One night at bedtime my 8 year old transgender daughter said to me, “I’m the only kid in the world like this.” It took me a very long time to fall asleep that night as I realized that my child felt alone. The next day I called my pastor, Bonnie Beckonchrist, and told her I wanted to start a support group for families with gender creative children. She immediately offered the safe space of FUMCAH* for meetings, and Pinwheels was born. And now, four years later we are celebrating the ministry we have become.
Last week the June meeting started off with excitement as the parents took pictures of the new “All Gender” restroom signs at FUMCAH*. Several people expressed admiration for the rainbow flag displayed on the church sign out front. As members were coming in I introduced myself to a new teen and the teen introduced themselves* as Violet. Later on when all of us parents were talking in the parent’s room, Violet’s mother cried as she told me that that was the first time she heard her teen use the name, Violet.
Another new mother said that the Pinwheels meeting was the first time that her teen had ever been around other gender creative teens, and that when she saw that Pinwheels met in a church, she felt encouraged to attend.
When I brought her teen to the room where all the caregivers and other kids/teens were, they were met with a warm reception. I watched in gratitude as students and alumni from my own church youth choir were there as caregivers. They were all sitting in a circle on the floor making friendship bracelets with the kids/teens.
Back in the parent’s room a father told us of his success with his affirmed daughters’ medical insurance. After many hours of phone calls and letters he was able to overturn the denial of coverage of his teen’s hormone blockers. He said she has never been happier. Originally, his teen was hesitant to come to Pinwheels as she is very shy, but she made friends with the other kids/teens quickly and even exchanged cell numbers.
Two veteran mothers came on their own without their kids, and were great support for the new members. It was heartwarming to watch parents new to the journey being encouraged by parents who are further along. They saw families who are not only surviving, but thriving.
I smiled when I remembered that we started out four years ago with just two families…
After the separate group time everyone came together and whole families connected. I loved seeing how the kids/teens acted like old friends. One of the new teens told me that they are hoping to start a GSA* group in their middle school. They were one of the families that drove over an hour to come to Pinwheels. That desire for a group in their own community has given birth to a new dream. I pray that someday soon there will be a Pinwheels in every community. I feel closer to this dream as just this week we started a Pinwheels fund when a friend in our community recognized our ministry and gave us a generous donation.
A quest for one child is now a quest for all.
Please look up Pinwheels on meetup.com for more information. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to start a “Pinwheels” in your church.
*First United Methodist Church of Arlington Heights, Illinois
*Some people use the pronouns they/them/their, as a gender neutral singular pronoun
*Gay Straight Alliance