Meet The Whittington's
It is not the first story to ever go viral about a transgender child who has yet to reach puberty, however, it is the first that caught my attention and challenged my beliefs, my thoughts and my feelings. San Diego natives, Jeff and Hilary Whittington, have been making quite the splash in internet media with their video documenting the transgender journey of their 7-year-old son, Ryland, that was posted only last week. The story begins with the Whittington’s finding out in 2007 that they would be the proud parents of a brand new baby girl and went to decorating and preparing their home accordingly. After just a year of parenting, Jeff and Hilary found that their little bundle of joy was deaf. They immediately began the process to help their little girl be able to hear and eventually speak.
It wasn’t long after speech was gained that little 5-year-old Ryland would shock her parents with great big news,
“I AM A BOY!” She screamed.
Like most parents, Jeff and Hilary believed their friends and family when they all said this was a phase Ryland would soon pass through but unlike a passing phase Ryland’s sentiment about what and who she was only grew stronger. Rejecting all that was feminine and slowly but surely showing signs that Ryland truly believed she was a boy; the Whittington’s sought professional help on what to do. Everyone eventually came to the same conclusion, Ryland was transgender. The video shows the transition from girl to boy and chronicles the unconditional love and support that parents should give their child. Winning the inspiration award at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, Jeff Whittington, Ryland’s father, had this to say,
“One of the most inspiring things that Harvey Milk had done as far as our family is concerned was to encourage people to come out; to let their voices be heard; break down the walls, break down the barriers and start allowing people to see them for their authentic selves and be true to themselves, and this is our coming out … this is us making our voices heard.”
I saw this video and my feelings immediately ran the gamut from negative to positive. Being in a Christian church, knowing what society and religion say about homosexuality and heterosexuality it was as if the very walls of my theology had been obliterated by a question my Pastor recently asked the members:
“What do we do with the LGBTQ community? How do they fit into the vision? How do we as leaders and ministers minster to them? Are they not still children of the God we say we serve?”
I had never heard a pastor pose such a poignant and relevant question before in my life that wasn’t dripping with disdain or a subliminal message of conversion. In a society where being gay has become almost the “thing to do” it would be idiotic not to think that there are some in the LGBTQ community with an agenda that is JUST as damaging as the agenda of churches who preach exclusion and eternal damnation. However, what bulldozed me to the ground about this story was that whether we agree or disagree with the actions taken, we can’t ignore the truth of the obvious:
These parents without question went above and beyond for their child to feel authentic
This child without question will know just how much he is loved by those who brought him into this world
The courage and faith that things would work out for their family is utterly amazing
Although my Christian values were challenged they were also confirmed. I am taught that judgment is not my business! Honesty, obedience, and fellowship ALL in Love IS! Whether I agree with a person’s choice to love who they love (even the agreement or disagreement that it’s a choice at all) should not stop me from congratulating this family’s triumph in fostering a place and an environment where their child feels secure and accepted. There are tons of people that I disagree with, that isn’t cause for me to condemn them to a place I can’t realistically place them myself. I was glad to be challenged by such a touching story because now the responsibility to continually ask myself, “What are you going to do? How do they fit the vision? How do you minister to them,” will forever be at the forefront of my mind. It will cause me to look at people for WHO they are and not WHAT I think they should be.
There are going to be things in the world that I completely and utterly agree with, hands down! There will, conversely, be things that I disagree with just as passionately and I will have to lovingly agree to disagree without hate, judgment, or prejudice rhetoric. I may not agree that it’s healthy to allow a 5-year-old the option to make such a life changing decision (you may feel differently and that’s fine as well), however I COMPLETELY agree with the love, support and courage that this family has to allow Ryland a space in this life to feel complete.
In the video there is a powerful statement that reads, “We signed up as parents with no strings attached.” A sentiment that will allow Ryland a chance to live a life he can be proud of!
To see the video CLICK HERE
Photo courtesy of HyperVocal.com