The Freedom Center for Social Justice (FCSJ) is launching a new campaign to address the safety and wellbeing of transgender and non-binary children. “For Them Too” comes at a critical time when the transgender community is being attacked both socially and politically.

Organizations and individuals are asked to sign a pledge and take actions in their homes, neighborhoods and faith communities.

FCSJ plans to provide tools and resources as part of the program, that includes a multi-layered approach to create affirming spaces, especially in congregations and religious centers. It will also focus on building awareness and support for other LGBTQ service organizations, building opportunities for advocacy and policy change and sharing stories of resilience. New billboards will increase community awareness and FCSJ is focused on protecting positive visibility in educational settings that have recently been attacked with book bans that target LGBTQ and Black history and representation.

The pledge states:

“I Pledge To …

Care For Them Too by encouraging kids to be who they are, and doing what’s within my power to create a safer world for children of all gender identities and expressions, including access to life-saving care and therapies.

Pray For Them Too by uplifting the needs of trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive youth, whose sacred right to exist and thrive is under assault.

Speak For Them Too by responding actively to statements made out of fear, ignorance, or bigotry that target vulnerable youth.

Advocate For Them Too by contributing to the advancement of policies in education, healthcare, and beyond that will protect trans people of all ages.”

#ForThemToo Pledge, The Freedom Center for Social Justice

Founded in 2009 by Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls, FCSJ has previously found strength in the relationships and linkages between service organizations and the religious community, especially in the fight against HIV and LGBTQ stigma. The organization’s “Do No Harm” campaign has focused on the intersections of faith, race and classism as it relates to the LGBTQ community since 2015. It has been successful in gaining advocates in religious and broad civil rights communities.  

The evolution of that first campaign laid the groundwork for this next critical moment in the organization’s life cycle.

Rawls spoke of those early relationships to a group of LGBTQ and allied organizations on Friday at Discovery Place’s Windows on Tryon in uptown Charlotte. Attendees at the launch included Charlotte organizations that will be part of a community-wide effort including the Gender Education Network, Time Out Youth, Transcend Charlotte, PFLAG, State of Emergency and Charlotte Trans Health (formerly the Charlotte Transgender Healthcare Group).

“What we’re finding now, however, is this issue around two things. One is the fact that more people are not disturbed by the number of trans women of color who are being killed and harmed daily. And, because this isn’t a conversation that has risen to the top, it also isn’t being analyzed in a way that allows us to truly get to some of these root causes,” said Rawls.  

The campaign starts in Charlotte with plans for national expansion.

DISCUSS: We’ve compiled resources at discuss.qnotescarolinas.com and created a space for you to add your insights or questions. What can you do? What information do you want to know?

Director of Faith Organizing at FCSJ, Cameron Pruette presented the program to attendees. “We’re starting here in Charlotte, because there’s a crisis here in Charlotte,” he said. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte has the second highest rates of anti-trans violence and murder, especially against Black trans women.

In a written statement, Charlotte City Councilmember Dimple Ajmera said, “The youth of Charlotte are our next innovators, leaders, and those who will continue to push our city to greater heights.”

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Leigh Altman and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ Board of Education member Jennifer De La Jara were also in attendance.

Following lunch, Jermaine Nakia Lee read “When Aidan Became a Brother,” by Kyle Lukoff. The reading is an example of a monthly story time the campaign will include to promote visibility and representation of transgender and gender expansive children in an affirming way. Photo: Chris Rudisill

Pruette pointed out the importance of helping transgender and gender expansive youth at this critical time. “Our youth are hearing the dialogue going on in the public square,” he said. “They hear when their lieutenant governor calls them filth. They hear when pulpits and pastors degrade their right to exist. They hear when they are denied the right to play sports.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, children who are members of a faith community that is supportive of their gender identity or sexual orientation are five times less likely to experience suicidal ideation, compared to three times that of children who are members of less supportive congregations.

“This is important culture shift work that’s going to take time,” continued Pruette.

Another key aspect is eliminating conversion therapy. North Carolina leads the country in providers of conversion therapies on gender identity. The Trevor Project found that children who undergo such treatments have 150% increase in suicide attempts.

“Trans kids just want to be kids,” finished Pruette. “Nonbinary kids just want to be kids. Gender-expansive kids just want to be kids. They want to go to school, they want to have fun, they want to play sports. They just want to learn, grow and thrive. They don’t want to be political targets.”

For more information and to sign the pledge, visit www.ForThemToo.org.

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