The Grosshandler family was known as “the family of boys” in their community. By the time their fourth child, Chaz, turned 2, however, Jennifer and John Grosshandler realized that this child was sensing a completely different self within his body. Chaz loved being part of fashion shows alongside girl playmates and consistently gravitated to books and stories with powerful girl characters. The parents may have thought for a moment when Chaz insisted at 5 that “I have to have that doll,” but no hesitation stopped them from supporting who their child is.

When it came to starting school, the Grosshandler's didn’t leave Chaz’s experience to fate. They had a face-to-face meeting with their community schools, explaining “This is our child, and you know who we are,” in eliciting support for Chaz’s “evolving” identity. The family also described being “psyched” for the years that were to come, and far from any ostracizing shame, the circle of support for Chaz and the Grosshandler family only grew.

Every family faces its own journey, filled with challenges, tears, joys, and coming to acceptance.

Jenn Grosshandler wanted her own family’s story of “another side” of being transgender to become one that would help all families understand and love their children in deeper ways. She and her family shared how coming to terms with a transgender child became totally transformative for the whole family on a February 20 episode of “Megyn Kelly Today.” The mom is now co-founder of the GenderCool Project, which aims to show every facet of life for transgender youth, and focuses on the light over the shadows.

The special ‘look’

John and Jenn Grosshandler were so overjoyed to find “that look” in their fourth child's eyes that spoke of spirit, joy, and “light, even in how they move their body,” as mom put it, that long hair and the feminine ways never gave a moment’s worry. One look in fourth grade, however, on a busy school morning, made Jenn Grosshandler stop in her tracks. Seeing Chaz with tears, she asked what was wrong.

“What if I am a girl?” came the question, along with fears that Daddy would no longer love this unique child, and brotherly bonds would suffer, too. The questioning was merited in Chaz’s mind because he declared “I am a girl,” with complete conviction.

The most important words any child can hear came next from Jenn Grosshandler. “We believe you,” confirmed the mother, and the family’s mission since then has been to give their daughter, Chazzie, now 11, “the best life ever.” Chazzie related that even though she was raised in such a home of acceptance and security, her fear was that “my parents wouldn't love me.” With those fears dispelled, she now hopes to help other youth through her example of being herself.

Mom laughs now at the notion that some think she was desperate for a daughter. “We might as well and have had a sign that flashed “We raise boys! We had a boy dog!” she related of family life revolving around their masculine brood.

Bolstering a brood of support

All three of those brothers are older now, but they still recall that Chazzie showed the same strength and conviction that her parents demonstrated with her school district when she told them all together that she was their sister. There's nothing like a pizza party to get guys in a good mood, and Chazzie had her “coming out party” to brothers Max, Lev, and Jeff over pizza.

All the brothers describe a feeling of “such happiness” in seeing their sister authentically as herself, with hardly a hint of shock. “I was always playing tea party with her,” confirmed Lev, simply feeling joy and relief over the news.

Lev has felt such positive impact all through his growing years with Chazzie that he made their relationship the focus of his college admission letter, insisting that because of her, he knows how to “interact and accept all people,” a far deeper benefit beyond just getting into college.

Jenn Grosshandler simply feels that her “happy and confident child” stayed the same during her social transition, even when one close friend found her genuine identity “totally disgusting.” Chazzie has learned that sometimes a girl has to move past negativity, and for her part, she aims to be the one who welcomes new kids to school with a friendly new face in the cafeteria.

The welcome has grown far beyond in the school cafeteria with the GenderCool Project, founded by Jenn Grosshandler and transgender woman, Gerah Goldstein. Five youth who participate in the outreach shared what they gain and what they give from the GenderCool Project, which offers a perspective that being truthful about one's identity can be a positive experience. Nicole lost contact with her father after she revealed herself as transgender, so the support is especially valuable in her situation. Another in the group, Gia, took a page right out of Chazzie’s handbook and wrote a letter to her whole school in revealing her transgender status.

That kind of courage lifted a load for her whole family.

Initiatives like the GenderCool Project serve an even more vital and powerful role for transgender and vulnerable youth in light of the civil rights protection rollbacks under the Trump administration. Chazzie Grosshandler gives the sagest counsel in any political climate. “Be yourself and love your soul.”

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