Amanda Jetté Knox is an award-winning writer, human rights advocate and public speaker. In early 2014, her middle child came out to the family as a transgender girl, shifting the focus of her mom’s writing career towards LGBTQ rights and education. Alexis' journey changed everything, and taught Amanda a great deal about courage, compassion and authenticity.
I don’t just mean by reading our blogs (like you’re doing right now), although that’s a solid start. Reading our work, listening to our podcasts and watching our videos are all great ways to learn more about our lives, struggles and victories, and why we’re still fighting for acceptance today.
But that’s just one side, one dimension of who we are. And as we know, no person, no group of people, is one-dimensional.
If this is all you see of the LGBTQ+ community, your view will be limited. And that’s where the problem starts. That’s when we begin hearing from some of you that we’re too political, too needy, too demanding.
Some of you resent us because you only see this side. Some of you think we’re just attention-seeking. Some of you, even today, think we’re mentally ill. And even in some of the freest countries in the world, those beliefs fester, leading to talks – and even attempts – at the highest political levels of removing our rights to be who we are.
And that’s why, more than anything, I hope you get to know us this year. Doing so can change your life and ours for the better.
I hope a lesbian couple moves into your neighbourhood. I hope they walk their kids to school at the same time as you walk yours, and that your children take turns splashing in the puddles after a rainstorm. I hope you all shout out “don’t get your new clothes muddy!” at the same time and share a laugh about it. You’re just two families raising a bunch of messy kids and overworking your washing machines. Their “lifestyle” is the same as yours.
I hope the guy you talk to at the bus stop every day tells you about his husband. Not now, not while you’re first getting to know each other, but organically, after many chilly mornings complaining about the weather and how long the commute is. I hope he drops this little tidbit into a conversation once he’s become a regular side character in your life and you look forward to seeing him every day. You miss him when he’s not there. Your public transit game is lacking without your sidekick. That’s when I want him to tell you, so that it doesn’t change a thing. He’s still your bus stop buddy, holding his travel mug and waving as you round the corner every day.
I hope your teenager brings home a friend you’ve known since first grade – a kid who’s sat at your kitchen island more times than you can count – and they tell you this friend is now going by a different name and pronouns. I hope you see the fierce support and loyalty in your child’s eyes, daring you to say something she might have to defend. And in that moment, I hope you can see this is still the same kid and these are still the same friends. And as the months go on, as the kid who’s come to every one of your daughter’s birthday parties transitions happily, thriving in a way you’ve never seen before, you realize there is no “trans ideology”, just people becoming their most authentic selves.
I hope the person in your evening art class, the one who’s still struggling with English but getting better all the time, tells you they came to this country fleeing persecution as a non-binary person, and that all they want is to treated like everyone else. And I hope you do exactly that, while taking stock of how important your country’s human rights are, and how they must be protected.
I hope there’s a new child on your son’s hockey team this year – one you know used to play in the girl’s league and is now playing with the boys where he knows he belongs. As you watch his parents cheering from the sidelines, hugging their son as he steps off the ice, cracking jokes with other families and bringing extra snacks they offer to anyone who’s hungry, I hope you realize affirming their trans child isn’t abusive as you sometimes hear ignorant people declare; it’s exactly what they should be doing, and what you would do in their situation, now that you see that love in action.
Maybe it’s your best friend coming out and terrified you won’t accept him, or a new work colleague with a bisexual flag pinned proudly on her backpack. Maybe it’s the server at your favourite Sunday brunch spot or the dog trainer who came highly recommended. Your doctor or dentist. Your pastor or local scout leader. Whoever it is, I hope you get to know them, or if you already do, see that nothing has changed by finding out who they love or who they are.
Because it’s only by seeing how alike we are that you’ll understand we’re not lifestyles or ideologies – we’re people, just like you, with lives and loves and losses, horrors and happenstances and happiness, frustrations and families and friends.
We don’t want anything special from you, we just want you to treat us like everyone else. And if you take the time to see there’s nothing to hate or fear, I know you’ll do exactly that. Connection is how we break down barriers that don’t need to be there.
So, may this be the year we get to know each other.
I’ll bring snacks.
Amanda Jette Knox is a writer, speaker and LGBTQ advocate. Her upcoming book Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family (August 2019 by Penguin Random House Canada) is now available for pre-order in Canada, the US and the UK.