Speech from Debi Jackson, mother of a KC transgender girl, garners global attention

07/17/2014 1:46 PM

07/19/2014 10:54 PM

Debi Jackson didn’t expect to get much attention from a speech she did a few months ago about her transgender daughter, A.J., now 7, at Unity Temple on the Plaza.

“I expected over the next year or so that word would get around in the transgender community and a few people would want to see it to show to a relative,” Jackson said.

Instead, she was featured in an article on The Huffington Post, received a shoutout on Twitter from Ricky Martin and now has a viral video on her hands. As of Thursday afternoon, the video had been played more than 100,000 times on YouTube.

Jackson was asked to do the speech, titled “That’s Good Enough,” for the “Listen To Your Mother” show, which features live readings in front of an audience from women about their experiences with motherhood.

“My daughter is 6 years old. She transitioned, which means she changed her outward appearance from male to female and started living full time as her true gender, when she was 4. Until that point she was quite a rough-and-tumble little boy with a buzz cut and a shark tooth necklace,” Jackson said in the speech.

“When I was invited to do the show, I was nervous about showing my face for the first time,” Jackson said. “Having a trans child, we hear all kinds of bad things, so I was really afraid to do this. I spoke in front of a crowd of 200 people, and two people came up to me afterward and said, ‘We have a similar story. This had such an impact. Thank you,’ and that’s what I was hoping to get out of it.”

But instead of reaching a few hundred people, Jackson reached thousands.

“The stories that are coming to me are adults who said, ‘My life would have been so different if I’d had you as a parent,’” Jackson said. “Again, that was the whole point. And I would have been thrilled to get any one of those messages, and know the fear I felt getting onstage was going to make a difference for one other kid and one other family. I’m pretty much speechless. It means so much.”

After an LGBT activist in Puerto Rico saw the video, he sent the link to Ricky Martin, a Puerto Rico native who came out as gay after years of pop stardom.

Martin then tweeted his support for Jackson, who has been a Ricky Martin fan for 30 years.

“Next thing I know, at 4 a.m., my cellphone would not stop ringing because Ricky Martin followed me and tweeted that,” Jackson said. “I’m surprised I did not wake up my entire household. I was like 10 years old again. I was squealing, waving my hands in the air.

“Knowing that someone who has had their own struggle with accepting themselves and moved enough to share it was overwhelmingly powerful to me,” Jackson said. “I’m still kind of on cloud nine.”

Jackson and her family were featured in The Star in early February.

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