Karine Jean-Pierre
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Two Black Trans Boys, Two N.Y. Families, and Boundless Love

Two Black Trans Boys, Two N.Y. Families, and Boundless Love

When Jodie Patterson and Joseph Ghartey realized their 7-year-old Penel was a transgender boy, the Brooklyn couple says they never considered challenging his identity. 

"We were all happy to adjust around Penel," Patterson shared with women's lifestyle magazine Family Circle, in an issue hitting shelves next week. "Our immediate family has only ever known Penel as he is — we've never asked him to change his ways. So we simply had to change our language around him."

The couple, both entrepreneurs, exude love for their child, the second-to-youngest among a family of five kids. They share a story of first hearing Penel say he was a boy at 2 years old, and slowly realizing that they had to educate themselves, and then others, in order to support his well-being.

"As a family, we embrace happiness in all forms. So everyone's championing Penel," explained Patterson, who says she and her husband have gone to family members and their son's school community to educate them, making sure that Penel is seen as more than just "the transgender kid."

"Penel is a rock star," she added proudly. "He believes in himself and is ready to show the world."

Patterson and Ghartey seem aware that the story of their "happy and healthy" family is one that many parents might benefit from, especially as trans kids feel comfortable to come out at younger and younger ages. Their story also offers a poignant image of family and community love for a black trans child. As black trans advocates from Laverne Cox to Tiq Milan have repeatedly pointed out, black trans people often face extreme marginalization, meaning that love — both of and between — black trans people can be "revolutionary."

Penel's tale finds a companion this week in that of Q, a biracial 9-year-old trans boy from Brooklyn, who told NPR all about his own transition, memorably describing it as, "instead of a dead flower, a growing flower."

Q captured the hearts of thousands in February when he released a YouTube video (with the help of his mom) explaining, "I don't know why I am a boy. I just know it." Now a third-grader, NPR reports that Q is accepted by his school community, which has taken pointers from his fiercely supportive mother Francisca in learning that "gender identity is not a whim."

The school practices what they've learned: teachers enforce Q's pronouns, and principal Anna Allabrook researched New York's guidelines when one adult told Q he couldn't use the boy's bathroom, determining that "it's not the place of the school to tell the child which bathroom to use."

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