching Tolerance has a lesson plan for this book also, here: http://www.tolerance.org/supplement/its-okay-feel-different-primary-grades-k-2)

  • Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book: http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781604863291-0: This coloring book re-creates nursery rhymes and fairy tales, mixing anecdotes from real kid’s lives & classic tales to create massive beasts who enjoy dainty, pretty jewelry and princesses who build rocket ships. This coloring book celebrates those who do not fit into disempowering gender categorizations, from sensitive boys to tough girls.

1 hour action:

  • Make sure your school/church/library/community has these and other books, and ask the grownups to do a storytime with them while naming race and difference.

  • In your schools/communities:

    • Don't ask kids to line up as "boys" and "girls" but instead by interests (i.e. cake or ice cream, cats or dogs)

    • Address groups of kids in gender-neutral terms (friends, folks, y’all, campers, my people, etc.)

    • Remove gendered markers for books, toys, activities.

    • Ask gentle questions and help kids broaden "boys club" or "girls only" dynamics

Middle aged kids:

Gender segregation can become more intense with the onset of puberty. This is also a time when more transgender kids start to articulate who they are. Become active with the development of school curriculum around sexual education, which can often be heterosexist (leaving out LGBTQ realities) and gender essentialist (only acknowledging limited ideas of male and female).


  • Wandering Son, Volume 1: http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781606994160-0 :A Japanese graphic novel (manga) about Shuichi - a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino - a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today's most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino's very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace.

  • George: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780545812542-1: When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

  • Large Fears: http://largefears.com/large-fears/: an imaginative book about a black boy who loves pink things. He dreams about going to Mars, imagines what he would see on each star he’d pass and confronts fears, ending up stronger.

  • Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community: http://www.powells.com/biblio/62-9781459809932-0: a Middle Grade nonfiction book about the history of Pride and Stonewall. Note that at this time it’s not out yet, so we weren’t able to vet it and ensure that the important role of trans women of color in Stonewall was reflected.  (Spring 2016)

  • Sex Is a Funny Word: A Book about Bodies, Feelings, and You: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781609806064-0: A colorful book exploring sexuality with a gender fluid approach.

Other book lists:

High School Youth:

Advocate for a youth led LGBTQ club, Gay Straight Alliance or safe gathering space in your school/congregation/community.  Provide resources and support for the youth led spaces.

  • Help provide the necessary resources, sponsorship and support the youth need to create the space.

  • Advocate on behalf of the youth leadership when needed.

  • Empower the youth to move into action, getting involved in policy change, leading panels or teach-ins for all ages and networking with local organizations that are doing work around LGBTQ issues.

  • Share startup resources like this simple article: “10 Steps to start”https://www.gsanetwork.org/resources/building-your-gsa/10-steps-starting-gsa



Organizing inspiration:

  • Gay Straight Alliance: http://www.glsen.org/jumpstart Start or support a chapter. (Recently they’ve launched a #TransTRUTH storytelling project with the Transgender Law Center)

  • BreakOUT -  http://www.youthbreakout.org/ BreakOUT! seeks to end the criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth to build a safer and more just New Orleans.

  • New Orleans Queer Youth Theater http://noqyt.org/

Advocacy (various ages):

Advocate for policy changes in your school district, state and nationally. Here are some concrete ideas:

  • Ask your school to set up bathrooms so there is private, gender neutral space for kids to use. This is appropriate for elementary school and beyond.

  • Advocate for protections for trans kids in the juvenile justice system, including preference for community based supervision instead of incarceration (this is an important advocacy piece in general, but is particularly important for trans people and trans youth who are criminalized and subject to violence in the penal system)

  • Make sure your school has a policy to use children’s preferred gender pronouns and protect their privacy (ID documents who may have a different gender listed).

  • Make sure forms offer more options than male/female.

  • Make sure there are anti-bullying policies in place and actually assess how safe the physical areas of the school are.

  • Act proactively by bringing a training/community conversation on LGBTQ rights and issues to your school.

  • If there is a negative incident, support trans students and organize to show support.

Here are some recent model policies passed in Kentucky:

Organizations & resources:

These sites have more information about other trans friendly policies for youth and families:

  • Beyond the Binary: Making Schools Safe for Transgender Youth NCLR, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the Transgender Law Center created this comprehensive tool kit designed to help students, school staff, and other community activists who want to address harassment and discrimination against transgender and other gender non-conforming students: http://www.nclrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/beyond_the_binary.pdf

  • TransYouth Family Allies: Partners with educators and communities to develop supportive environments where gender may be expressed and respected: http://www.imatyfa.org/

  • The Trevor Project: Model School District Policy for Suicide Prevention of LGBTQ Students  http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/modelschoolpolicy

  • Somos Familia: Somos Familia supports Latino families with children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ*) and conducts education to create family and community acceptance. The group was started by two mothers to support other families with similar experiences and provides supports to families as well as workshops for schools and other groups in Spanish and English. http://www.somosfamiliabay.org/


  • Camp Aranu'tiq of Harbor Camps: a non profit program serving transgender & gender-variant youth & their families. (Family camp is for all ages, away camps for children 8-18). http://www.camparanutiq.org/

  • http://www.camptentrees.org/~camptent/

Thanks to: Z, Zoe Williams, Julie Roberts-Phung, Coleen Murphy, Liz Mongillo-Herman, Rebecca Fredrick, and Laura Campagna for helping to put together this toolkit! For any additions, feedback, or if you’re looking for coaching support with a group of families, please email SURJFamilies@gmail.com.

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