Like many 11-year-olds, Wren Kauffman just returned to school. However, this year he will attend school as the gender he knows himself to be. Wren was born a girl, but knows in his heart he is a boy. As he returns to school fully himself, he does so with the love of his family and the support of his school, including his classmates.
Wren’s story provides us with a model for making our families, schools and communities of faith a welcoming place for transgender people. The great secret? Unconditional love. As Christ came into the world to demonstrate God’s unconditional love for those shoved to the margins, we are called to love our transgender sisters and brothers unconditionally by welcoming them into a true community of hospitality. For Wren, that community of hospitality includes a loving family and safe school where his life and education can thrive.
While Wren’s parents regret that they were not able to accept Wren’s changing gender identity earlier, they always tried to love him unconditionally. It was Wren’s younger sister Avy who finally helped his parents hear him about his gender:
“She said to me, ‘You know, Mom, Wren is a boy and he told me to tell you,’” said Wendy Kauffman…
Mrs Kauffman said her young child had been able to see what Wren was going through, before his parents had.
When he was nine, Mrs Kauffman said Wren got really upset, and told her: “I know that I’m different, I feel different every day. I can’t be a girl and be happy.”
She later told Wren: “I love you whether you’re a boy or a girl and I understand now. And we’ll figure out how we can help you. And we’ll do it together.”
His parents got in touch with Kris Wells, from the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services.
He said when he first met the family, he could see they loved their children unconditionally and were on a quest to be able to help Wren.
“I’m trans,” Wren explained in a video interview with his family. “If my family did not support me, then I would probably turn out all sad and depressed, feeling alone. I would not be very happy.” Dr. Kristopher Wells, a director at the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services that initially helped Wren’s family, commented, “The one thing the child needs to know most is that they are loved by their parents. Without that unconditional love and support, life just gets a lot harder.”
In addition to the love of his family, Wren has a safe school to attend. Edmonton Public is the first school board in Western Canada to put into place rules that explicitly protect transgender students. “With regard to washrooms, Wren is identifying as male so he uses the male washrooms,” his teacher said in an interview about his school environment. In the United States, California recently passed a law allowing transgender students the ability “to fully participate in all school activities, programs, and facilities.” While a few states and school districts have laws protecting transgender students from bullying or discrimination, access to bathrooms that match a transgender student’s gender is not widely available. For example, in Colorado Coy Mathis was barred from using the girls’ bathrooms at Eagleside Elementary School in Fountain, CO because she is transgender.
What is one thing can you do today to help welcome transgender people into a true community of hospitality? Take some time to watch the videos about Wren’s family and school and share them with a member of your faith community. Let them know about your support for the transgender community and how helpful you found these videos.