When I was about three years old, my family hired a babysitter named Chelsea. Chelsea was quite the culture shock for my white, “Hi, we’re the Griswolds!” family. My sister and I were quickly swept up in Chelsea’s sea of musical talent, sewing, crazy personality, and general affection. We hung around her like thirsty puppies, trying to soak up some of her creativity and spunk. From sewing some of the best Halloween costumes, to highlighting my sister’s hair when she was in seventh grade, everything Chelsea did was the coolest. I credit Chelsea the most for my personality of acceptance and open-mindedness, and I will never forget when she taught my family the most important lesson of equality.
When I was six years old, I remember overhearing one of Chelsea’s phone calls with her friends. “I met someone,” she said. “They’re a girl but not really. They’re gonna be a boy. I think I love her though.” After she hung up, I remember asking Chelsea, “Are you gay?” To six-year-old me, being gay was not necessarily bad, it just wasn’t normal. Both of my parents were socially and politically very liberal, but talking about homosexuality and race just was not a regular conversation back then. However, Chelsea’s new boyfriend was the change of that. I remember meeting Eli, and my mom and Chelsea sitting me down and telling me how Eli was born a girl, but in his mind he always knew his body did not match his brain. He felt like a boy and was going through hormone therapy that would make his body align with his brain. Eli became a regular figure in my life, taking care of me along with Chelsea. His easy-going attitude and impressive gallery of colorful tattoos made him almost cooler than Chelsea. When I was younger, I never understood why, when I explained how Eli used to be a girl, to my close friends at school, some of them reacted in disgust and confusion.
Growing up with Chelsea and Eli and carrying my relationship with them into my teenage years has been such a blessing to my life. From the time I was ten, I became passionate about race, gender, and sexuality equality. Chelsea taught my family and me the importance of educating oneself and remaining open-minded to all people. I think often of how far we have come in advocating for transgender rights. Recently, Chelsea and Eli were married. Eli got his name and gender legally changed and is scheduled for top surgery soon. Much justice, however, is needed for the transgender community, especially within legislation. The cause is dear to my heart, and I believe if a six-year-old can be so accepting of another person, then the whole world can. I urge everyone to educate themselves about different causes and people, because I learned from Chelsea the first step to equality is understanding.