He was born a girl. He knew he was a boy. And what his parents did ... well, just take a look.

These parents are doing it right by accepting their child for who he is.

Parenting is about being the best mom or dad we can be to our kids. Sometimes it's simple. Other times, it might not be what we anticipated or imagined. But that doesn't really matter — because there's no straightforward manual for raising kids. And when we take on this gig, we're responsible for loving our children unconditionally.

Jeff and Hillary Whittington wanted to be parents.



They got pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful little girl. (Cuuuuute baby, right?!) They named her Ryland.

On Ryland's first birthday, they learned she was deaf.

Like any parents would be, Jeff and Hillary were sad when they learned the news because of the additional challenges Ryland would face. Ryland received cochlear implants and learned to speak and hear. Things were going well.

But Ryland needed them to know something else.


Ryland wanted everyone to know that she was a boy. Some people told Ryland's parents that it was "just a phase." But the thing about phases is that they end. Ryland's feelings and expression of them only got stronger.

Ryland's feelings were not a "phase."

Ryland was expressing who he was — a boy.

And the inability to be himself was too much to bear.

Shame is destructive and painful. And nobody — a child or an adult — should feel shame for who they are. Psychotherapist Ami B. Kaplan says: "Simply being different is enough for any child to develop some shame, but being different and getting messages from family, teachers, other kids and society that your difference is undesirable, less-than or something to be made fun of can create shame."

Ryland continued to share the truth.

It wasn't a phase. It was Ryland's reality.

So Ryland's parents did what any good parent should do. They listened and learned.

Jeff and Hillary reached out for help from professionals, learned everything they could, and came to the only conclusion that existed: Their child was transgender. Ryland was born with female anatomy, but Ryland's brain identifies as male.

No matter Ryland's gender, Ryland's parents wanted him *alive*.

Studies show that 41% of transgender adults have attempted suicide. Take a minute to think about that number. It's nine times higher than the average attempted suicide rate. Here's what we need to know: "Suicide attempts were less common among transgender and gender-nonconforming people who said their family ties had remained strong after they came out."

Makes complete sense, right? If you can live as your authentic self without discrimination or abuse because of who you are, you're going to be a lot happier.

Ryland's parents took that to heart. They began Ryland's transition.

They cut his hair, and he began dressing and living as a boy. They began using the correct gender pronouns: him and he.

And Ryland was happy.

You know what? The people who mattered did the right thing.

Even if they'd lost all of their friends and family, I know the Whittingtons would have honored Ryland and supported him in his transition. But fortunately, they were surrounded by a lot of good people, and most accepted Ryland for who he was.

'Cause here's the thing...

There are many tragedies that can happen to our children. This is not one.

Ryland is happy now that he gets to live as himself.

As his parents said, "He's still healthy, handsome, and extremely happy!"

No-strings attached parenting.

And there you have it. Parenting done right. When we become parents, we don't get to have our kids live out our ideal vision of who they'll be. We have to love and support them for who they are.

Don't stop yet!

Ryland's parents made an amazing video from which I created this story. Please watch it. I promise it's incredible and moving and it shares a very important lesson.

If you have a child who doesn't conform to society's gender norms, this is for you. If you are raising children who do conform to society's gender norms, this is for you, too, because it's up to you to raise accepting, loving children who will treat others with respect and kindness. And really, it's for everyone because the world can use more love, compassion, and empathy.

Want to help educate others and also spread some feel-good love? You can share this!

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Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

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Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

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The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

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