Reading about this week’s tragic death of Nex Benedict has been simply devastating. Nex was a perfectly normal, happy, loving and loved 16-year-old child, who was beaten to death by three older students in their Oklahoma high school bathroom. This, after months of merciless bullying and torment simply for being non-binary.

How can this not crush us, as parents? Don’t we all want our kids to be — at bare minimum — accepted for who they are, and the way they were born? Don’t we want our kids to be able to live out their lives as their truest, most authentic selves? Don’t we still teach our kids to be kind to others, especially those who are different?

I guess all of us don’t. But I believe with all my heart that more of us can.

The truth is, we all have LGBTQ young adults in our lives — our own children, their cousins, their friends, their neighbors. their classmates. Even if you don’t know it, you do. The statistics bear that out. And these kids are 9 times more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes.

It wrecks me to think about how the rise of those hate crimes aligns with the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation created by the adults who should be protecting the most vulnerable among us.

So what can we do to help?

Allow me to direct you to an article I wrote a couple of years back on how we can protect transgender kids throughout the U.S. It includes an excellent list of organizations supporting transgender kids around the country. And these organizations can support us too, as we try to read and learn and better understand our gender-nonconforming kids and their friends, in this new world where we can’t just presume to know someone else’s pronouns.

I get it; issues around gender identity and sexuality are new and confusing for a lot of us. But not understanding it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

With that, I want to reshare a wonderful podcast interview with Kate Brookes on parenting a trans kid — or any child who’s on their own path. Kate is an award-winning journalist and the author of Transister: Raising Twins in a Gender-Bending World. She’s raw and honest, she’s funny and smart, she’s engaging and candid, and I find myself coming back to her story at times like these. It’s a great reminder that we can keep growing, right along with our kids.

If you’re a compassionate parent raising compassionate children, I think you’ll appreciate her perspective on how we can all do the best for our kids, whatever their paths or identities.

The very first thing we can work on right now, starting this second: simply accepting LGBTQ kids for who they are. As Kate thoughtfully reminded me, acceptance isn’t just about inclusion. Acceptance is quite literally protection from harm. Our kids deserve no less.

Kate Brookes, author of Transister on how we can protect our vulnerable LGBTQ kids


Top photo: Meg on Unsplash featuring one amazing dad