“That wraps up the application process! Thanks, and we’ll be in touch if we match you with a Little!” I paused. “Great. Thanks. Um, just to be clear, I really want to be matched with an LGBTQ+ kid. I know you have kids from all walks of life, and the program is great, but I’m here to help a queer kid.”

As a transgender person, I choose to be out about who I am to attempt to make it just a little bit easier for those who may come after me. Giving back to the LGBTQ+ community is one of the ways I pay forward those who mentored me when I was coming out. I was fortunate to develop friendships with a diverse group of trans people as I explored my own identity. I met a couple of trans guys a few years older than me who had already transitioned. Being able to talk to them and ask questions helped demystify the transition process and make something that felt so huge a little more doable. Being LGBTQ+ can be scary, even today, so I choose to give back.

I’ve always chosen to give back in other ways—telling my story at a community center, meeting with a group of youth, speaking at my workplace—until now. While I loved volunteering in those spaces, I never had the opportunity to develop a one-to-one relationship or have a conversation over time that allowed me to give back in a deeper way. I was always left wondering what impact I was having and if any of it was making a difference.

Related

My participation in the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters (JBBBS) LGBTQ+ program is all about helping queer kids. I was thrilled to learn that JBBBS was developing an LGBTQ-specific program to connect LGBTQ+ Littles and Bigs. I didn’t even know I was transgender until I was in college—I didn’t have the language for it. I think about how different it could have been if I had a Big who was LGBTQ+ when I was an adolescent trying to understand my gender identity and sexual orientation.

A lot has changed in 20 years, but queer people who are represented in the media and on TV today don’t make pizza with you. They don’t know how many stairs there are from the street level up to the games at Lucky’s in Somerville, where my Little and I like to bowl and play video games, but we do. And we count them every time, just to make sure they didn’t sneak an extra in since our last trip.

There are plenty of ways to help kids, but there is nothing more rewarding than a one-to-one relationship. I get the chance to hang out with a great kid and have meaningful conversations about what it’s really like to be trans in the world. I would encourage anyone who think this sounds meaningful and fun to jump in and be part of the program. Embarrass yourself playing “Dance Dance Revolution,” talk with a kid about what it’s like to be 12 and transgender, bake brownies and make T-shirts. Build something important.

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