Quick Take:

“I believe listening to your child and honoring their feelings is the kindest and bravest and most loving thing to do,” Lookout columnist Claudia Sternbach writes after hearing her 9-year-old grandson’s easy, matter-of-fact mention of a classmate with they/them pronouns. “The folks who are trying to take away the rights of trans people need to get educated.”

Have something to say? Lookout welcomes letters to the editor, within our policies, from readers. Guidelines here.

Claudia Sternbach

When it comes to human sexuality, perhaps it is better to let the children lead the way.

A new school year began a couple of months ago, and kids all around the country are back at their desks. My grandson, age 9, is no exception. He lives in Los Angeles so we stay connected using FaceTime when we can’t be in the same place at the same time. It is a wonder.

A couple of weeks into the new year, after he had a chance to settle in, my husband, Michael, and I asked him about his fourth grade class. Were there many kids from last year in it? Not too many, he told us. But he did not seem bothered by that. I asked him the name of the child who sits behind him this year, and when he replied he gave us a name that would be suitable for either a boy or a girl. We asked which it was.

“It’s a they,” he said. A they/them pronoun user. He was not confused by this or bothered by this. His class is made up of boys, girls and they-thems. So simple, so easy, so accepting.

We have longtime friends here in Santa Cruz who watched in wonder mixed with fear as their grandchild, born in a female body, began insisting they were not in fact a girl, but a boy. This began around the age of 2.

There was no indoctrination, no reading “dangerous” books that convinced them to try on a different sex for a change of pace. This was an organic feeling deep inside that refused to dissipate. It became stronger with every passing year. And it became obvious that fighting it would only hurt the child, who was struggling to be heard and have their feelings acknowledged. Have their truth acknowledged.

Their parents listened. As the child grew older, the parents held meetings with the school to address how the school would handle this. This being Santa Cruz, a liberal, left-leaning community, the school administrators as well as the teachers offered support. The child and family enrolled in therapy. This supported the child, the parents and the grandparents, all of whom had feelings about this.

The children at school had no problems adjusting to this “new” classmate.

I love our community.

Now, has this been easy for all involved? Of course not. There is grief at first. Not for who this child will become, but for the perceived loss of the child whom the family knew and loved.

As time has gone by, however, the joy this “new child” is exhibiting is intoxicating.

It had been missing. Now, it was full on. Unbridled joy at being recognized and truly seen as who they are. They are the same child they always were, just much more secure in the knowledge of who they are. Are they transgender? Time will tell.

children putting their hands into a circle
Credit: Via Pixabay

Trans folks have been around since the beginning of time. As a society we are finally confronting that reality. Why it bothers so many people I can’t explain. I assume it comes down to an issue of comfort. We are more comfortable if we can, at a glance, understand our surroundings. It makes one feel more secure. We are thrown off if we can’t immediately make sense of something or someone.

We are not open. Not as open as children who seem to easily accept the vast range of human sexuality.

A landmark, 40-year-long Danish study involving nearly seven million people came out in June and showed transgender people are 7.7 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-trans people. A Williams College study found that the suicide attempt rate among transgender persons ranges from 32% to 50% across the country. And yet there are those who believe we should not support these individuals. Why?

Watching the poop show of the Republican presidential debate last month, I was not surprised to hear all of the vitriol when it comes to the trans community. Vivek Ramaswamy, a loud-mouth, disgusting individual who should never hold any public office, stated, “Transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder. … It is not compassionate to affirm a kid’s confusion. That is not compassion, that is cruelty.”

I do not agree.

I believe listening to your child and honoring their feelings is the kindest and bravest and most loving thing to do. Yes, it could be a passing phase. But according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, children who begin identifying as transgender at a young age tend to retain that identity at least for several years. The research involved 317 youngsters who were 3 to 12 years old when they were invited to the study. Five years later, at the study’s end, 94% were living as transgender and almost two-thirds were using either puberty-blocking medication or sex hormones to transition medically. Transition to who they really are.

The folks who are trying to take away the rights of trans people need to get educated.

Perhaps instead of banning books that are considered a threat to children due to their acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, they should instead read them.

Perhaps start with “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole. The true tale of two Central Park Zoo penguins, both male, who with the help of a kind zookeeper get to raise a baby penguin of their own.


Claudia Sternbach has lived in Santa Cruz County for almost four decades. This was not planned but somehow our town by the bay has become her forever home and she is grateful. Her writing career began...