The Transgender Children's Legal Defense Fund raises money for affirming parents

Family members of transgender or gender-nonconforming children are tasked with supporting them through many obstacles. There's a psychological component: There are staggering rates of suicide attempts among trans youth. There's a social component: Trans kids often endure bullying and discrimination at school.

But some families also face legal challenges. Affirming parents of trans, gender-nonconfirming or questioning minors may find themselves in court battles with non-affirming parents. To assist affirming parents with legal expenses, the Transgender Children's Legal Defense Fund was established in Columbus in 2017.

“It was a perceived need for what our friends were going through,” said TCLDF board member Phil Wells. “The affirming parent is usually the mother, who may be the lower wage earner of a couple, or may be a stay-at-home mom. And she's faced with these insurmountable costs just to try to support her child.”

As a nonprofit organization, TCLDF relies on community support, and will be hosting a “Tacos for Trans Kids” event in partnership with The Kitchen on Tuesday, May 14. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to TCLDF.

“We want to have strong ties to the community,” said Olivia Wozniak, event coordinator at the Kitchen, which rents space for private, participatory dinners and hosts public “Taco Tuesdays” to benefit different causes. “We have these core values that we stick to.”

Woman-based, kid-based and hunger-based charities are always considered, so TCLDF was a great fit, Wozniak added.

Attendees can expect specialty cocktails and tacos that are “a little offbeat,” said Wozniak, pointing to bourbon-braised shrimp as an example of one of the rotating offerings.

And the donations will help TCLDF provide sums of money to families in need.

“Within the past month, we've awarded our first two grants, one to a parent in California, and another to one in Kansas City,” Wells said. “Even though our organization and our board are based here in Columbus, we really see ourselves as a national effort.”

TCLDF also hopes to provide educational resources to families, lawyers and teachers about transgender youth.

“Attorneys don't even know the preferred use of pronouns,” Wells said. “We do have coursework already to introduce [teachers] to the proper use of pronouns and familiarize them with all the emotional and psychological issues that transgender and [gender-nonconforming] kids are facing.”

Transgender issues have been in the national spotlight since President Trump took office. His administration has proposed to define gender “on a biological basis,” and recently implemented restrictions on trans people serving in the military. All the while, children are as cognizant of what's going on in their environment as they are of their identity, Wells said.

“You sometimes wonder when the kids are that young, ‘How do they really know?' But I've learned that kids know,” he continued. “They're so aware of themselves and society and everything around them.”