There is something special about the love of a mother for her child, and that was very evident in the touching speech Debi Jackson gave about her transgender daughter AJ. A self-described “conservative, Southern-Baptist, Republican from Alabama, Debi spoke at Unity Temple in Kansas City in July of 2014 after AJ had been profiled earlier that year in the Kansas City Star. The video of her speech soon went viral because of the eloquent and impassioned way she spoke of the journey and the struggles AJ and her family had faced.
Up until transitioning at age four, Debi had a son who she described as a “rough and tumble little boy with a shark tooth necklace.” But then she began asking for a princess dress, which her parents thought was just a passing phase, but it soon became evident that it was more than just a phase she was going through after AJ was insistent on wearing girl’s clothes all the time.
At one point Debi noticed AJ was frequently pushing down on her genitals, and asked what was wrong. AJ replied that they were “bothering her and in the way and that she wanted them gone.” This led Debi to search on Google and it was then she realized AJ may be transgender, so she made an appointment with a child psychologist. But before they ever saw the psychologist her then four year old son said to Debi “Mom, you know I’m a girl, right? I’m a girl on the inside.” And that was the moment that changed their lives.
Over the following months AJ became more insistent on expressing herself, such as wanting to go out to get ice cream while wearing a fairy dress and wings, and it reached the point where they could no longer hold her back. AJ was showing signs of depression and refused to leave the house dressed as a boy. When she was finally allowed to go to school wearing girl clothes she was happier than she’d been in a long time. The teachers and all the kids were great about it, but then they went home and told their parents, and things were not quite so good the next day. Adult bigotry had reared its ugly head. The Jacksons lost most all their friends and some of their family and went into hiding for the next year while AJ grew her hair to look like the girl that she was. When the family reemerged it was with a happy and confident daughter.
Debi Jackson was later asked to do a speech for the show “Listen To Your Mother” which featured readings from women about their experiences as mothers, and she titled her speech “That’s Good Enough.” She talks about their journey as they realized AJ was transgender, and the struggles the family endured from unaccepting friends and family. But the most moving part of the speech is when she addresses the many rude and hurtful comments that have been directed at her and her family. She expresses herself with a sense of dignity and fierceness in a way which leaves little doubt that there is no place for hate and intolerance in the lives of her family. She closes her speech by saying, “My God taught us to love one another. My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it. God knows it. And that’s good enough for me.” And that so beautifully sums up her beautiful speech and the love she has for AJ.
While there are others who get the headlines and more attention in the media, it is people like Debi Jackson who are the true heroes. She has stood up and made a difference not only in her daughter’s life but also in the lives of many other transgender children and their parents. It is because of people like her that I feel such hope for the transgender community, and in particular transgender youth.
Debi and the speech she gave were later featured in an article in the Huffington Post, and to date the video of her speech has been viewed more than 600,000 times on YouTube. In addition to being a wife and a mother to her two children, Debi is an advocate for LGBT youth, using her family’s experience to help educate and spread awareness and acceptance of transgender children. She also has a website for parents of transgender and gender non-conforming children: trans-parenting.com.