“I just want to RUN, Mommy!” 

That’s what Jill heard a lot from her now 9-year-old daughter, Millie, who wanted to join a local Albuquerque track club a couple years ago. When she saw the post online for new young athletes to join, Jill knew it wouldn’t be a simple sign-up. Birth certificates would have to be shown, and Millie’s still said “male.”

Jill thought her conversation with the assistant coach, a fellow neighborhood mom, was positive. But after calls to the head coach and “headquarters,” the only way Millie could run with the girls was to provide proof that she had identified as female for the last three years, and undergo blood work every six weeks to check her testosterone levels (at the cost of Millie’s family).

Millie didn’t join the track club.

In 2021, 33 states introduced over 100 bills to restrict the rights of transgender people, the majority of which target transgender youth. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 marks the highest number of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation recorded since the organization began tracking more than 15 years ago. These junk-science bills aim to prevent transgender youth from using bathrooms at school, participating in sports, and getting critical medical care. Some even go so far as to criminalize parents who seek medical care for their transgender kids and the doctors who treat them. 

It’s no wonder, then, that a May 2021 Trevor Project survey reported that more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Additionally, only 20 states have banned the harmful practice of conversion therapy, to which transgender and nonbinary youth reported being subjected at twice the rate of cisgender LGBTQ+ youth.

Organizations throughout the country like the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico (TGRCNM) are working hard to protect transgender youth in their schools, homes, and communities. Many anti-transgender bills have been defeated, including one introduced this year in the New Mexico legislature that sought to keep transgender girls off athletic teams. 

TGRCNM focuses on education and personalization to shift how people think about and feel toward transgender people. Personalization occurs when people have a family member, co-worker, friend, or other person in their life who is or comes out as transgender, creating a personal connection and opportunity for understanding and compassion. TGRCNM cultivates these opportunities through community education, direct services, support groups, and policy advocacy. And, with over 2,000 Transgender Cultural Fluency training sessions delivered in the past decade to educators and schools, police departments, medical providers, local and state government agencies, lawmakers, and more, TGRCNM continues to lay a strong foundation for acceptance and policy shifts to support transgender people and their families.

Now more than ever, organizations like TGRCNM are crucial in the struggle for transgender rights, safety, and survival. TGRCNM’s youth-focused programming has skyrocketed in participation over the past year as transgender youth seek safe, affirming spaces in the midst of legislative attacks. The TGRCNM Drop-In Center serves hundreds of people each month, providing meals, healthcare, free HIV testing, case management, legal navigation, and more. TGRCNM’s education and advocacy efforts have resulted in supportive transgender student policies in New Mexico’s largest school districts, a statewide bullying prevention law and ban on conversion therapy, and most recently, the ability for New Mexicans to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. 

When donors and funders invest in organizations like TGRCNM, they are investing in saving lives and shaping future generations. When Jill realized she was on the path of being the mom to an amazing transgender kid, she turned to TGRCNM for guidance and support.

“I knew I needed to find resources and people who were smarter than me and who were further down the path than me. TGRCNM was the first place I turned to.” 

Activated into advocacy by this experience, Jill is ready but realistic. She knows Millie will face inappropriate and harmful questions about medical details, rejection from peers and adults, and possibly violence—just so she can play sports. 

Jill’s message is simple: “Adults need to stop purposefully making our kids’ lives harder. Let them run, let them play, let them be kids! I want Millie to have the same opportunities as her cisgender siblings. I will never lose hope, but I won't lie that I have lost a lot of sleep.”

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Original contribution by Adrien Lawyer, Executive Director (he/him) at Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico