Teaching Equality

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.

Read more: Student Voices Project 2018

1 thought on “Teaching Equality

  1. I am so grateful for this story of the influence of Chelsea and Eli in the life of the writer. The writer’s parents are to be commended for living their values when hiring Chelsea and supporting Eli living out his truth, along with the relationship of Chelsea and Eli.

    I am the mother of a transgender woman. When she was little and we still thought of her and treated her as our son, I always knew she was special. I just had no idea of all the ways she was special. I had no concept of transgenderism when she disclosed to us her reality and how she was trying to accommodate to it. She continued to live her life as a man, but about twenty years later, she knew she had to transition to living out her truth. Her dad, my spouse, and I were privileged to be her immediate support team for her surgeries undertaken to conform her body to her lived identity as a woman – and heard how freeing it was to her to finally be fully living as the person she had known herself to be since she was a preschooler (when she had no words, no concept or explanation to why she never wanted to play with the other boys but preferred the girls role play activities in kindergarten). What a journey and what courage it has taken to live her life in a time and among people who seldom knew or understood anything about who she really was. Many still don’t and some still don’t understand about it or accept her. But she is so much happier now that she is living her reality openly, even though it is still challenging. I am proud of her – and that being raised in Meeting has helped in some small way to encourage her to BE who she IS. I am grateful to know her, grateful to be her mom, proud of the woman she is.

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