Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Obama Guidelines To Protect Transgender Students Are 'Life Changing'


Let's turn to a family directly affected by the new guidelines designed to protect transgender students. This is the guidance issued last week by the Justice Department and the Department of Education ordering schools to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, which is not necessarily the same as the one on their birth certificate. Debi Jackson is the mother of two children in Kansas City, Mo. Her daughter, Avery, transitioned from male to female at just 4 years old. The family supported her transition. They say their school district did not, so the Jacksons decided to homeschool. Debi Jackson joins me now. Welcome to the program.

DEBI JACKSON: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

KELLY: Tell me about your daughter Avery. How old is she now?

JACKSON: She is 8 going on 30.


JACKSON: She actually has a birthday in a little under a month, so she's very busy right now planning a super elaborate birthday party.

KELLY: Wow. What kind of birthday is she aiming for? What kind of party?

JACKSON: She's really into online games, so she wants to have something where we recreate the Minecraft world at our house.

KELLY: Got it. So I'm doing the math in my head. If she is 8 going on 9, she's in, what, third grade?


KELLY: OK. When did it become apparent that your child actually identified as a girl?

JACKSON: Well, it became very obvious when she was 4. That's when she said very directly one day as we were walking through a store - mom, you think that I'm a boy. But I'm a girl on the inside.

KELLY: And bring us up to today. There is a national debate unfolding. Tell me how this is playing out at your dinner table. What are y'all thinking? Would you consider public school now?

JACKSON: Well, I asked Avery about that. She knows all about the about the bathroom issues, partly because I'm just so involved in the transgender rights movement. I will say that we've just had legislation in both Kansas and Missouri about bathrooms coming up.

And Avery was very nervous just going to her last couple of Girl Scout meetings because they're held in a school. And all of her friends in her troop know that she's transgender, but even so, she was nervous about going even because there was just a bill pending that could limit her bathroom access because, she said, everyone knows. And if they know that this law might pass, they might go ahead and tell me that I have to go into the boys' bathroom. And I won't do that.

So when, on Friday, we heard the news and I told her, you know, they've just put out all these guidelines. Every single school in the country is going to have to start respecting gender identity of trans kids. She..

KELLY: And what did she say?

JACKSON: She looked at me. Her eyes got really big. She just kind of opened her mouth and sat for a second with this stunned expression. And then she almost whispered - that's life-changing, Mom. I could actually go to a real school.

KELLY: Wow. What was it like to hear that as a mother?

JACKSON: Well, first, I was a little bit insulted she didn't think school at home was real school.

KELLY: (Laughter).

JACKSON: But aside from that - you know, I - the look in her eyes - She was just so almost, I want to say, relieved.

KELLY: Debi Jackson, thank you for talking to us.

JACKSON: Thank you so much.

KELLY: That's Debi Jackson talking about her family, including her daughter Avery, and how they may be affected by new federal guidelines on transgender students. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.